Urgency and select committee arguments

National MP Simon Bridges makes a fair (albeit possibly hypocritical) point about the use of urgency in Parliament.

In July Labour Party spoke in Parliament against the use of “urgency as a lazy approach to avoid proper scrutiny in select committees” and there are quite a number of times over the years when they’ve railed against the constitutional outrage of urgency in Parliament.

In their first week of Parliament their first Bill will be under urgency with no pesky select committee process.

Bridges is the national Opposition’s shadow leader of the House.

There is also a stoush over numbers of select committee members. Stuff: National calls Government’s plans for select committee ‘undemocratic’

National and Labour are exchanging blows over Labour’s plans to cut opposition MPs out of select committees, after Bill English threatened National will use its size to frustrate government progress.

Now National has accused Labour of eroding democratic rights, and attempting to limit the scrutiny of its government by changing the number of committee seats to 96, meaning 11 National MPs will miss out.

The committees are a crucial step in the legislative process.

The move to have 96 select committee seats comes after National leader Bill English last week warned the government to expect “tension” and “pressure” in Parliament, and through the select committee process where National would have a strong presence.

“And that is going to make a difference to how everything runs — it’s not our job to make this place run for an incoming Government that is a minority,” he said.

National shadow leader of the House Simon Bridges said the government was now trying to cut the number of opposition MPs from committees because it was short on numbers itself.

Traditionally, the number of positions on select committees had matched the number of MPs in Parliament, he said.

But Labour claim that National started it (a move to reduce numbers):

Labour has not yet responded to requests for comment but the party’s leader of the House Chris Hipkins told NZME the number of 96 was settled upon because that was the recommendation from the standing orders committee.

Earlier this year, the standing orders committee, which included National, recommended the number of select committee places be reduced to 96.

The committee met in March to consider different options for the make-up of the subject select committees. It recommended the 96-member option, saying 84 wasn’t enough and while the 108-seat model would “essentially maintain current arrangements” due to the number of subject committees being reduced from 13 to 12, committees were “generally larger than is necessary for them to be effective, and some members have too many committee commitments”.

“And ultimately Bill English was out there on Friday saying the National Opposition was going to use the select committee process to grind the Government’s legislation to a halt,” Hipkins said.

“It would be fair to say we are not of a mind to increase the numbers on select committee in order to make it easier for them to do that.”

It would be fair to say that parties do what they can to look after their own interests in Parliament.

If the Government does everything under urgency then the numbers on select committees won’t matter.

The Government has set ambitious targets for their first 100 days in office – after a long time in Opposition they are obviously keen to get things done but hasty lawmaking is risky.

56 Comments

  1. robertguyton

     /  November 7, 2017

    “possibly hypocritical”
    You’re in full-humour mode today, Pete.
    Details aside (and why should we bother – the new Government calls the shots here and National shot themselves in the foot over this issue, deserving this juicy slap-down), the new Government has shown some style here and National is squealing like girls in response. I bet it feels upsetting for those who practiced the same methods for the past 9 years, so they have my sympathy 🙂

    • I thought that Greens were supposed to strongly value democratic principles. Is tit for tat political game playing now ok?

      • robertguyton

         /  November 7, 2017

        Yeah, nah, not me (I’m not “The Greens”). I think it’s hilarious, a well earned come-uppence, natural justice and a good laugh at National’s expense, especially given the unpleasant comments from English a few days back; this couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke and his nice team! Dissect all you like, Pete, this is a lovely slap-down for a surly bunch of sore losers and those of us who endured such behaviours for so long are enjoying the show immensely 🙂

        • artcroft

           /  November 7, 2017

          Lol, National screwed over Labour and the Greens who couldn’t even count to 61 today. I of course had a good chortle at this and I’m sure you’ll join in that spirit Robert. After all whats good for the goose is good for the gander.

          • Yes, artcroft, I’m with you there! It was pretty embarrassing, but not the end of the world. It’ll sharpen them up, knowing that National is playing it sneaky like that; at least I hope they’ll smarten up! There’ll be some glum faces tonight. Still, if you underestimate the cunning of your Opposition, you’re going to get burned!

  2. Blazer

     /  November 7, 2017

    so National got what they wanted aside from…Govt..’Earlier this year, the standing orders committee, which included National, recommended the number of select committee places be reduced to 96.’.

  3. Pickled Possum

     /  November 7, 2017

    That’s the way Opposition rolls in, #hyperbole mode.
    #hyperbole …exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.

    • duperez

       /  November 7, 2017

      And the way rolling in Opposition goes when you’re trying to make your mark. You never know, possible leadership opportunities might rise and you want your mark to be there.

