7 Aug 2018

Parliament’s to do list: jumping ship, marrying young, and a long Thursday

From The House , 6:55 pm on 7 August 2018

MPs are in for a long Thursday this week as a controversial bill comes to the House for its committee stage.

The bill is commonly referred to as the “waka jumping” bill and has created differing views in the House with National opposing it and the Green Party reluctantly promising support (more details on the Bill below).

If any Party wanted to slow down a bill in the House then the committee stage is a good place to try. It’s the part of a bill’s journey to law where MPs debate the details or any proposed changes and there’s the opportunity for more speeches here than in the first, second, and third readings meaning it can take up more time in the House.

There’s no way to know for sure if the Opposition will try to hold up this bill (known as filibustering) but it seems to be widely expected.  Wednesday’s sitting will be extended into Thursday this week so MPs will be expected in the debating chamber at 9am Thursday instead of the usual 2pm start; this ensures there's extra time to work through business if needed.

The plan for this week (7 - 9 August) is below.

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Photo: VNP

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.

‘Waka Jumping’ bill (Tuesday, and Thursday morning)


  • The committee stage of the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill. This stage is used by the House to debate the details of the bill including any proposed amendments. It's set down for third reading on Thursday.

  • Commonly referred to as the “waka jumping” bill the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill is about MPs  leaving a Party. The Bill will change the Electoral Act 2003 to say that any MP who resigns from a party should also lose their seat in Parliament. They would have to either seek re-election from their electorate or make way for the next person on the list. To kick out an MP the Party leader would need to have the support of most of their own caucus (two thirds) and show that the MP is distorting the proportionality of Parliament.

  • There have been heated debates over this bill with National saying it would "hurt New Zealand's reputation" and the Green Party promising to support it despite the Party's historic opposition to it.

Trading with the Pacific (Tuesday, Thursday morning and evening)


  • The first reading (without debate) of the Tariff (PACER Plus) Amendment Bill

  • This bill adds Pacer Plus Partners to the list of partners for preferential tariffs in NZ’s Tariff legislation. This is one of the things required by the PACER Plus agreement.

  • PACER Plus is a trade agreement with 11 Pacific countries (Australia, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.) Full text of the agreement is available here.


  • This is New Zealand’s first reciprocal agreement with the wider Pacific, where the majority of countries are not WTO (World Trade Organisation) members and so are not restricted by the size of tariffs they can apply to trade. The agreement plans to eliminate tariffs across 25-35 years.

  • Currently NZ business pay around $24 million in tariffs to these countries annually.

Updating Military Justice (Wednesday, Thursday morning)


General Debate (every Wednesday after question time, about 3pm)


  • 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.

Water for Gore (Wednesday)


  • The first reading of the Gore District Council (Otama Water Supply) Bill

  • This is a local bill and allows the Gore District Council to transfer ownership/responsibility of a water scheme to those who use the scheme. The Bills is needed because the Local Government Act 2002 says local governments are not allowed to transfer water schemes to non-local government organisations.


  • When a council wants to do something outside of the legislative framework that they operate in or change an historical arrangement that’s affected by an Act of Parliament. Local bills are usually supported through their first reading by all parties to allow feedback from the public at the select committee stage.

Member’s Day (Wednesday)

Every alternate Wednesday in the House at about 4pm, 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:

Statutes Amendment Bill (Thursday morning)


  • The committee stage and third 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.

Regulatory, regulatory, regulatory (Thursday morning)


  • THREE regulatory bills will have their first reading together. The topics are  Economic Development, Housing, and Workforce.

  • Each bill updates regulatory processes to make it easier for Ministry staff to do their job. This passage from the bill explains it:
    “The Bill responds to the New Zealand Productivity Commission’s June 2014 report, Regulatory Institutions and Practices. The New Zealand Productivity Commission found that it can be difficult to find time on the Parliamentary calendar for “repairs and maintenance” of existing legislation. As a result, regulatory agencies often have to work with legislation that is out of date or not fit for purpose. This creates unnecessary costs for regulators and regulated parties and means that regimes may not keep up with public or political expectations.”


  • These bills are cognated. Sometimes the House has two or more bills on similar subjects which can make it difficult to debate without talking about mentioning the other one. So the House has the ability to debate them all together and then vote on each one separately at the end of the debate.

Restricting overseas buyers (Thursday)


  • The committee stage continued of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill.

  • The committee stage is where MPs consider a bill in detail and vote on proposed changes. At this point the bill has been to the relevant select committee which writes a report. The report from the Finance and Expenditure Committee can be found here.

  • This Bill will put residential land into the category of “sensitive land” in the Overseas Investment Act. It will mean people who do not usually live in New Zealand will generally not be allowed to buy residential homes or other land classed as residential.

  • There are some exceptions or conditions which would allow overseas investors to purchase residential land but one amendment was removed by the Speaker in June who ruled it out of order.

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