Red Alert

Abuse of the parliamentary process

Posted by on September 16th, 2010

An important part of our legislative process is the select committee. Almost all of the laws that come before the House are referred to a select committee for detailed consideration. The public are normally given an opportunity to make submissions, and membership of the committees is shared amongst all of the parties in the House.

Under the Standing Orders, a select committee can’t normally meet while the House is sitting. This ensures that MPs can fully participate in parliamentary debate. It also ensures that when select committees are meeting, members aren’t distracted by the need to follow what is happening in the debating chamber.

Unfortunately, the National government have taken to routinely using their majority in the House to short-circuit the process by moving referral motions to select committees such as this one:

“I move that the State Sector Management Bill be considered by the Education and Science Committee, that the committee report finally to the House on or before 24 November 2010, and that the committee have authority to meet at any time while the House is sitting (except during oral questions), and during any evening on a day on which there has been a sitting of the House, and on a Friday in a week in which there has been a sitting of the House, despite Standing Orders 187 and 190(1)(b) and (c).”

Why should we care? We should care because they’re watering down the strength of our democratic institutions. We should care because having select committees meeting at the same time as the House sits will prevent small parties from fully participating in the select committee process (perhaps that’s why the Maori Party regularly let National MPs take their place?). We should care because it will prevent MPs being able to give select committee (or House) work the attention that it deserves.

Where a piece of legislation requires a tight timeframe, an abridged process might be justified. But the born-to-rule tories are now using this referral motion for every piece of legislation that comes before the House. It’s an abuse of parliament and it should stop.

35 Responses to “Abuse of the parliamentary process”

  1. BLiP says:

    And yet Labour trusts National Ltd™ enough to remove any scintilla of democracy from the people of Christchurch? Please, don’t be acting all surprised when you find out what the Tories really have in mind for Canterbury six months from now.

  2. Spud says:

    😯 – I’m speechless, how dare they interfere so grossly with the rules! 👿 Crooked 👿

  3. Unpleasantly Odouriferous says:

    You’re kidding me. This has to be a wind up. You and your colleagues have just given away immense and unchecked powers to Gerry Brownlee – our new Lord Protector – completely at odds with any fundamental principles of democracy and the supremacy of Parliament. And then a couple of days later you whinge about abuses of democracy?! I am flabbergasted by the lack of self-awareness here. I don’t think you get how angry people are that you’ve passed an egregious law that, through poor drafting and lack of thought, completely (and that’s not an overstatement) undermines our democracy. It just beggars belief. Doubly ironic that it should be abuses of House processes you’re concerned about given the guy responsible for these abuses is the same guy you’ve installed as our King/Dictator. Two days ago I might have been angry about the abuses of process – but now we don’t have a true democracy who friggin cares?!

  4. Peter Martin says:

    We should care because they’re watering down the strength of our democratic institutions.

    *laff* Cognitive dissonance?

  5. Where was our right to submit to the select committee on the Gerry Brownlee Dictatorial Enabling Act..?

    What planet are you living on..?

    Honestly..? Do we need to come to Parliament and explain to the Labour caucus what democracy is..? With a powerpoint presentation and pointer..?

    D-e-m-o-c-r-a-c-y… What utter imbeciles…

  6. the sprout says:

    I suggest you focus on the city called the Labour Party, its burning all around youJust in case there are any Labour MPs who still listen to their members’ concerns… I suggest you focus on the city called the Labour Party, its burning all around you

  7. Scott says:

    Is this a wind-up? If you want to talk about the abuse of parliamentary process, how about the draconian legislation Labour voted for on Tuesday night?

  8. Rob says:

    This would have been an excellent post two days ago but when Labour has just voted to give legislative power to the government despite their good intentions it is only going to be met with laughs.

    On a side note the select committee process needs to be looked at in addition to your concerns. It appears often “too late” as MPs have made up their mind and few government bills are amended by the process in a major way regardless of the levels of opposition. There are also a few bills that don’t make it through the first reading which I think might make it through the second had they a real chance to hear the public opinion.

