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Labour Holds Off Passage Of Bill For The Day

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Trevor Mallard
Trevor Mallard

Wellington, May 16 NZPA - Parliament sat unusually late last night with Labour's delay tactics seeing politicians remain past 1am.

Even under urgency Parliament is normally suspended at midnight.

Labour managed to bring Parliament to a virtual standstill as they blocked the passage of bills setting up Auckland's new "super council".

The Government put Parliament into urgency on Wednesday to pass two bills -- one through all its stages and the other for a first reading which would be followed by select committee scrutiny and public submissions.

Labour agreed in principle with a unitary council but was demanding a referendum so that Aucklanders have the final say.

The first bill established a transition agency to oversee the change.

Opposition MPs have used a number of filibustering tactics to delay progress, most notably putting up hundreds of amendments and forcing votes on each one of them -- often answering in Maori which requires a translator to repeat each vote.

Many hundreds of amendments have suggested changes in dates and others have suggested alternatives to the phrase "powers of a regional council" such as "power and muscle" or alternative names for the Auckland Council such as the "Rodney Hide Memorial Council".

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said he should have been in his electorate, where redundancies were announced yesterday, but was instead held up in Parliament by Labour's hold-up techniques.

Labour MP Trevor Mallard said Parliament did not have to sit if the Government agreed to send the bill to a select committee for public consultation.

He said this was a simple bill that "should be easy to get through".

There was already approximately 7000 amendments and new ones could be written faster than votes could be held, Mr Mallard said.

His colleague Jacinda Arden said Labour would "be here till the bitter end".

When debate resumed yesterday afternoon, after a dozen hours of voting, politicians basked in the opportunity to speak.

Labour MP Parekura Horomia told Government members to be quiet while he was speaking: "this is my story not yours -- keep quiet".

After earlier boycotting the procedural spectacle in the house the Maori Party returned to debate the third part of the bill.

MP Rahui Katene raised the issue of the Maori seats and urged the Government to take-up Labour's offer of ending the session by sending the bill to a select committee.

She said it was "important for people to have the chance to put forward their views".

Earlier Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said she was disgusted with Labour's "silly attempts".

She said Labour was making a "mockery of New Zealand's democratic process and she walked out of parliament today "totally disgusted".

"The Maori Party is vehemently opposed to the proposed legislation on the Auckland super city.

"But we cannot believe the farce that Labour had forced on the House...they are wasting taxpayers' money and valuable constituency time."

Parliament sat to just after 1am and will resume at 9am tomorrow. It cannot sit on Sunday, but if necessary the Government intended it to sit on Monday.

Prime Minister John Key said this afternoon he was relaxed about the delay.

"Some of the amendments being put up are completely frivolous and actually a waste of the House's time," Mr Key said.

The second bill creates the structure of the council itself and some of the broader detail such as how many councillors, how they are elected and who the represent.

This bill is being sent to select committee for submissions and is limited to a two hour debate.

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