27 Mar 2018

Parliament’s to do list: prison tattoos, homosexual offences, and OMG blasphemy

From The House , 6:55 pm on 27 March 2018

While it may look like it’s all tea and scones with international pop stars, MPs do have a lot of other things on their plate.

Here’s what they plan to get through this week (March 27 - 29).

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Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

MPs are required to be at Parliament for scheduled sitting days, so called because they sit in those green chairs for the day. An agenda known as the Order Paper is published online each sitting day outlining what business the House plans to get through but there are more items on the list than there is time, so below is an indication of what they’ll attempt to get through.

Culling cows


  • A ministerial statement from the Minister for Agriculture and Biosecurity Damien O’Connor about the mycoplasma bovis outbreak in cattle and what steps are being taken to stop its spread.

  • Ministerial Statements are used to inform the House of a matter of significant public importance. Parties with six or more members can also speak to the statement.


  • The Ministry for Primary Industries has announced the cull of just over 22,000 cattle on 28 infected properties in the South Island at a cost of about $60 million.

  • Mycoplasma bovis is difficult to detect and causes mastitis, pneumonia, abortions and lameness, and can result in the deaths of cows and calves.

Ka kite Steven Joyce

  • National MP Steven Joyce is resigning from Parliament after ten years in the job and will give his farewell speech, (or valedictory statement) on Tuesday, 27 March at 5.40 pm. He has held positions as Minister of Transport, Tertiary Education, and Finance and is a list MP so there will not be a by-election.  

  • Valedictory statements are often humourous, reflective, and pay tribute to to family, friends, staff and even political foes.

Money well spent?



  • This Bill is part of the financial cycle of Parliament and confirms spending over the last financial year (which may or may not match up with what was planned).

  • MPs on select committees have been questioning the bosses of  government departments, Offices of Parliament, Crown entities, State enterprises and other public organisations to see if they’ve done what they were funded to do. In the Annual Review Debate, MPs will question, or defend, this spending using information from audits and select committee reports.

Righting an historical wrong



  • In 1986 law reform decriminalised consensual sex between men over the age of 16 but those who had previously been convicted still had the offence on their records and it could also appear in criminal checks. The bill allows people to apply to have it removed either for themselves or on behalf of someone who has died.

  • The bill being at its second reading means it has come back from a select committee which wrote a report for the House on the Bill. The Justice Committee was considering a petition asking for an apology and the records to be wiped when this Bill was introduced to the House in 2017. The House also formally apologised at the first reading. The report from the Justice Committee can be found here.

Gathering the money



  • If the bill isn’t passed the Government would technically have to give back income tax collected over the last financial year.

  • Bright-line testing: this means profits from residential investment properties (not the family home) which are bought and sold within five years could be taxed.

Spending the money (on education)


Regional fuel tax


OMG we’re deleting laws    


  • The first reading of the Crimes Amendment Bill which does a few things like:

  • Repeal the law of blasphemous libel which is listed as an offence under the Crimes Act 1961, under the heading 'Crime against religion'.

  • Repeal the ‘year and a day’ law or Section 162 of the Crimes Act.

  • Repeal Section 71(2) of the Act which deals with spouses or civil union partners being charged as an accessory after the fact.


  • Imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year is possible for anyone who publishes any blasphemous libel which can include, worshiping Satan, or saying that God is cruel or unkind. Most people, including churches, believe this law is out of date and should be removed.

  • The ‘year and a day’ law prevents people being charged for causing someone's death if they died more than 'one year and a day' after the criminal act. The law has prevented charges in recent years including in relation to the collapse of the CTV building in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake which killed 115 people.

  • If someone helps a person who has committed a crime you can be charged with accessory after the fact unless you are that person’s spouse or civil union partner. This bill will get rid of that protection for spouses or partners.

Privacy in the digital age



  • Technology keeps improving the way people are connected and how personal information is accessed and stored, like social media platforms, smartphones, and cloud storage, so it’s time to update the Act.   

Accessing the dead



  • This is the result of an inquiry by the Maori Affairs Committee which looked at whanau access to and management of tupapaku, or deceased persons.

  • The committee heard that burial customs can vary between cultures with some requiring same day burial and others needing immediate access to the body which means problems are caused when the body's release is delayed. So it has recommended some changes to the coronial system which this bill will implement.

Humanely managing prisoners


  • Introducing a system separate to the segregation regime for managing prisoners at risk of self-harm.

  • Mothers who are denied a request to have their child with them in prison will be able to appeal that decision.  

  • Allowing the Minister of Corrections to declare a Police jail or parts of it to become a corrections prison temporarily.

  • No more tattooing of prisoners. The bill will make it a disciplinary offence for a prisoner to tattoo another prisoner or themselves, or get one from another prisoner.

Letting fees



  • Letting agents who help landlords find tenants charge a fee for their services which is fair enough, but that fee is often passed on to the tenant to pay (which doesn’t seem as fair). The Bill aims to make sure that the costs of letting a property are paid for by the landlord because they actually benefit from the service.

You can see how much the House gets done each sitting day by going here: Daily progress in the House