Magazine article New Zealand Management

A New Breed of MP?

Magazine article New Zealand Management

A New Breed of MP?

Article excerpt

In the good old days of First Past the Post, parliamentary select committees were rather tame animals. The government of the day held both the chair and a majority. Then the coming of MMP made committees somewhat less predictable. Now the chairs were sometimes awarded to non-government MPs and, since party membership is broadly meant to reflect the situation in the House, the government of the day sometimes no longer had a majority.

Select committees began to show their fangs. Bills sometimes took a mauling in the committee process and committees discovered that there was great fun to he had by conducting inquiries into matters where the government would have far preferred to let sleeping dogs lie (a current example being the Finance and Expenditure Committee's look-see into the shenanigans at TVNZ).

Now, in the wake of the formation of the third Labour-led coalition, the nature of the committees will inevitably change again. While the Government retains the chair in most (but certainly not all), it finds itself in a minority in virtually all of them.

The potential for the opposition parties to wreak havoc on the Government's legislative programme is there if they choose to exercise it. However the term "opposition member" no longer means what it once did.

All parties represented in Parliament, other than Labour and the one-man band known as Jim Anderton's Progressives, staunchly insist that they are in opposition; a situation that caused a right brouhaha when it came to deciding who would sit on the cross benches.

The fact is that there are only three pure opposition parties in Parliament--ACT, National and Maori.

The other three parties represented--New Zealand First, United Future and the Greens--are all, to a degree, compromised by the post-election deals they cut with Labour. The leaders of the first two hold major cabinet portfolios (foreign affairs and revenue respectively), while the latter also has a cooperation agreement with the Government under which Green MP Sue Bradford bills herself as a "government spokesperson". …

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