Let me get this right, in the interests of truth and beauty: the Government has decided to revisit the Emissions Trading Scheme, in part because the enabling legislation was rushed. At the same time, the Government will be making a substantial change to the Employment Relations Act, under Urgency. Is it just me who senses something unsettling about this twin-track approach to the truth?
So, what's the rush? Apparently, the Employment Relations Act is such an impediment to people getting jobs that it must be amended by Christmas; it's a Christmas rush. Under the Government's No Santa Left Behind policy, the employment prospects of the marginal members of our community will be enhanced by allowing employers to take them on and then sack them after ninety days. However, this offer only applies to employees of firms that employ less than twenty staff.
Yes, I know: that last bit is rather peculiar. Apparently, it is really, really important, Urgent even, that employees should not have any job security in the first ninety days of employment, but it is only so if they are working for a firm which employs nineteen staff or fewer. I not entirely sure how this works. Do employers of less than twenty staff have especially poor judgment when it comes to hiring? Is this why they employ less than twenty staff - because they cannot trust themselves to make the right decision without a ninety day money-back guarantee? Do these employers hire illiterate signwriters, purblind photographers and headless hatters, realising their mistakes only after the contract is signed? On the other hand, do larger employers have special powers that enable them to discern character in an instant? I think we should be told. And Mr Key, the Smiling Assassin, is the one who can tell us. But he won't.
Of course, there are those who might say that there is no evidence to support this law change, that it is based on anecdote and grumbling, that it is no more than a sop to bad employers who want to hire and fire at will, or worse employers who want to fire staff members who won't have sex with them (you think I am making this up; I am not). You might think that Mr Key is pushing through this amendement because he is tired of being button-holed by Rotarians or that he is rewarding all the panel-beaters, armature-winders and spot-welders who gave him their support. You are probably right.
You are probably right because the sole reason for any legislation that is to be proposed by the Government is to maintain Mr Key in his position as Prime Minister. People have spoken of Mr Key having a Secret Agenda. They are wrong. His agenda was quite open: he wanted to be Prime Minister. Now he is Prime Minister, he wants to remain so. This is not to say that Mr Key is unprincipled. No, principles do not come into the matter. Becoming Prime Minister was the fulfillment of an ambition. Mr Key wanted a bicycle, he wanted to be a millionaire and he wanted to be Prime Minister. He achieved all these ambitions in turn. There is nothing he wants to do, now he is Prime Minister, but he will do anything to remain in that position.
This Urgent legislation is one such action. There will be no consultation. There is no need, since we already had the opportunity to comment when Wayne Mapp proposed the same legislation as a Private Member's Bill. Cynics might say that it is a rum state of affairs when a Private Member's Bill is subjected to more scrutiny than a Government Bill; they might go on to say that it is more rum still when a Government Minister (Kate Wilkinson, for the record) says that consultation can be cancelled out because it has already taken place in a previous Parliament. But Cynics are like that. Pay no attention to them; this is Urgent. It is important that Mr Key is shown to be doing something. It does not matter that this legislation was not previously on the list of Urgent matters promised to the electorate during the Election, because the electorate no longer matters. It is the Rotarians (and the Masons, the Buffaloes and the Elks) who matter now. They must be assured that Mr Key is Doing Something, to assure their continued support. The electorate have played their part. But now is the time for action, to force through unnecessary legislation to keep the supporters happy.
Meanwhile, the Maori Party still think they matter, poor dears. Somebody ought to tell them.