By PNG Echo.
This week, the Government of PNG rushed through legislation, including the budget with little or no debate. Afterwards, parliament was adjourned early and will not reconvene until the end of March 2016 – which could put them in breach of the rules regarding sitting days. It will also put them outside the window of opportunity where a vote of no confidence is possible.
With the superior numbers in the government ranks they can do that.
It’s not an ideal situation but the voting behaviour indicates that there is significant confidence in this government, which was also shown by the earlier vote of confidence.
Nevertheless, the issue that dominated this sitting of parliament was the mooted and twice attempted ‘vote of no confidence’ against one of the strongest governments in PNGs national history.
This notwithstanding, it is more probable than possible that what happened these last weeks in parliament (the lack of debate, the parliamentary adjournment) was the government attending to its duties while avoiding the motion – no matter how remote the chances of its success.
Government detractors have said that the government is “scared”. I think that ‘cautious’ may be closer to the truth.
Vote of no confidence
While I am all in favour of democratic checks and balances of which the vote of no confidence is one, I am not in favour of how the opposition has used it.
This government’s numbers aren’t only superior, they are overwhelming.
This vote of no confidence was a simple let’s-suck-it-and-see exercise with the opposition only just managing to scrape in the bare-bones number needed to table the motion.
In the final analysis, the opposition gave the government no choice but to do what it needed to do to ensure its power base wasn’t eroded. It would be an extremely cavalier administration that would risk (however small the risk) submitting itself to such a speculative process when there were legal and legitimate ways to avoid it.
For had the motion been accepted, this would have given the opposition seven days to do its worse – more horse trading.
I mean, do you really think that the opposition would have attracted government MPs to vote with them because of their charisma, integrity and the strength of their alternate policies?
Do you think that no laws would have been broken in that seven days – no monetary gains promised in the pursuit of power?
And that’s the point. It would need a government with a particularly stupid person at its head to think that that the vote of no confidence would be a fair fight and O’Neill is far from that.
The only way to stop these speculative motions (as opposed to using the motion in the spirit that it was intended) is by heavily penalising the proposer and seconder of the motion if they cannot obtain significant numbers during the vote – numbers very close to winning.
Otherwise votes of no confidence are going to be abused whenever the opportunity arises and will remain an unnecessary distraction that will only prove to stymie parliamentary debate as the government is forced to direct resources into guaranteeing its own survival – resources that could be better utilized.