You have got to hand it to the Tories. Don’t get me wrong, I maintain that last week was easily their weakest since taking power. But you have to admire the way they swept away Auckland’s democratically elected local authorities. They replaced them with an interim body that can best be described as a politburo, then somehow managed to slap a ‘waste of taxpayer money’ tag on the Labour led resistance.
Of course the tendency to deride democracy as a waste of money is one of their favourite tricks. People having their say in the resource management process is one example of waste that cannot be tolerated. As is the status quo in Auckland governance. Consulting people and letting them have meaningful input takes time and money. It would be cheaper to just abolish democracy completely and appoint John Key supreme overlord of the nation of Keyev – pesky parliaments are such costly, time consuming things.
Regardless of the inconvenience however, the filibuster is a very old and very important part of our democracy.
In ancient Rome, Cato was known as one of the masters. His marathon speeches often delayed the taking of votes more than long enough for his objectives to be cleverly met. Others with less finesse simply filibustered to give their allies time to bribe or bully enough senators to swing the majority in behind their position.
But the most intriguing use of the filibuster was an epic 10 day effort by the Opposition in the Ontario Legislature during the 1993 establishment of the – guess what – Toronto super city. Over 12,000 amendments were moved. Thousands of which each allowed a separate street in the city to have a consultation meeting. There was one for every street on the map. This resulted in one street,
I don’t expect this extreme stalling to become a common tactic in the New Zealand parliament. But it is something the public should expect to be employed on their behalf when a highly controversial law is rammed through without a select committee process.
The filibuster is effectively the only real weapon a badly outnumbered opposition has at its disposal. The government has the numbers to pass any law it pleases. All Labour can do right now is stall. This is an especially important part of democracy in a unicameral system such as ours. We don't have the checks and balances of an upper house or executive branch. So if you think that the House sitting for a few extra days is a waste of money. Just be grateful your taxes don't have to stretch to a senate.
I also welcome the circumstantial evidence that our party is looking overseas for ideas to fight this government tooth and nail with. Game on.