      Bridges comes across as a special type of stupid in this case to those who are on the other side of the fence but those people already had him placed. He’s playing to a different crowd though and they won’t recognise inanity and what by rights is nonsense they will see as gold.

      • patupaiarehe

         /  November 7, 2017

        Bridges is ‘A special kind of stupid’. I know 3 different people who have met ‘Simple Simon’, and they all have similar opinions of him. To quote one, “The guy is as dumb as a bag of hammers, but he will be PM one day, unless he fucks up really badly”. I can’t believe he won TGA again, obviously dementia afflicted pensioners don’t exclusively vote for NZF…

  4. Ray

     /  November 7, 2017

    As I understand it Labour asked for a reduction of select committee numbers as they were stretched in opposition.
    And considering how light weight their Caucus was that wasn’t surprising .
    Now they are in Government don’t expect any changes.
    Obviously it is anti-democratic but this is how the Left acts, expect plenty of laws rammed through with urgency and if the opposition tries any of the tricks they pulled to slow up law changes there will be a media driven uproar!

    • duperez

       /  November 7, 2017

      Obviously anti-democratic? Apparently in the last parliament there were 63 government supporting members and 58 in opposition.
      In this parliament there are 63 government supporting members and 57 opposition.

      This parliament has a single party opposition instead of three different parties but there isn’t any effective difference between when the recommendation from the standing orders committee was made and now. 

      Except that Bridges&Co. aren’t in power and didn’t envisage not being in power. The boot being on the other foot is not a comfortable thought or feeling and is magically ‘anti-democratic.’

  5. In it’s first week, Labour has demanded the resignations of public servants who might harbour ill will towards them, broken contracts with thousands of existing children in Charter Schools, threatened seizing land under the Public Works Act for housing and tell us they’ll change electoral law to deal to their political opponents. They could easily make SCs 108. They will however make it 96, despite new circumstances being the polar opposite to National’s proposal which actually assisted smaller parties. They do this with the spite they introduced the amendments to the EFA, to spite National. They’re the Nasty Party, always have been and always will be.

    What Farrar said

    “This change was made when there were three significant opposition parties. It suited them also as they had MPs on more than one select committee. The reason the number wasn’t fixed in standing orders was to give flexibility if circumstances change.

    But what we now have is one opposition party with 56 MPs. And if only 96 spots are available, National gets only 45 spots. That means 11 MPs have no select committee membership.

    This is wrong. Serving on a select committee is a vital part of being an MP. It is both a learning experience, but also a responsibility to contribute.

    National has said they would be happy with 108 seats on select committees as that would give them 51 spots. The whips, Leader, Deputy Leader and Deputy Speaker don’t normally serve so every backbench MP would be on a select committee.

    Labour could agree to this. But because they have appointed such a bloated executive with 31 Ministers and Under-Secretaries they are refusing to compromise as many of their backbench MPs would be on two select committees.

    To me it is clear what is the greater harm. Sure it is annoying to be on two select committees, but it is harmful to refuse to allow enough places for an Opposition MP who wants to be on a select committee to serve.

    Under Gerry Brownlee and Simon Bridges the Business Committee was flexible and co-operative which has led to a great improvement in the running of Parliament. Chris Hipkins is starting his tenure as Leader of the House with inflexibility which bodes very badly for how Parliament will operate.

    All they have to do is agree to 108 places which means four more spots on select committees for Labour MPs, one more for NZ First and one more for Greens.”

  6. duperez

     /  November 7, 2017

    The inflexibility of Hipkins bodes so badly that Parliament will become irrelevant and so badly the world will probably end.

    Oh how fondly I remember the good old days of Select committees which were pro forma rubber stamping exercises where dummies played the party line against common sense, practicality, reality and basic intelligence.

    • Ray

       /  November 7, 2017

      Well let’s be honest Hipkins isn’t the sharpest knife in the draw, I am surprised he wasn’t sacked after the mess he made with the question about citizenship that was fed to him by the Australian Labor apparatchik.

      • Labour is full of arrogance and it will, as always, come back and bite them. Hipkins is a particularly entitled born-to-rule piece of works.

        Remember this pleasant bloke?

        • duperez

           /  November 7, 2017

          How appropriate John Armstrong makes another appearance along with allegations of arrogance and David Cunliffe.

          As one commentator said:
          “Remember when Armstrong tried to claim that Cunliffe had to resign over an 11 year old letter because there were false allegations of $100 000 wine, $15 000 book and $150 000 donations that never existed?

          To date Armstrong has not called for Key to resign over allegations of bribing an MP to resign, Labour Party computer being hacked, brothels trawled, SFO hit jobs, SIS information handed to Slater and rigging candidate selections.”

