Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: Enhancing democracy

19 Responses

  • Matthew Poole,

    How would you propose that all those duplicated bills be disposed of? And would a member then be subject to some kind of stand-down if their bill wasn't the one drawn but was one of the duplicates?

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3908 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    How would you propose that all those duplicated bills be disposed of?

    One of two ways - it doesn't really matter which:

    1. Remove them before the second or subsequent bill is drawn from the ballot.

    2. Have the ballot anyway, and if one gets picked, then simply ignore it and take another one.

    And would a member then be subject to some kind of stand-down if their bill wasn't the one drawn but was one of the duplicates?

    Members who are successful in the ballot aren't subject to a ballot stand-down now, I see no reason to introduce one.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3000 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Spamming the ballot? Wouldn't do too much harm. But I think if we want Parliament to be able to act more like a legislature rather than just a rubberstamp for the executive, then we need to go further, and have members days happening every week, not just every two. The opposition may still lose the vote on their bills, but they'd at least get a chance to debate them and try and build a coalition behind them.

    And on that latter point, I should point out that a) members bills are not the only way of advancing your party's interests through legislation; and b) National has been spectacularly bad at it. Throughout the last term they have had several golden opportunities to build coalitions around themselves to amend government legislation to reflect their views. They have failed to do so. This isn't a case of the process being stacked in favour of the government; this is simply National being bad at the game. The next Parliamentary term looks like it will offer the same opportunities, and whoever ends up in government, National is going to have to get a lot better at coalition building, either in order to advance its legislative programme intact, or to subvert Labour's.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1640 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    I think if we want Parliament to be able to act more like a legislature rather than just a rubberstamp for the executive, then we need to go further, and have members days happening every week, not just every two.

    I agree. The major problem with that is getting sufficient support. I wanted as a concrete proposal something difficult to argue against. I suspect our every second Wednesday, members able to force a vote on their bills system is reasonably generous by international standards.

    Other thoughts along that line were moving the general debate to a Tuesday, and changing the timing of local and private business (every second Thursday?).

    I should point out that ... members bills are not the only way of advancing your party's interests through legislation

    Absolutely, but amendments to bills will only get you so far - major change (e.g. the 90 day bill), or public debate (e.g. through a select committee) is only going to happen this way. And sometimes, building that coaltion (National's opposition to the aspects of the Criminal Procedure Bill abolishing oral depositions, or their opposition to the Party Jumping legislation, just result in the bill not getting a vote at all).

    Sometimes, of course, a private bill is exactly what you need ... but nobody was listening to me :-(

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3000 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    There's something to be said for minimal, easy change as being more likely to succeed. And it would demonstrate that letting Parliament (as opposed to just the government) have more say won't be the end of the world. But dammit, I want more as well.

    One consequence of allowing spamming of the ballot is that it will provide a strong incentive for the government to get into the game, and advance minor legislation through the ballot rather than as a government bill, simply in an effort to shift the odds away from the oposition. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing either; members bills tend to target small areas of policy that aren't important enough to deserve a real bill; the more people advancing them, the better.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1640 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Spamming the ballot? Wouldn't do too much harm.

    Wouldn't it be possible, if there were bills in the ballot that you didn't want to appear, to spam the ballot with duplicates which would drastically reduce the chances of them seeing the light of day?

    If there were 10 bills in the ballot, you have a 1 in ten chance. If someone drops in 40 more bills, you suddenly have a 1 in 50 chance.

    Indeed, if you allowed duplicates, wouldn't it rapidly get stupid, and parties would simply provide one copy of each bill from each of their MPs, to get maximum chance of it being picked out of the ballot? The chances of your bills coming out would be proportionate to the number of MPs you had.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6165 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    But dammit, I want more as well.

    I've long had the thought that changes in procedure like this could be advanced as part of a confidence and supply deal.

    At this election for example, the Maori Party on the cross-benches with either party governing, or the Greens if National wins, could offer an abstention on C&S in exchange for some specific policies and more members' time.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3000 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    The chances of your bills coming out would be proportionate to the number of MPs you had.

    Distinctly possible. Seems pretty fair to me.

    If there were 10 bills in the ballot, you have a 1 in ten chance. If someone drops in 40 more bills, you suddenly have a 1 in 50 chance.

    I believe a majority of eligible MPs (i.e. non-Ministers) have a bill in most ballots. Certainly not all the Labour and National members all the time, but I think they do okay. Mostly, this is going to just change the bills you're competing against.

    parties would simply provide one copy of each bill from each of their MPs

    Not one copy of each bill, it's still limited to one bill per MP.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3000 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    The chances of your bills coming out would be proportionate to the number of MPs you had.

