by Ann David
Parliament as entertainment!
Ever considered attending a parliamentary session by way of entertainment? No? I can thoroughly recommend it, especially now that David Seymour’s End of Life Choice bill is being debated. Most of us have some skin in that game – one way or the other.
The next date for this bill’s debate is Wednesday 21 August.
- Starting around 4 pm and continuing to 6 pm.
- Then there is a dinner break from 6 pm – 7.30 pm.
- Then back into the House from 7.30 pm to whenever which is usually 10 pm.
- Visitors can enter and leave at will.
- Free of charge, of course: Parliament belongs to us.
The train station is a 5-minute walk from the Molesworth Street entrance. As you go through security, you’ll immediately realise that parliament is a very visitor-friendly place. You’ll never be left to wonder, there will always be someone in attendance to guide you, when you reflect on how foreign visitors perceive us as a nation you will be proud of our courtesy and openness. Respectful attire is required, and no slogans or banners.
Progress on the Assisted Dying Legislation
Let’s just recap on exactly where the assisted dying bill has progressed to now. It passed first and second readings very well, but there are problems. Due to the vociferous advocacy of two opposition MPs in the select committee of 9 MPs, not much was agreed upon. So the decisions that should have been made by the select committee were referred back to the full House for debate and that’s where we’re at now.
What will you hear on 21 August? Impassioned speeches, each lasting 5 minutes but renewable on request for a further 5 minutes per speaker. Swearing and cussing are not allowed, but all kinds of other verbal vilifications, insinuations, exhortations, adulations and denigrations are on! [It sounds like certain Facebook pages —Eds]
It’s theatre without costume changes! It’s battle without blood, it’s thrust and parry of the wordy kind, miming of emotions, an occasional stand-up shouting match but always resolved by The Rules. Worse come to worst, the Speaker is called in to adjudicate.
What to do during the dinner break? Well, The Backbencher gastropub is directly opposite parliament buildings or you could choose from among many other options in Thorndon and within walking distance.
On 31 July, the Committee of the Whole House examined Part 1 of the End of Life Choice bill. The sponsor (MP David Seymour) had put forward a raft of amendments to his own bill to take into consideration the objections of some in parliament and in the public.
MPs opposing his bill have lodged a number of supplementary order papers (SOPs) proposing amendments of their own.
On August 21 each MP will be called upon to speak to his/her SOP in a bid to get all MPs to vote for it.
The Chair eventually brings the speeches to a close and asks for votes on each SOP. These could be by verbal call out (shouting “Yes” or “No”) or a personal vote could be requested. In that case, the MPs will be ordered to file out of the “Ayes” or “Noes” doors to have their votes counted. It’s pass or fail, and then on to the next one.
The wonders of parliamentary Hansard — reflecting our democracy
Miracle of miracles, when you get back home you can read up on anything you might have missed. By midnight the same evening the marvellous Hansard team will have transcribed every word of the debate and posted it online. Go to www.parliament.nz and follow the prompts.
We have good reason to be proud of our proactive parliamentary democracy. Our Parliament does its level best to involve citizens and to educate us on how our laws are made.
Our laws form the framework of the world we live in. They permit or constrain us, so we should participate in their creation. Not because it’s a civic duty but because we can and because it’s FUN!