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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Urgency and democracy

I have no doubt that if a National government, or a National-dominated coalition, is formed after the elections this spring, it will dominate the Parliament and make use of urgency and other parliamentary abuses, to get its measures through, just as much as its predecessor. That is what has got to stop.Some parliamentarians and some politicians have to begin standing up for the integrity of the legislative process itself, even when it is politically inconvenient to do so.
This quote is from Dr Jeremy Waldron, who spoke at the annual John Graham lecture hosted by the Maxim Institute earlier this year, explaining some misgivings on our parliamentary legislative system. He spoke on select committees being undermined by supplementary order papers, which like urgency, can curtail debate and act like a veto on select committee decisions.We have no legislative safegards other countries take for granted: No quorum, no second chamber, no requirement to attend in order to vote, no judicial review, no real independence from the executive, and constant recourse to urgency and supplementary order papers. All in the name of efficiency, political expediency and executive impatience.

I was unaware that Maxim had put the text of the speech online - and it's a speech worth reading. Waldron, among other matters commented on democracy and fair laws, and considered urgency was not democratic or fair, except in situations like pre-budget taxes. According to Waldron, urgency leads to an unfair lawmaking process and removal of some legislative safeguards means that Parliament is not a place of genuine engagement any more . Sometimes there is more genuine engagement on blogs and forums like Maxim and others. But laws are make by Parliamentarians who seek our compliance.
Our compliance is going to have to be rooted in the fairness and openness of the democratic process by which it was made. We obey because we think the law was made fairly, not because we agree with what it says.

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