          It’s going to be a long three years with those who’ve become accustomed to residing in born-to-rule comfort being discomfitted. Seeking to shed and spread the arrogance of such as Simon Bridges, Steven Joyce, Gerry Brownlee et al, and gift it to such as Chris Hipkins will be no great hardship. They have plentiful supplies.

      • Blazer

         /  November 7, 2017

        well you better get the saw doctor to pull up outside National’s H.Q…to be …blunt.

    • NOEL

       /  November 7, 2017

      Gotta agree. They are over rated

  7. High Flying Duck

     /  November 7, 2017

    National get their first victory – select committee’s will have 108 members not 96.
    Labour couldn’t get the speaker of the house voted in without compromising due to Winston Peters and David Clark being away…

    • Ray

       /  November 7, 2017

      First up and Hipkins falls immediately, apparently can’t count, if they aren’t sworn they can’t vote, so has to bargain to get Mallard as speaker with Nationals help.

    • What an embarrassing muck-up! The Government failed to see the hole in its own plan and National cleverly levere in a win for themselves. Unimpressive, Mr Hipkins et al. A good boost for National in the House from day one!

      • High Flying Duck

         /  November 7, 2017

        Certainly an embarrassment, but not unexpected given how long Labour have been out of power. I’m sure they will get up to speed fairly quickly – they will need to as National have some very astute members who know the house rules back to front.
        I hope procedural gotcha’s are not the order of the day though – I prefer to see the Government stand or fall on policy and performance.
        This one was sorted out fairly amicably with a good result for the Nats, but nothing over the top in their demands – just what they considered fair to begin with.

        • “UPDATE – RNZ is now reporting that Labour DID have the numbers to elect Mallard as Speaker but fell for National telling them that they did not have the numbers….”
          Not so sure National have “sorted this one out amicably” after all; they claimed Labour hadn’t a majority, when in fact they had??
          Sneaky, from Bridges. Is sneaky going to be the hallmark of the Opposition? Silly question, I suppose.

          • High Flying Duck

             /  November 7, 2017

            That is more incompetent from Labour if that is the case than sneaky by National.

            But either way, the result was a good one.

          • Mefrostate

             /  November 7, 2017

            Yes it was a sneaky move by National, and a confirmation that they’re going to be a pretty brutal opposition.

            But they have every right to do so.

            And this was a huge embarrassment for the government, letting themselves get played like this.

            • robertguyton

               /  November 7, 2017

              National could have supported Mallard for Speaker without the on-the-spot wheeling and dealing; I wonder where they learned such behaviour? Good faith from National? Not in their DNA.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  November 7, 2017

              Labour tried the same stunt to get Mallard voted as speaker after the 2008 election. The difference was National had the numbers then and knew it.
              As the NZH pointed out, it was probably for the best as the select committee issue was going to cause difficulties for Labour had it not been resolved now.

          • Knew they were thick (Jacinda saying average OECD PPL time was 48 weeks and Grant saying minimum wage went up a dollar a year under Labour when it was 68c), but who knew they couldn’t count heads.

            • Mefrostate

               /  November 7, 2017

              OECD PPL time is 48 weeks.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  November 7, 2017

              You’re right – it is the “paid” part that threw her I think. “Parental” leave is much higher, but that is simply leave with job protected, not paid leave, and NZ compares well on that scale anyway.
              But there is a frightening amount of wrong going around with this Government already.
              I hope their Pike River assessments aren’t so faulty…

            • Mefrostate

               /  November 7, 2017

              @traveller are you wabisabi on Twitter, or just happy to nod-along uncritically with their mistake in mixing-up maternity leave with paid parental leave?

              That same UN page has a “total duration of paid leave” measure, which you’ll find averages around 50 across the OECD countries:

              https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DN7T6zJUIAAQiq7.jpg:large

            • High Flying Duck

               /  November 7, 2017

              Mefro, you are not comparing the same things:

              NZ compares favourably in the Maternity Leave stakes and sits above the OECD average of just under 18 weeks.

              You are comparing to Paid Home Care. from the report:

              “The objectives behind paid home care leaves tend to be a little different to those behind paid parental leave – rather than providing parents with short-term compensation for earnings forgone by suspending employment, these extended benefits instead look to offer medium-term financial support to parents who wish to remain at home to care for young children. As a result, these longer leaves are often paid only through low flat-rate benefits and usually replace only a small proportion of previous
              earnings.”

              https://www.oecd.org/els/soc/PF2_1_Parental_leave_systems.pdf

            • Mefrostate

               /  November 7, 2017

              Do you have a link to Ardern’s claim that the OECD average PPL is 48 weeks? I think these definitional differences mean we need to be certain of what her claim was before we can prove it true or false. Certainly given that PPL does not equal maternity leave, traveller has not yet sufficiently proven her claim to be a lie.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  November 7, 2017

              Jacinda said:

              “The benefits of paid parental leave are well understood, but the benefits of paid parental leave have not translated into New Zealand legislation and practice,” Ardern said.

