Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Politics and theatre

I haven’t been writing much about New Zealand national politics lately. I’m still keenly interested (always!), but lately I’ve found it hard to muster the energy to bother commenting. Today I realised why.

I saw a post on a blog called “The Dim-Post” titled This rough magic I here abjure (a line from “The Tempest”, if you don’t recognise it). The author, Danyl, wrote that some of the latest antics of our Parliamentarians “just feed into my deepening depression about the mediocrity of New Zealand’s political class and the culture surrounding it, related to my wider despair at the state of the economy.” I realised that I’ve been feeling similarly, and agreed completely with the final thought:

“In our current situation we have a government that knows much about theatre and politics and almost nothing about government and an opposition that probably knows much about government, but in vain because they know nothing about politics or theatre.”

Nail-on-the-head. When I’ve written about NZ Politics, it’s often been to criticise the government over its reliance on theatre and politics (as, especially, in the last paragraph of this post) and the opposition for when they try stupid theatrical stunts (like here).

But last week I saw some empirical evidence backing up one of my complaints about the National-led government: Their constant use of urgency to pass legislation, ensuring the public has no voice.

Writing on the Green Party’s “Frogblog,” party co-leader Russel Norman compared the amount of time spent under urgency during this government and the previous Labour-led Government. Two-thirds of the way through the life of this Parliament, it turns out that National has spent nearly three times as much time under urgency: The Labour-led 48th Parliament spent 9.9% of its total hours under urgency, while the current 49th Parliament has spent a whopping 27.1%.

Urgency is something that should be used very, very rarely, in only the most extraordinary circumstances (like a natural disaster or other true emergency) where the need for speed is obvious. But the National-led government has used it again and again to push through ordinary laws to make sure that the public has no chance to comment at all. The reorganisation of Auckland is probably the most famous example of that.

So I look at the arrogant theatre and politics of the National–led Government and the utter ineptness of the Labour opposition in scoring any theatrical hits against the government and, well, I get where Danyl is coming from. I’m still blogging, however—I just may not post about New Zealand’s national politics very often. Now you know why.

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