Don’t short circuit established legislative processes

David Binning
Editorial Opinion
Former Director and Member of TINZ

From an observational point of view, I have been watching the performance of New Zealand against global trends and changes and am not surprised at the score we have fallen to. 

Over the past 2.5 years I have noted with deepening concern the increasing disregard by our Government to the maintenance of long-time established protocols in the development of legislation and the Select Committee examination of proposed changes.

The Government has in recent times increasingly short circuited established processes traditionally used when introducing new legislation or in making legislative change. Namely in encouraging input and submissions from the wider community to Select Committees on proposed parliamentary legislative bills. This has disregarded the continuance of sound democratic processes which have been a hallmark in our Government processes.  

Because of the actions by the Government in disregarding the maintenance of those high and accepted standards which New Zealand has been recognised for across the globe, my concern is that others beyond the Parliamentary precinct follow the standards our Ministersand MP’s have set.

To lift this country back to where it should be, as number 1 in the Corruption Perceptions Index, will take a huge effort and I know from family in Denmark how hard that country has worked to attain their position today. 

This is an issue which TINZ needs to discuss and to encourage change which ensures this country regains its top position again.

About this article

TINZ has invited its members to submit articles for potential publication in the Transparency Times. 

Use of Urgency

Research published in 2011,  What’s the Hurry? Urgency in the New Zealand Legislative process 1987–2010 by Claudia Geiringer, Polly Higbee and Elizabeth McLeay, found that where there is a single party majority government there is likely to be greater use of urgency. 

The study found a marked reduction in the use of urgency since MMP. Pre-MMP single-party majority governments introduced around twice the number of bills under urgency, on average, than multi-party governments since then.

Two exceptions to this general trend were the National-led Governments in 1996-99 and 2007-10, when urgency was used more frequently. 

The team interviewed 18 current and former MPs, including party leaders, Speakers and senior parliamentary officials. They gave four broad reasons that governments used urgency: to expedite passage of legislation; to gain a tactical advantage (such as by being seen to act decisively); to pass Budget measures; and – most commonly – because of insufficient scheduled sitting hours.

“Most politicians believe that urgency is a legitimate tool for the government to get extra sitting hours,” Claudia Geiringer said at the time. “Their concern is that the House does not currently have enough hours to get through government business.”

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