Hood: Shaky Parliament Ceasefire Enters Sixth Day
Signs Of Renewed Outbreaks As Parliamentary Ceasefire Enters Sixth DaySatire by Lyndon Hood
New Zealand's legislative assembly is about to enter the sixth full day of a Speaker-imposed ceasefire, but initial indications are that the hard-won peace will not last. Volleys of barracking, or as it has come to be known 'barraging', have already begun to fly and the Speaker has called for restraint.
The lull in hostilities followed weeks of unprecedented rhetorical violence. This outbreak of ferocious exchanges, an extreme escalation in the long-running conflict, has threatened to send more than two dozen minor party politicians fleeing the chamber as refugees.
On Thursday, Labour unilaterally withdrew from the confrontation as a result of pressure from the Parliamentary community, which led to a number of Ministers weathering extended bombardment from opposition forces without any means of defence. This was a dramatic turnaround from a party which, just the day before, had threatened the 'nuclear option'. That suggestion was widely condemned, and although it was not deployed the proximity of such hazardous weapons may have poisoned the career of at least one opposition MP. In earlier battles one Labour MP had been incapacitated and others injured.
Peace has reigned in Parliament since a summit meeting between party representatives late on Thursday, although pundits have pointed out that four of the intervening days have been Parliamentary weekend. Yesterday's session was eerily calm, with members on all sides of the house cautiously returning to seats that had days before been raked by barrages of abuse and assessing the damage done.
There have however been reports of inter-party sniping outside the house. This type of conflict is not covered by the initial agreement, but if it is not contained, many fear it will spill back into the Parliamentary arena, especially with the huge bombs of a kind frowned on by general convention being dropped by the media.
In an attempt to make the shaky ceasefire hold, the Speaker of the House has explicitly threatened to impose sanctions on non-complying members, which she maintains is provided for under existing rulings.
Labour Whip Tim Barnett indicated that this respite may not be permanent. "We have agreed to this de-escalation, and if National does not respect it they will face the consequences," he said, "The party must exercise control over its members and stop fomenting trouble. We can't have peace without creating the conditions for peace."
"This is indeed a tragic problem," said National Whip Lindsay Tisch, "We welcome the increase in helpful answers from Ministers. The reason the uncontrollable behaviour from National MPs is that the Government weasels out of important questions and the unrest will continue until they just answer. The solution is in Labour's hands. You have to understand the context and address the root causes. So while I condemn the extreme actions of these National MPs, I sympathise with their position."