  9. Why has my comment on this thread magically disappeared..?

    Not happy with simply legislating away my right to have my representatives pass laws, are you now messing with my freedom of speech..?

    [Jeremy – your comment never came through as far as I can see. I checked my email (all comments on my posts get emailed to me as they come through) and there was nothing there. I’ve just cleared 15 odd comments from the moderation queue and it wasn’t there either – chris]

  10. Dick says:


    The parliamentary wing of labour just doesn’t have a clue, does it?

  11. I basically said why was there no chance for us – the public – to submit on the Gerry Brownlee Dictatorial Enabling Act…

    What planet are you living on where this is a bigger issue that giving an oafish woodworking teacher from Christchurch the power to amend any law..?

  12. Draco T Bastard says:

    And yet you still voted Gerry Brownlee in as Dictator…

  13. Leopold says:

    Agree with all above comments

  14. smhead says:

    Why don’t all of you who are so angry about the new law go to christchurch, pick up a shovel and a hammer and help some people with the clean up for a few days, and then come back and say that people should have to wait months to repair sewer pipes because you want the normal rma approval processes to apply.

  15. Stephen Judd says:

    smhead: I don’t want the normal rma approval processes to apply, I just want some minimal restraints and accountability. After the Napier earthquake we managed fine with two commissioners and no law change at all.

    Pretending the bad law we’ve just got was the only alternative to normality is bullshit.

  16. Dick says:

    Don’t be a moron smhead.

    There are existing mechanisms to allow a council to repair its own infrastructure.

    Even if the RMA process *was* preventing something from happening in a timely manner, then parliament should have voted for specific, limited exemptions to the RMA process.

    Legislating a dictator into NZ law is not the appropriate response to this sort of problem.

  17. bbfloyd says:

    with respect steve.. napier was nowhere near as heavily populated as christchurch, and the infrastructure in place then would be regarded as primitive by todays standards. slightly different set of problems i would have thought.

    this doesn’t mean that i welcome jerry brownley getting a get out of jail free card though.

    can’t beleive i’m saying this, but i agree with your sentiments sm..

  18. smhead, I am more than happy for the any Acts relating to building, resource consent, heritage protection, demolition law, etc to be suspended in the Canterbury region for period of a few years but this is a complete over-reaction whose ease of change and eagerness from our politicians has brought the foundation of our democracy into question…

    Think for a minute the powers Brownlee has: if he finds out one of his best mates freaked out and committed rape the day after the quake he can retrospectively amend the crimes act to make rape legal on that day…

    He can push through any building in Christchurch that the public has opposed for years but a large campaign donor of his wants…

    The list of possible abuses is endless and because the Commission has been exempted from the OIA they do not have to tell the public about their decisions and because the Act removes any challenge of any his decisions to court he can make the above two decisions and have none – zero, nil reprecussions except be voted out in 2011 and a new National or Labour dictator imposed…

    That anyone voted for this is simply unbelievable…

  19. Like the Patriot Act I’m guessing most MPs didn’t even bother to read it and voted by proxy…

  20. Ianmac says:

    Good drama is a matter of timing. Chris, to run this after the Enabling Act Diaster, is very poor timing. I agree with most of those above. Shame!

  21. and because the Commission has been exempted from the OIA

    Sorry that part was incorrect, the OIA applies with the usual 4 week waiting period (which given the speed of proposed work may in many cases be irrelevant)…

  22. Tracey says:

    I posted weeks ago about political engineering. All the peope who got/get grump with socila engineering need to look this up and study it. Before the earthquake they were politically engineering with distasteful haste, this will speed it up further.

    Political engineering, in a nutshell is a method of eroding democracy by stealth…

  23. smhead says:

    stephen, the rma didn’t exist during the napier earthquake. You could rebuild your house and replace sewers without having to go to council for resource consents or planning approval. The government would have to go through two thousand acts and work out which individual ones have to be relaxed.

