24 Feb 2021

The hungry, hungry parliament: The bill that ate Wednesday

From The House , 2:00 pm on 24 February 2021

Wednesday isn’t happening this week. Look out your window and you’ll see an endless Tuesday gobbling Wednesday up whole.

Well, maybe not out your window but definitely here at Parliament.

That may need some explanation. 

No caption

Parliament's House calendar is changed by hand. Some days are very, very long. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

On Tuesday the House began debating the remaining stages of the  Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill under urgency.

The deadline is to save a couple of local bodies money by having them no longer obliged to run referendums they do not wish to run.

Urgency means that when the debating wasn’t finished by 10pm on Tuesday evening everyone went home for a kip and returned to pick it back up at 9am on Wednesday morning. But in the House it was still counted as Tuesday, and it would remain so until the Bill was finished. 

The morning continuation dragged on (and on), with the debate firmly mired in the committee stage - the only stage that is not time-limited. The National Party was mounting a filibuster, and with effect. 

The Committee Stage was briefly interrupted for the House to give leave for Question Time to occur at 2pm before urgency resumed. But no leave was requested for Wednesday to begin late. That means that there will be two Question times on Tuesday but none on Wednesday.

It also means - and this is where it gets strange - that when the Third Reading of the Bill finally gets completed (presumably sometime this afternoon), it will be too late for the House to begin Wednesday.

Wednesday will simply evaporate. 

Those MPs that sweated over General Debate speeches can only tuck them into a bottom drawer for a rainy day (or possibly the next General Debate). Those MPs championing Members' Bills will have to wait another two weeks for the first Members’ Day of the 53rd Parliament to finally happen. 

Maybe that will be mid March. Maybe. Or maybe another hungry Tuesday (or Covid-19) will prevail.