The political bout: Urgency at Parliament explained

10:10 pm on 21 June 2018

Analysis - Parliament sat under urgency today, to debate two tax bills.

Leader of the House Chris Hipkins

Labour MP Chris Hipkins was at the centre heated debate at Parliament today. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

One being the controversial regional fuel tax bill, the other to do with neutralising base erosion and profit shifting.

But why?

Ministers use urgency or extended hours to make progress on business they want to have passed through the House in order to activate legislation and allow things they have promised to actually happen.

Since being elected, Labour has used urgency three times to progress legislation: to introduce their Families Package after last year's mini-Budget, and to pass the laws to extend Paid Parental Leave to 26 weeks from 1 July this year.

This is the third time.

Over nine years, National used urgency to progress legislation 53 times.

In its first three-year term, urgency was used 31 times.

So why are they politicking?

There was a political scrap in Parliament last night, which continued through into this morning.

Labour MP Chris Hipkins began it by calling the House into urgency without notice at 9:35pm - shortly before the House was set to rise for the evening.

In doing so he implied there had been filibustering by the opposition to delay the passing of the bills, which he expected to progress.

National was outraged.

Former whip and National MP Jami-Lee Ross argued all speaking calls - of which each MP has 4 - should be reset. He moved a motion to do so.

In response the Leader of the House, Mr Hipkins, added an amendment to disallow that.

It was the politician's version of a boxing bout within the House of Representatives.

Shadow leader of the House Gerry Brownlee then accused Mr Hipkins of attempting to remove National's speaking rights altogether, in a press statement issued to political reporters watching all the drama unfold.

He called it an extraordinary and potentially unprecedented abuse of power.

"What the motion was saying is that the House would go into urgency, and then there would be no debate," he said.

"That's ridiculous, to ask Parliament to effectively vote for its own silence."

This morning, Mr Hipkins removed the amendment.

"I have reflected very carefully on where the House got to last night," he told Parliament.

"I do not believe it is in the best interests of the House for this to continue."

The National Party motion was ultimately voted down anyway and urgent debate continued on the committee stages of the two bills until shortly before 1pm.

It was then cancelled, because of upcoming treaty legislation for which busloads of people had travelled to Parliament to watch pass into law.

And the day continued as normal - aside from the Prime Minister having her first baby, and a new acting Prime Minister.