              “New Zealand’s entitlement of 18 weeks is one of the lowest in the OECD where the average is 48 weeks. I’m proud that this Government will pursue one of the issues we pursued hard in opposition.”

              https://pro.newsroom.co.nz/articles/2211-labour-pushes-ahead-with-paid-parental-leave-promise

              You could argue ambiguity in that, but the OECD graphs put NZ’s paid parental leave at above the average.

              There is of course an argument that other countries do offer further support that NZ does not, albeit at lower rates, but she seems to be making a direct comparison and in that was ‘factually incorrect’.

            • Mefrostate

               /  November 7, 2017

              You could argue ambiguity in that, but the OECD graphs put NZ’s paid parental leave at above the average.

              No it isn’t. NZ is about the average for maternity leave, but that’s not equivalent to parental leave.

              She specifically said “paid parental leave” for which the closest OECD indicator is ‘total duration of paid leave’. On the latest data for that, 2013, NZ shows 14 (since extended to 18) but the OECD average is around 50.

              Sure, she wasn’t very clear in her definition or backing up her claim, but this idea that she mis-counted or lied is rubbish.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  November 7, 2017

              Well lets put it this way.

              The leave benefit the OECD average has at 48 weeks shows NZ as 0 – not offering anything.

              She was talking about the benefit NZ does offer, which is in a separate category, and in which the OECD average is…18 weeks.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  November 7, 2017

              And to further clarify, the graph you posted above was a combination of all categories.

            • Mefrostate

               /  November 7, 2017

              My graph uses that definition “total duration of paid leave”, and if set to 2013 gives NZ a value of 14.

          • Ray

             /  November 7, 2017

            Well Labour could have supported a flag change, it was in their manifesto FFS but oh no, there goes 25 million down the drain.

            • Blazer

               /  November 7, 2017

              thank God the flag wasn’t changed to any of the ghastly options.

        • Blazer

           /  November 7, 2017

          they considered 96 ‘fair to begin with’….if you paid ..attention.

          • High Flying Duck

             /  November 7, 2017

            That was In different circumstances and due to Labour requesting a lower number as they were having trouble filling the spots.
            Now, with a new Government National was not happy that they would have MP’s with no select committee input, which is a valid concern.
            The result negotiated today is a good compromise.

  8. robertguyton

     /  November 7, 2017

    Winston’s suing Bill, I see. For being sneaky, I suppose.

    • High Flying Duck

       /  November 7, 2017

      Winston is flinging proceedings in all directions…I wonder if any of it will stick.

      • Isn’t it sad. That man chose a minority party and one he couldn’t stand. It’s looking like he did so in retaliation. Pathetic and unpatriotic

  9. Alan Wilkinson

     /  November 7, 2017

    Game playing that’s a sad way to run a country/

    • Blazer

       /  November 7, 2017

      it is really,though after 9 years of it ,its become …the norm.

  10. David

     /  November 7, 2017

    I dont see the need to ram bills through under urgency especially after the grief they gave National over doing the same but over legislation that needed to be done quickly.
    It is undemocratic for a party with half formed policy who came a distant 2nd who havent released their 38 page deal with NZ First or the Greens and havent had the decency to release the costings of their deals to try and avoid select committee scrutiny and allow affected persons and groups to submit submissions.
    Pretty bloody undemocratic and Ardern and her fellow MPs drunk on unexpected power look like they will over reach.

    • Blazer

       /  November 7, 2017

      if its undemocratic it will not have enough support …

      • David

         /  November 7, 2017

        Select committees do important work and refine legislation to workable solutions in the real world, they listen to experts and interested parties who want to help and improve laws and they generally work in a bi partisan way for the good of the country.
        Your comments Blazer are increasingly just odd utterances that make less and less sense, who knows maybe resist trying to comment on every comment and go for quality not quantity.

        • Blazer

           /  November 7, 2017

          give some examples of what I have posted that doesn’t make sense.Comments do not have to be on a par with a thesis in length to make… a point.

          • David

             /  November 7, 2017

            if its undemocratic it will not have enough support …

            Democracy in our system does not end after the vote count, which your team lost convincingly, but it is a representative democracy and the ability of citizens to speak to policy at select committee has always been seen as part of the democratic process.

        • Fight4NZ

           /  November 7, 2017

          Traveller remiss on playing man not ball lecture when not a lefty again.