Urgency makes us all a bit tetchy but Trevor Mallard reduces tax debate to personal abuse

It's a shame it isn't Trevor Mallard.

Alf is his normal grumpy self this morning, as he prepares for another sitting of the House under urgency, but alongside many of his normally chipper colleagues he seems downright jolly.

The buggers have lost their rag, hurling insults while proceedings are dragged out unduly by Labour’s filibustering.

Some – like Labour’s David Cunliffe – are losing their voices. Pity it is only a temporary condition.

Anyway, this explains why Stuff today is saying tensions were high and insults flying in Parliament last night as MPs prepared to give up their Saturday for a day at the office.

Parliament sat under urgency all day yesterday and we MPs were back in the House at 9am today, braced for the prospect of sitting  until midnight.

As Stuff points out, Parliament cannot sit on Sundays, but MPs may be forced to return at 9am on Monday if the Government does not pass all the legislation it wants to.

Several other MPs by then may share Cunliffe’s vocal shortcomings.

Labour finance spokesman David Cunliffe was close to losing his voice yesterday as he led Opposition filibustering during debate over changes to tax legislation. Labour opposed each clause of the bill and made speeches at every chance.

Alas, the combative Trevor Mallard has not similarly been muted.

And so –

Trevor Mallard called National’s Tau Henare a “chocolate-covered banana”, to which Mr Henare replied via Twitter, calling Mr Mallard a “racist pig”.

Asked later, Mr Henare stood by his tweet. “Brown on the outside, white on the inside, it is a racist comment. And he is a pig.”

It’s a headline-grabbing remark, sure enough, in these days when the news media are disinclined to look too hard at the arguments for and against a chunk of legislation.

It has given Stuff something to fill its space without having to explain what the legislation being debated is all about and what each side of the House is saying about it.

Instead, we are regaled with yet another call for Mallard to take his pills or go back for more counselling or whatever it is he needs, which mostly – in Alf’s opinion – is a personality transplant.

Politicians should be used to urgency and the late nights and if Mr Mallard was “getting a bit testy” he needed to take an anger management course again, Mr Henare said.

Mr Mallard undertook anger management counselling in 2007 after he and Mr Henare had a scuffle outside Parliament’s debating chamber.

Revenue Minister Peter Dunne says the behaviour in the House last night was a result of people being tired during urgency and annoyed at Labour’s obvious filibustering.

This isn’t a complete explanation, Alf reckons, because if Labour MPs were tried and wanted to pack up and go home, they could have done so by stopping the filibuster.

Oh, but Stuff does mention the name of the legislation.

Let’s see if it tells us what the legislation is intended to do.

Things began to deteriorate during the reading of Mr Dunne’s Taxation (GST and Remedial Matters) Bill, which was expected to be passed last night.

Labour accused the Government of rushing through major tax changes in the legislation under urgency without allowing public submissions.

Mr Cunliffe said the changes were complicated and should have gone before a select committee. “It’s a very substantial policy matter that affects billions of dollars of tax revenue at a time when the Government’s quite skint.”

Hmm.

No, this does not explain what the legilslation aims to do.

Bugger.

If Alf can’t find someone to explain it, very simply, he will have to read the bloody bill. He hates doing that.

Mind you, it’s too late for him to contribute meaningfully to the debate, because the committee stage and the third stage of the bill’s passage have been completed.

The bill passed its third reading by 66 to 47 with National, ACT, the Maori Party and United Future supporting.

Alf hopes he did the right thing with his vote. He thinks he was one of the 66.

But Mrs Grumble has helped enlighten him about the antics in the House by pointing out that the proceedings involved a 70-page Supplementary Order Paper replacing the Loss Attributing Qualifying Company (LAQC) regime.

Alf doesn’t know anything much about LAQC regimes and so it was probably a good thing he lay low during the debate.

But Labour got a bit antsy over the 70-page SOP thing.

It had supported the Taxation (GST and Remedial Matters) Bill through its first and second readings, but then withdrew its support,  according to one of its non-entities called Stuart Nash who fancies himself as a tax spokesman or some such.

“What has happened this week is a flagrant abuse. The LAQC changes have been introduced through the 70-page SOP which was only tabled by Peter Dunne on Wednesday. SOPs are normally used to make very minor amendments and improvements, not generally to introduce substantial new legislation like this one.

“This SOP is the largest I can remember for any Bill, and it is larger than all but two tax bills passed this term,” Stuart Nash said.

“It contains a number of major changes to tax legislation that impact upon a lot of people and it is simply not right that Peter Dunne can arrogantly introduce it without any consultation. It is outrageous.”

Nash also flailed at Dunne, accusing him of being disorganised and challenging the need for urgency because he has had seven months since the Budget to draw up a Bill, get it to select committee “and pass good legislation using proper process”.

Mrs Grumble advised Alf that maybe he should pay some heed to Nash.

“These proposed changes are significant,” Stuart Nash said.

“There are more than 130,000 LAQCs and at least half of all rental properties are held in an LAQC entity. All New Zealanders from tax experts through to rental property owners deserve the right to be heard on such important legislation, but Peter Dunne’s unacceptable arrogance is denying them.

“These last minute changes are particularly serious as they apply to over $2.25 billion per year of tax losses through LAQCs, and impact on major structural questions like the fairness of tax treatment of different asset classes. National had the opportunity to pass this Bill by consensus — but they blew it. The substance is hugely significant and the process appalling.”

Stuart Nash said the SOP also contains major changes to how income derived from trusts is viewed, the level of tax paid by Māori trusts and a number of other changes to current tax legislation. “The contempt illustrated by this SOP is emblematic of the approach the Government is taking under urgency this week.”

But if there was anything of merit in what Nash was saying, it’s too late now.

Alf is getting to grips with the first reading debate of the Biosecurity Law Reform Bill.

Wonder if someone can explain it to him.

No, too late. That one was dealt with last night too and went to a select committee.

So who’s swiped Alf’s Order Paper?

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