14 Aug 2018

Parliament’s to do list: Urgently tracking cattle and the end of Budget 2018

From The House , 6:55 pm on 14 August 2018

The government will move for the House to sit under urgency this week to put through a bill related to eradicating Mycoplasma bovis, a bacterial disease found in cattle.

The disease can cause mastitis which affects milking, ear infections in calves, lameness, or abortions. It does not affect humans.

In May, the government announced it would try to eradicate the cattle disease, ordering about 152,000 cows to be culled in a phased programme that is expected to take up to two years.

To help keep track of stock (and by proxy any diseased cattle) the National Animal Identification and Tracing Amendment Bill will be passed through the House under urgency, which means it can be put in to place more quickly than usual.

"We haven't really got time to mess around with this," said Leader of the House Chris Hikpins.

"Every day that ticks over where bovis could be spreading is a day that we're not succeeding in containing it."

Budget 2018 will have its final send-off from the House with its third reading set down for this week. Passing legislation on the budget takes several months. More details on that and the rest of the week below (Aug 14-16).  

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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 last of the Budget 2018 bill (Tuesday)


  • Debate on the third reading has to stay relevant and detailed debate on economic policy isn’t allowed. MPs can reference some fiscal things (the Fiscal Strategy Report, and the Economic and Fiscal Update) or the Finance and Expenditure Committee’s report on those documents.


  • Budgets are pretty important and this bill has had a lot of time spent on it including: a long speech from the Finance Minister announcing the budget; 15 hours on its second reading (the Budget Debate); select committee stages where Ministers fronted up to defend their budget; and then back to the House for 11 hours of debate on those select committee reports in the bill's committee stage (the Estimates Debate); the third reading has a three-hour time cap.

  • At each stage of debate MPs are arguing whether a question(s) should be agreed to. For the third reading, that question is technically whether or not the bill should be read a third time (because they used to read the bills out in full). Nowadays, they focus on the debate but the question is still the same. So MPs opposing the bill can try to amend the question (possibly to include something like “we agree that this House has no confidence in the government”).

  • Along with the Appropriations Bill, the government will also ask Parliament to pass an Imprest Supply measure to give it some interim walking-around-money till the cheque arrives. They’ve already done one of these and this week they’ll debate the second Imprest Supply Bill. It will go through all its stages on Thursday alongside the rest of the third reading debate. These happen every year like this.

Restricting overseas buyers (Tuesday and maybe Wednesday)


  • The committee stage (continued) of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill. The committee stage is where MPs consider a bill in detail and vote on (potentially lots of) 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.  If the committee stage gets finished they’ll move on to the third reading on Wednesday.

  • This Bill will add residential land to the category of “sensitive land” under  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.

Getting rid of Pacific tariffs (Tuesday, Wednesday)


  • The second and third reading of the Tariff (PACER Plus) Amendment Bill. The continued second and third reading will be on Wednesday depending on how fast other things go.  

  • 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 exports to these countries attract about $24 million in tariffs annually.

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.

Show me the Moo-ey!  (Wednesday)


  • The National Animal Identification and Tracing Amendment Bill is going to be debated under urgency, so that the stages of debate necessary to get it passed into law can happen back-to-back. It makes changes to the rules that already allow government agencies to keep track of stock movements.


  • The legislation itself says that it is making “technical amendments” to align the current act with existing policy and legislative intent. It makes a point that policy hasn’t changed. This is another way of saying that this bill will fix some loopholes and problems in the current law so it does better what it is meant to do. These changes are a response to the experience of tracking cattle with bovine mycoplasma.

Statutes Amendment Bill (Wednesday)


  • The committee stage and third reading of the Statutes Amendment Bill will be debated under urgency.

  • 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.

Teachers choose their own masters (Thursday morning)


  • Like many professions, teachers have a professional body called the Education Council. The Education (Teaching Council of Aotearoa) Amendment Bill began life as a Members Bill (from now Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins). The Bill increases its size and includes on it teachers selected by teachers. The government-appointees would be a minority of the council.

  • This week should see the second reading of this bill (the point where it returns to the House from a Select Committee). The Committee’s Report suggested amendments to the Bill. The National Party members of the Select Committee included a minority report opposing the Bill as expensive and unnecessary.


  • The basic argument is to allow teachers to choose from among themselves for their professional leadership. Teachers elected to the council would need to have current practicing certificates.

CHCH earthquake complaints (Thursday)


  • The first reading of the Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal Bill

  • The Bill sets up a tribunal to help resolve insurance claims disputes between insured people, insurers, and the Earthquake Commission. Claims have to relate to damage caused by the Canterbury earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.


  • The tribunal will aim to help solve long-standing insurance claims to help policyholders and insured people  “obtain some closure” so they can move on with their lives.

  • First readings are usually a chance to outline a bill and debate its purpose before it’s sent to a select committee for public consultation (if it passes the first reading).

Regulatory, regulatory, regulatory (Thursday)


  • 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.

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