Good ideas from Stock

After Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick used the meme phrase “OK Boomer” in parliament a few days ago, Rob Stock took the opportunity to write about parliamentary heckling.

She {Swarbrick} is right to be frustrated. Heckling is for pub comedy nights, not debates about things that matter among lawmakers.
Parliament should be a space for grown-ups to debate in a grown-up way, and make grown-up decisions, not a chamber of unpleasant anti-manners where heckling and shouting over other people is normal.

Parliament should be at least as polite as debates around my dinner table.
When one of my children interrupts the other at the table, I’ll ask them to be a bit more polite and let their sister finish.
Should one adopt the anti-manners many MPs use the debating chamber, they’d be at risk of missing pudding.
If MPs’ anti-manners were widely adopted in ordinary situations (pubs, workplaces, boardrooms, homes, schools, restaurants, etc), we’d all end up hating each other.

Well said. This has always been one of my biggest frustrations with politics – it always feels like it’s more about getting one over the other guy rather than, ya know, fixing the damn country.

It’s just really disappointing to see the behaviours that were taught out of us at primary school re-surface in what is possibly the most important place in the nation.

Stock concludes with three ideas to stop heckling:

1. Dust off the idea of an MPs’ code of conduct. Most good employers have codes of conduct for employees. No decent company director would dream of shouting over another at a board meeting.
2. Put a “heckling jar” in Parliament, a bit like the apocryphal “swear jar”.

Any MP who heckles, or interrupts during a debate, has to stick in $100. They’re well enough paid to afford that…

3. Let’s have Hansard stick out a heckling/behaviour report every year so we can see who the most boorish MPs are, and have them explain their behaviour.

Personally, I’d go even further and have suspensions from the chamber for heckling. But I do like the approach Stock has taken here. Great to finally see someone comment on one of my biggest frustrations with politics.

1 Comment

  1. Raoul

    Heckling in the NZ Parliament (and many other parliaments) is deeply embedded as an aspect of vigorous debate. It is the task of the Speaker to ensure that it doesn’t get out of hand. Compared with many other parliaments (e.g Australia, the UK, Russia and so many other rowdy and even pugilistic “theatres” ) our NZ Parliament is reasonably tame and civilised. Much of the debate is pure theatre. The real work is carried out in standing committees in earnest discussion. I speak from having worked in Parliament and still a follower of Question time and general debates.


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