23 Jul 2018

Parliament’s to do list: Budget 2018 redux and two Tuesdays

From The House , 6:55 pm on 23 July 2018

It’s Groundhog Day, with MPs yet again talking about Budget 2018 and having two Tuesdays this week.

Yes, two Tuesdays. MPs normally turn up in the debating chamber at 2pm on a sitting day but this week the House will extend its sitting on Tuesday to carry on through Wednesday morning.

So even though MPs will turn up at 9am on Wednesday, their calendar will still say it’s Tuesday. For them, Wednesday will start at 2pm.

They’re having two Tuesdays because most of the first Tuesday (24th)  will be taken up with an 11 hour debate about Budget 2018 called the Estimates Debate. Confused? It’s all explained below.

Question time will take place at 2pm as usual and after that MPs will work through the plan below (July 24 - 26).

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Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

MPs are required to be at Parliament for scheduled sitting days, so called because MPs sit in those green leather chairs when they’re in the debating chamber. An agenda known as the Order Paper is published online each sitting day outlining what business the House plans to get through. But plans change and time is limited so below is what they’ll try their best to get through.

The estimates debate (Tuesday)


  • The committee stage of the Appropriations (2018/19 Estimates) Bill (a.k.a the budget). This part is also known as the Estimates Debate.

  • This debate will last 11 hours and is separated into 10 sections. Each section will be begun by the chairperson of the relevant select committee. For example, National MP Simon O’Connor will kick off the External Section as he’s the chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee.


  • The amount of money and how it is spent by the Government is important so Parliament spends a fair amount of time examining and scrutinising those spending choices. This is part of that scrutiny cycle.

  • On May 17, the Minister of Finance Grant Robertson introduced the Appropriations Bill which was read a first time without debate, then he delivered his budget statement and the second reading of the Bill began right after. That part lasted 15 hours in total but was spread over a few sitting days.

  • After that, the ‘Votes’ (the topic sections of the budget: Health, Education etc) went to various Select Committees to be examined and defended by Ministers.

  • The committees wrote reports on each vote and sent them back to the House for MPs to debate, which is where we are now.

  • Along with the Appropriations Bill, the Government will also ask Parliament to pass an Imprest Supply measure to actually give it some interim walking-around-money while the House considers the Appropriations.

Social Security Rewrite (Wednesday morning but technically still Tuesday)


  • The committee stage of the Social Security Legislation Rewrite Bill

  • This legislation was introduced by the former National-led government. It returned from consideration before Select Committee with recommended amendments. The Select Committee report included dissenting opinions from both Labour and the Greens - so it may be that while the Government supported the Second Reading, it also introduces Supplementary Order Papers notifying proposed amendments to be made during this next stage of debate (the Committee of the Whole House).

  • This Bill is planned to be split up at the Committee stage into: a social security bill, a residential care and disability support services bill, and an Artificial Limb Service bill.


  • This bill would repeal and replace the Social Security Act 1964 and the Social Welfare (Reciprocity Agreements, and New Zealand Artificial Limb Service) Act 1990.

  • The main aim of the bill is listed as: to make New Zealand’s social security law easier to understand by modernising its language, drafting style, and structure.

  • The bill sets out people’s eligibility for social security benefits, obligations and sanctions, rights to review and appeal decisions, how assistance is delivered to beneficiaries.

Updating Military Justice (Wednesday morning/ still Tuesday)


Rejigging Courts & Tribunals (Wednesday morning/ keep pretending it's Tuesday)


  • The Courts Matters Bill 2017 and the Tribunals Powers and Procedures Legislation Bill 2017.

  • Both bills were originally introduced just before the 2017 election by the previous government.

  • These are both omnibus bills, which means that they will change lots of laws that already exist. (Strictly speaking, an omnibus bill is one that affects more than one law, but these will amend or affect 14 and 23 Acts respectively).

  • Also - because these two bills are closely related they have been deemed cognate bills and will be debated together. This basically saves everyone from having nearly the same debate twice.


  • Apparently, the courts system is complicated and needs reasonably regular rejigging to try and keep it working as efficiently as possible. This is one of those rejigs.

  • This is the kind of ‘machinery of government’ legislation that is mostly agreed on across Parliament as being necessary.

  • Here are rundowns on the many changes that the Courts Matters and the Tribunals Powers bills will make.

Statutes Amendment Bill (Wednesday morning/the last of Tuesday)


  • The Second reading of the Statutes Amendment Bill

  • This omnibus bill amends a number of acts including the Animal Welfare Act 1999, Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 and the Weights and Measures Act 1987.

  • This type of bill is a way of making non-controversial changes to legislation.

General Debate (every Wednesday)


  • Twelve speeches of up to five minutes in length after question time on Wednesdays in the House. Speeches are divvied up proportionally so bigger parties get more speeches. Because Ministers aren’t counted in the proportional divvy-up, the opposition side of the House gets more speeches than the government side.


  • The general debate is a chance for MPs to bring up issues that would otherwise not come up before the House, making it a wide-ranging debate. Sometimes parties take a coordinated approach and speak on the same issue but there’s no rule that they have to.

Member’s Day (Wednesday)

Every alternate Wednesday in the House, time is devoted to bills by members who are not ministers (like Opposition MPs and backbenchers). They’re called member’s bills. Member's bills up for debate this week include:

Ngāti Tūwharetoa Claims Settlement (Thursday)



  • Settlement bills aim to resolve historical claims by Māori against the crown for breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi before 1992.

  • The Treaty, which was signed in 1840, gave sovereignty to the British Crown, allowed Māori to keep rangatiratanga (chieftainship) over their resources while giving the Crown first dibs on any land up for sale, and granted Māori the same rights as British citizens.

  • Settlements include some redress to set things right which can be cultural, commercial, or financial. Once a settlement is reached it becomes law.