OPINION: Opposition wants Parliament sitting days to increase to 60

Tuesday 23 February 2021 | Written by Supplied | Published in Editorials, Opinion

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OPINION: Opposition wants Parliament sitting days to increase to 60
With few sitting days per year, the Cook Islands Parliamentary chamber is often empty and devoid of the vigorous political debate that comes when lawmakers come together. 20032507

Taxpayers of this country who pay the salaries of all MPs should feel outraged about government’s failure to deliver a reasonable number of sitting/working days in Parliament, writes Opposition leader Tina Pupuke Browne.

It is government’s job also to create good laws and policy. It is government’s job to sit in Parliament and pass the aspirations of our people into legislation. Delivering the aspirations of our people is paramount for any government. This in fact is government’s core role and that of the Opposition. To sit in Parliament, to be present. This is why we are Members of Parliament and not island councillors or village council members. We know that Island Council members are there to sit in Council and address matters concerning their respective island. Similarly, we expect Members of Parliament to be present in Parliament as their first line of responsibility and business – to discuss and debate Bills and pass legislation that advance our country to keep it functioning well, safe and on the right track.

Any employer who had a worker only turn up for 10 days out of a year would not be happy with that worker. That worker would soon find themselves out of a job. Or if the worker suggested they should get paid but send someone else to work in their place, would find it hard to convince any boss that this is a good idea.

For the past 10 years, this government has not felt any obligation to have Parliament convene for a significant number of days each year. The average has been around 10 days a year and the government has neglected its duty to ensure Parliament sits a decent number of days. A good starting point is a minimum of five days a month, or 60 days a year. The Opposition has long pushed for an increase in sitting days, but this has been consistently ignored.

Taxpayers of this country who pay the salaries of all MPs should feel outraged about this failure to deliver a reasonable number of sitting/working days in Parliament. There is an ongoing refusal by this government to acknowledge it has a duty to ensure MPs from both sides are in Parliament to earn their salaries, serve our people and country. To serve you the taxpayer.

Simply put you, the taxpaying Cook Islands people, have been paying for your own birthday for the last 10 years. You have paid for the infrastructure projects with your tax money. But the government claims the praises, saying each time there is an opening of a completed infrastructure project, “look what we have done for you, look what we made possible”. That’s nonsense. You, the taxpayer, made it possible and the government should build infrastructure because it’s the governments’ job to do that. 

So, while taxpayers go to work, pay their taxes which make all the “cakes and presents” possible, the government fails to do its own core job making sure there are sufficient sittings of Parliament. Ten days a year is such a poor record. It shows no desire to be of better service to our people. This should make us all stand up and demand that any discussion on proxy votes should be thrown down the same road of poor excuses that this government has trodden well. It’s time for change.

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