To vote or not to vote?

Thursday, October 15, 2009
Issue 844, Page 2
Word count: 649
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

No matter you know it or not, the so-called imported labour bill was already passed last Friday. And please don’t expect the government will try to touch the law again in the next couple of years – it’s quite unlikely as you can see so many bills were only presented to the Legislative Assembly only after the related legislation had been in use for 10 or even 20 years.

Nevertheless, what I wanted to say is the passage of the imported labour bill became another convincing example of how the legislature is unable to turn down a government-drafted bill even it is not good enough, not even to mention “perfect”.

It is very interesting to note that, in contrast to Hong Kong, in average only around half of the bills submitted by the government were passed in the Legislative Council during the past four years of Donald Tsang Yam Kuen’s term of office, according to a recent voting study done by SynergyNet.

It was also found that the Hong Kong government had for many times put aside, recalled or postponed controversial bills since 2005.

Between 2005 and 2006, the overall legislative success rate failed at 47 percent, but in the following two years it went up to 66 percent and 86 percent respectively. Yet, in the year 2008/09 the rate plunged to 25 percent – meaning in every 10 bills, nearly eight of them failed to obtain enough support from legislators.

Although SynergyNet and some Hong Kong intellectuals criticised the low legislative success rate and said it was an alert to Mr Tsang’s governance, of course I’m not saying such a low rate is really good and Macau’s lawmakers should reject everything handed in by the government, a high legislative success rate doesn’t necessarily mean good either.

In the case of Macau, I would say one can be almost certain that every bill being put at the legislature for voting will have a happy ending, no matter how diverse lawmakers’ opinions are and how intense the discussion is.

As what an old saying says it will never be good if things become too extreme or fall too heavily on either one of the sides.

We all knew that the two days of debate among lawmakers on the imported labour bill was a heated one. But so what? It is no longer a surprise to me that a controversial bill must be passed eventually even though lawmakers voice out major concern and the government officials’ responses are (usually) empty talk or confusing.

I was shocked by some lawmakers’ speech that although they weren’t very satisfied with the imported labour bill, they would vote in favour of it as it was “better than nothing”.

What did you mean “better than nothing”??? We’re talking about law here, something very serious and that requires extensive and cautious study and discussions. If a bill isn’t good enough, it’s not good enough. A wrong legislation may cause more side effects than not having one in the first place.

Don’t forget it’s the government’s responsibility for not having submitted the revised draft of the bill to the legislature earlier. And then in less than a month’s time the standing committee was required to finish the deliberation and hand that in for the final reading.

The president of the standing committee had said that the last two meetings went smoothly and no major argument was seen between lawmakers and government representatives.

So for what reasons the final reading of the bill had to last two days? I doubt if there were actually sufficient communications between the government and the lawmakers, not even to mention the tens of thousands of non-local workers in Macau having been left behind during the entire legislative process.

Some lawmakers voted for the bill probably because they could not or did not want to say no, for whatever “mysterious” reasons it might be.


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