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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 15. 1972

Cocooned in a Beehive

Cocooned in a Beehive

As one of a group of probably oldish liberals who saw and discussed the Gallery programme where two young men were interviewed with two Members of Parliament, we found much sympathy with the frustrations of the two young men. Why?

Parliament has merely become a game, a professional sport. The sport of manipulating 420 (Note) Standing Orders & Rules to keep in power. The former leader of the house, Sir K.J. Holyoake, played this sport very well indeed when it suited to avoid full scale open and well planned public policy debates. (See any Hansard). The present Prime Minister is on record as saying Parliament is not a policy making body and continues to play politely exactly the same sport. Eventually we shall perhaps be entirely ruled by Standing Orders, and Orders in Council.

This is a major reason why Parliament is in disrepute and is becoming more and more a social mockery, and I am mindful it makes the laws and is called the Highest Court in the Land. This so called dignity of Parliament has become unfortunately and deservedly a travesty of open, genuine, democratic debate. The responsibility for this alone lies with the Parliamentarians. The ordinary person often hears called a Gentleman's Club, a Social Club, a Country Club, the Boozery, which doesn't do it any good.

There is apparently no reason at all if they will it and desire it, when at almost fixed dates, in each session and very well advertised in the Press and on Radio & TV full scale open policy (note) debates cannot be held on specific issues and thrashed out on such subjects as Health Services, Race Relations, Education, Social Security, Labour and Industry, Farming problems, the Environment etc., thus avoiding much secretive lobbying.

Parliament can even take the initiative and send invitations to interested people and parties. The Galleries might even be filled to witness the spectacle.

Members of the House might even prepare thoughtful, well researched speeches instead of the hastily concocted, dreary stuff we now get to score points in this game of 420 Rules.

The real answer lies in the hearts, minds, will and values of the nervous (or frightened) 80 and the freedom they alone possess, to put their own House well and truly in order first before attacking others who demonstrate etc.

They can begin by stop pussyfooting around with this professionally absurd sport of 420 Rules. (Cricket when I played it had about 350) If they don't know how to, they can ask the recently retired Clerk of the House and give him, in cooperation perhaps with the Ombudsman, the power to make a full frank, independent report to the people of N.Z. on the subject of Parliament, and of N.Z.'s particular needs as a small democracy, not Westminsters. N.Z. isn't a world power, one of the Big Five at U.N., locked in world power struggles. Has any M.P. any genuine excuse why these suggestions cannot be carried out and experimented with if the pretence of Parliamentary democracy isn't to carry on?

Something needs doing or this mythical dignity of Parliament will continue, frustrations and disillusionments increase and Parliamentarians living in this cocoon world will only have themselves to blame if public dissension gets worse. Building Beehives will not solve this very fundamental issue; although more secretarial help would be and is required.

Unless action is taken those who demonstrate will alas need to continue to learn and follow the example of their mentors, in the House of 420 Rules, and become more skilfull and cunning in techniques. Thus perpetuating the sport unless of course Parliamentarians really find the determination to give a lead first.

Will they really do it? (Or shall we put them on $22 Social Security Benefit plus a Means Test for a session or two?)

J.S. Mitchell