Parliament goes into urgency

Parliament goes into urgency
Photo credit: Getty

It's a big day in politics. The Prime Minister is having a baby, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is stepping in the role of acting Prime Minister, and Parliament has gone into urgency.

Select Committees have been cancelled so politicians can debate fuel tax and a bill on countering profit shifting until they progress enough to pass "in a timely manner".

That could mean the debate goes all day, and possibly into the night and the following days. The debate could even go through to the weekend. Question Time could also be cancelled, unless the leader of the House Chris Hipkins decides to lift urgency for the afternoon - which will likely be his course of action.

National's Judith Collins is not impressed.

"It’s unconstitutional to close down debate on a tax bill. This Lab/NZF/Greens Government is looking even more like a one-term Government than they did yesterday," she tweeted.

The Government has also used urgency to pass Paid Parental Leave and the Budget.

An examination of the use of urgency found it "may be motivated by a need (or perceived need) to expedite the passage of a particular piece of legislation", as well as when it's politically useful, such as a desire to get controversial legislation over and done with.

It's probably the former in this case - the Government is trying to pass the Regional Fuel Tax bill so it can be enacted by Auckland Council by July 1.

Question Time, if it goes ahead, will be Mr Peters big debut as acting Prime Minister, when he will be answering questions on behalf of the Prime Minister.

Mr Peters and his caucus have mostly been absent from the debating chamber, presumably dealing with other Government business.

When Labour was in Opposition, it frequently complained when the Government of the day used urgency in a similar manner. So too the Greens.

NZ First MP Tracey Martin said it's fairly normal parliamentary business for the opposition to slow down a bill the Government is trying to pass quickly.

"It's a ploy. You would have seen the previous opposition do the same thing," she said in a Facebook video on Thursday morning.

During the debate on Thursday, deputy speaker Anne Tolley warned National are repeating themselves, and a number of other amendments the Opposition wish to debate are outside the scope of the bill - essentially pointing out the filibuster attempt.

On Wednesday night Labour put the House into urgency after each of the bills racked up a number of hours of debate.

The office of Mr Hipkins says the House will remain in urgency "until sufficient progress has been made on the bills to pass them in a timely manner".