No debate, early adjournment: It’s cause and effect.

By PNG Echo.

Parliament of Papua New Guinea
Parliament of Papua New Guinea

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

The Leader of the Opposition, his Deputy and a ring-in,
The Leader of the Opposition, his Deputy and a ring-in, Oro Governor, Gary Juffa, who was needed if the Opposition were to get the required signatures to table the motion

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.


Michael Somare seconded the motion.
Michael Somare seconded the motion.

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.

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10 thoughts on “No debate, early adjournment: It’s cause and effect.

  1. I don’t agree with you Susan. A lot of things are not right with the current government and there is a need to immediately change the current government. One way is through the vote of no-confidence. Why is O’Neill and the current government not allow the vote-of no confidence a they have the numbers on he flor of parliament? The current government will be changed and only time will tell.

      • You may say the Government was being cautious but in reality it is scared shitless. For all the numerical strength that they supposedly have against the Opposition which they constantly trumpet to the media, at the end of the day its its apparent that they too know that their days are numbered. Regardless of the lack of charisma etc in the Opposition ranks and the supposed monetray gains that would certainly be used to entice members during the horsetrading period, I believe that this is a necessary evil that we have to endure to rid ourselves of the PNC led government. What is clear now is that the PNC party should never be allowed to lead the PNG government again. Bill Skate’s era and now O’Neil’s term has proven this. O’Neil too should start walking the talk if he wants to be remebered as a great leader. We find it laughable that he continues to make statements to the effect that he welcomes or supports a particular investigation yet his consistently does everything he can to either delay or frustrate due process. Such actions can only be construed as acts of a desperate man clinging onto power using all devices & tactics at his disposal to remain in power.

  2. You can never know without testing it on the floor of parliament. Peter O’Neil did not have the guts to try out his numerical strength. It only goes to prove he is unsure of his own strength and numbers – he was just too scared.

    • No you never can. It’s akin giving a lunatic a gun, standing on the other side of the field and letting him take a pot shot. Chances are, he’s going to miss – but you wouldn’t do it, would you?

  3. I agree that the government is strong enough to break whatever rules it likes, including the required number of sitting days this year for parliament. I believe Peter O’Neill should be put in firm control of when he wants parliament to meet or if he doesn’t want it to meet at all for some months or years that is now his power to make the decision.

  4. The real problem I think you are grappling with, Doctor is one that has been debated in some circles in PNG for many years, on and off, namely, that there is not a constitutional provision that adequately sheets home responsibility to the movers of motions of no confidence. The original Organic Law on the Integrity of MP’s and Political Parties attempted in a heavy handed fashion to do this and after far too long was ruled to be unconstitutional. To me and a few others in years gone by the answer is simple – a constitutional amendment which says that in the situation where a motion of no confidence is unsuccessful, the movers and seconders of the motion would have to go to a by-election. In the jargon of today it did not get much traction!

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