    Precisely. Which is entirely fair.

    Superfically, this would advantage the larger parties - but only because they consistently underutilise their ballot opportunities at present. In practice, all it does is allow parties to focus their efforts and push one issue hard, rather than having to disperse them as they do at present.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1640 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    I've long had the thought that changes in procedure like this could be advanced as part of a confidence and supply deal.

    Or cooked up between the minor parties as a united demand, on the basis that whichever major party is in opposition will leap at he opportunity.

    Minority government means that this sort of reform can be imposed on them whether they like it or not.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1640 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    Graeme, you do come up with some interesting ideas
    And this or something that had a similar effect would enhance our Parliament
    IS 's idea of more members days seems a reasonable way to achieve this

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 540 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    I believe a majority of eligible MPs (i.e. non-Ministers) have a bill in most ballots. Certainly not all the Labour and National members all the time

    Not even close. National obviously submits more bills than labour (because Labour can get bills through as the government, and its easier to lobby a Minister), but less than half of them bother. Which is one of the reasons we see a high number of bills from minor parties: because they use their opportunities, rather than waiting till they'e in government.

    Whether a party wants to distribute or focus their efforts is up to them. But I think they'd all benefit immensely from having the opportunity to pick an issue and push it hard when they need to. Note that the Greens have already tried to do this with climate change, but they had to do it with six seperate minor bills; it was a thematic challenge only, not a push for a single specific reform.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1640 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    In some ways it's too easy to legislate in NZ, and this would make it easier. It also interferes with the idea that a government gets elected, governs for three years, and is judged on its record.

    Incidentally, in the UK there are a lot less members bills and they can be talked out by dtermined opponents unless they get given government time.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4447 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    Actually it's "proportionate to your number of non-cabinet MPs", so the governing parties would have fewer chances. It also makes small parties ministerships slightly more costly but on balance I think it's a good idea. I'm thinking of Jim Anderton here, who has presumably not had the opportunity to put a bill in that ballot for some time now (is he still around?)

    Just to reinforce I/S's point - National being bad at something is not sufficient grounds to change the law. Just because The Greens have got more bills passed in the last nine years than National have does not mean we need to have a law to let National pass more legislation.

    So: reform the law to give everyone more chances, sure, but don't explicitly favour the biggest loser, I mean "the largest opposition party".

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 463 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Actually it's "proportionate to your number of non-cabinet MPs", so the governing parties would have fewer chances.

    Fewer chances to advance members bills, debated on every second Wednesday (but the same as at present, of course - they cannot have members bills now, either). Much much greater chance (i.e. any at all) to advance government bills. Government parties don't really need to use members bills - they've got all the other time Parliament sits to promote legislation.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3000 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I'm thinking of Jim Anderton here, who has presumably not had the opportunity to put a bill in that ballot for some time now (is he still around?)

    Jim Anderton got to advance his personal 'war on drugs' crusade and ban party pills on government time. One more reason why I'm not voting Labour.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4447 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    I'd hate to see the member's bills become a party piece, I think the reason the Greens got so many passed this term is that they where largely conscience vote stuff outside their core policies (even if the LabNats party-vote them and go on to simultaneously claim credit and blame the other).

    What you want is a moment each week where the leader of the opposition can introduce legislation for it's first reading or progress something lost in select committee. Great, do so, but don't ruin the member's ballot for it.

    Since Nov 2006 • 442 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Ashby,

    An interesting idea. It does point up that much of the way government and the parliament are run has not adapted to MMP yet. Rather than look at how FPP legislatures like Westminster do it, does anyone know how countries with proportional mulitparty government do it? Germany for instance.

    The coalitions that were built up around for eg, the Civil Unions bill show that sense and good ideas are not concentrated in any one party. I am relaxed about parties not in the formal governing coalition being able to advance legislation. After all they are only advancing it, they still have to build the coalition to get it passed which would tend to prevent ridiculous stuff being proposed as it would waste everybody's time.

    If opposition parties have to consider how to be constructive as well as simply negative then I fail to see how that will be a bad thing. Perhaps we will need to wait until more of the politicians who cut their teeth under FPP leave parliament to be replaced by new blood for such changes.

    Dundee, Scotland • Since May 2007 • 425 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    I think we might see a lot more of it now that the parties who work with MMP instead of against it are in opposition (deperately scraping for the silver lining).

    I like the idea of party (leader) bills, that makes more sense than changing the member's bills.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 463 posts Report Reply

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