So, the Budget 2017 debates started yesterday. And I’ve seen quite a number of comments and posts on Facebook arguing that we shouldn’t bother with the debates, since the Budget is still going to be passed in the end anyway, along with the 30% water price hike and carbon tax.
Why debate for the sake of having a debate, they ask. A rubber stamp, they say.
(For info, a supply/budget bill requires only a simple majority in parliament to be passed.)
So, going by this logic, most debates in parliament are “fake” as long as we have a majority government in power (i.e. a government that wins more than half the seats). Since the majority governments are likely to have the numbers to pass the bills anyway, why bother debating!
Hmm, then I guess there’s no point having parliamentary debates in the British parliament, eh, since the Conservative party holds the majority of seats. I guess there’s also no point having debates even if the Workers’ Party or some other party forms a majority government too. Why bother?
If that’s the case, when is a good time to have debates in Parliament?
You get the drift.
Parliamentary debates serves a core function in a parliamentary democracy. Debates help hold the government accountable, and also help to inform the public. Debates help to shape public discourse. Debates help shed light on issues, and offers some answers and explanations. I mean, would you rather that issues of national significance be discussed behind closed doors, away from public eyes?
The lone opposition party in parliament, the Workers’ Party, would disagree with the notion that debates are meaningless. They have made good arguments in parliament, and have taken the ruling party to task on several occasions. In fact, they want more WP candidates in parliament, so as to make parliamentary debates even more robust.
We shouldn’t take an overly cynical view about the parliamentary debates, nor hold unrealistic expectations. At the end of the day, yes bills will be passed. The government of the day will further their preferred agenda – for better or for worse.
But it is defeatist to be overly cynical. Listen to the debates carefully and critically. Examine what the government and the opposition say. You got to start somewhere if you want a vibrant democracy, and citizens play an important role.
If not us, then who? If not now. then when? If your beef is with the lack of voices in Parliament, then wait till 2019/2020/2021. But let us not turn our backs on the proceedings in a parliamentary democracy in the meantime.
That is all.