What to do with a Speaker copping so much criticism he should be switching out his robes for a flak jacket? That and other conundrums wrapped inside dilemmas from the week, courtesy of James Elliott.
Is democracy in New Zealand under threat? That’s a rhetorical question, principally because I don’t know the answer. Last week’s High Court decision declared the MIQ lottery system to be unjustified in a free and democratic society, so perhaps we could say maybe. Or maybe we could say perhaps.
But this week saw evidence that perhaps it’s not a perhaps. And it came in a news story that was easy, perhaps, to scroll past on your way to the latest reviews and previews of Dancing With The Stars. It was reported that 226 petitions have been presented to and reviewed by Parliament’s Petition Committee, more than during any other Parliamentary term in our history. I think that’s a healthy sign that at least one of the cogs in our democratic machinery is doing whatever cogs do quite well.
Anyone can present a petition to Parliament, literally anyone. You don’t have to be of voting age, you don’t have to be enrolled to vote, and you don’t even have to be a New Zealand citizen. And if you don’t like that list of who can present a petition to Parliament that’s something you could petition Parliament to change.
It should have been obvious that trespassing Winston Peters from Parliament was wholly unnecessary given that voters had effectively already done that on election night in October 2020.
Scrolling through the list of those 226 petitions gives you a sense of what New Zealanders are concerned about and what they want done about those concerns. For example, there’s a petition to change Parliament’s standing orders to control ‘patsy questions’ during Question Time. I reckon there are lots of us who are anti-patsy but that petition only garnered nine signatures, whereas the petition to ban the use and sale of glitter was signed by 102 people who may or may not be anti-patsy but who are definitely anti-party.
If you want people to sign your petition it helps to have an eye-catching title. Once you see there’s a petition called ‘The Golden Dollar Safeguard Act Against Hyperinflation’ you just want to know more, particularly with inflation running at record levels. This petition, signed by 28 people, proposes that 25 percent of the money borrowed by the government be invested in gold assets to prevent hyperinflation. Apparently the working title for this petition was ‘All That Glitters Is In Fact Gold’, but had to be changed when it was realised that 102 people were opposed to the use of the word glitter.
There was one other petition that grabbed my attention even though its title was more eye-closing than eye-catching. There’s a petition signed by 201 people that LINZ (Land Information NZ) and NZWAC (NZ Walking Access Commission) redesign the track symbols on NZ’s 451 Topo50 maps. Not only that, the petitioner had studied track symbols used by 25 other countries and called for the new track symbols to be those used in Bavaria, specifically the Bavarian Umgebungskarte 50 Series. This petition did not find favour with the Petitions Committee but this may not be the last we’ve heard of the Bavarian Umgebungskarte 50 Series of mapping and track symbology. As a consequence of the protests in February, the map of Parliament’s grounds now needs updating and my guess is that Bavarian mapping symbols as to who is allowed access and who is verboten would be as clear as, well, Bavarian crystal.
A vote of no confidence in Trevor Mallard as Speaker wouldn’t pass but then again neither would a vote of confidence in Trevor Mallard as Speaker.
What’s not clear is just who is allowed access to Parliament’s grounds and who isn’t following 151 trespass notices that were issued this week. That number is now down to 145 after five notices were withdrawn the day after they were issued, one of them in the name of one Winston Raymond Peters. It should have been obvious that trespassing Winston Peters from Parliament was wholly unnecessary given that voters had effectively already done that on election night in October 2020.
It wasn’t obvious to the Speaker of the House, Trevor Mallard, but not a lot is. He’s been copping criticism from all sides for his mishandling of this and other mishandled matters. In fact there’s now so much criticism of Trevor Mallard for so much mishandling that his Speaker’s robes are to be replaced by a full length flak jacket.
Understandably there have been calls for a vote of no confidence. A vote of no confidence in Trevor Mallard as Speaker wouldn’t pass but then again neither would a vote of confidence in Trevor Mallard as Speaker. Which leaves PM Jacinda Ardern with a quandary wrapped in a conundrum inside a dilemma. Not all Speakers serve their terms so the by-the-book resolution would be a diplomatic posting to, say, London once the dust has settled. But with another slide in the polls this week maybe the PM is eyeing a diplomatic posting of her own.
In the meantime, is Trevor Mallard’s goose cooked? Maybe. But it just so happens that the duck shooting season starts tomorrow so it may well be.
Have a peaceful weekend.