    It takes an experience like this “the Big One” as brendon has said to work out which specific laws need to be set aside. An event like this has never happened before. Maybe at the end of this experience government will have a template for new emergency laws knowing exactly which ones have to be set aside temporarily for reconstruction but until that work has been done Christchurch can’t wait.

  24. Tracey says:


    “You could rebuild your house and replace sewers without having to go to council for resource consents or planning approval. ” The industry also understand how to build and what worked, no corner cutting, no multi national companies lobbying and sschmoozing govt…

    The RMA exists because f the appaling state of our entire building industry and those associated with it. Let’s ask ourselves why so many different acts? Because so many cant be relied upon to be ethical, honest and act with integrity.

  25. smhead, they couldn’t figure out the Crimes Act and the Human Rights Act should be exempted..?

  26. Stephen Judd says:

    I’ll concede the point on Napier. But the explicit provisions to forbid judicial review? Come on.

  27. smhead says:

    No they probably couldn’t smhead. Go read the crimes act as one example.

    Exercise of right of way, etc
    Every one lawfully entitled to enter on any land for the exercise of any right of way or other easement or profit is justified in peaceably entering on the land for the purpose of exercising that right of way, easement, or profit:

    provided that if any one so entering has notice that his right to use that way or easement, or to take that profit, is disputed by the person in possession of the land, an assault committed by that person, or by any person acting under his authority, for the purpose of making the person entering desist from entry, shall be deemed to be provoked by the person entering.

    See how that might be a problem exercising a curfew in a city during an emergency or a disaster zone? Do you know enough about new zealand laws to know which ones may or may not apply in a disaster situation? If you do then maybe you should sell your services to the government, or come up with a law that does achieve what you want. Do you really think if it was a simple enough process to decide which of the two thousand laws need to be relaxed the government’s people wouldn’t have done it already?

  28. Yes I do, I absolutely could have written a better law than this one, on a napkin and I’m not a lawyer… The State of Emergency covers the right to enforce curfews you don’t need to give a single human being the power to amend the laws that keep us (relatively) safe to enact one… The state of emergency is something decided by a large group of people – not a single person… When the state of emergency passes I would have strong and massive objections to any curfew, I’m not happy when the right to freedom of movement is curtailed in the best of circumstances…

    Give a man a hammer and everything starts to look like a nail…

  29. Tracey says:

    smhead, this legislation is not needed for the enforcement of a state of emergency, the state of emergency exists with its own governing laws, and is due to be lifted today. Funny how constitutional lawyers have been able to identify them pretty quickly and easily. Mr Finlayson not earning his keep these days?

  30. And today, the government’s Land Transport Road Safety Bill had the same motion. The Transport & Industrial Relations Select Committee is already considering two huge employment law bills under a similar motion and will be meeting day and night to hear the huge number of submissions – and now we have to fit in this bill as well.

  31. Unpleasantly Odouriferous says:

    Land Transport legislation is within Gerry’s new purview. Now you’ve given away your powers and you seem distressed about the party and the Leader of the House you just installed as dictator is not being very democratic as well as seem bothered about the prospect of having to stay up – maybe you should just toss this one Gerry’s way and go home and put your feet up. I am sure you can trust Gerry to make a sound decision. Because you do trust him completely, don’t you? I mean, why else would have given away my parliamentary democracy to him if you didn’t think he was exceptionally trustworthy.

  32. Jeremy M Harris says:

    I fact it was the first one off the rank…

    Us transport campaigners have been fighting for over a year to make the government pay a political price for Joyce’s 53 ton truck trial by letters to the editor, editorials, press releases, we surveyed the hundred odd local authorities – all for nought now… With a stroke of his pen Brownlee gives Joyce his trial in Canterbury with no political price paid, no debate…

    I’m so bloody angry… The Labour Party pisses and moans about parliamentary procedures… Not a clue…

  33. cardassian says:

    lmao you forgot the satire tag Chris.