23 Oct 2018

Biscuit tin chats: the coward punch

From The House , 12:00 pm on 23 October 2018

Any MP can put forward legislation to be turned into law but they need a little luck to make it happen.

They're called member's bills and only non-ministers can put them into the biscuit tin ballot to be drawn at random.

Phil Smith chats with the lucky ones to find out what issues are worth the gamble, and this time it’s National MP Matt King.

Read Matt King’s Bill here.

More on Members’ Bills

Parliament debates four types of bills: government, local, private, and members’.

Government bills are the most common type and have more time available to them in the House because when you're in charge you have more say.

MPs who are not Ministers (including backbench MPs from government parties), can also put forward legislation for the House to consider but because they’re not top dogs it’s a bit harder for those bills to be passed (although not impossible).

Members’ bills are put into a ballot to be drawn at random and are debated by Parliament every other Wednesday that they're in the House.

Each bill gets a first debate and depending on how the vote goes, it ends up either at a select committee or in the grave. Once that happens it moves off the Order Paper (the list of things to do), and another bill is drawn from a ballot to replace it. MPs can only have one bill in the ballot at a time.

MPs might propose a member’s bill to correct a perceived gap or defect in the law, to throw an idea out to gauge public reaction, or in response to a Government policy (to show an alternative political position).

Most member’s bills do not get the numbers to pass the first hurdle but some have made significant changes to New Zealand law including:

  • Homosexual law reform in the 1980s, which decriminalised homosexual acts between men.

  • Prostitution reform in 2003, which decriminalised prostitution.

  • Amending the definition of marriage in 2013, which legalised same-sex marriage.

More on members' bills here.

A list of all the members' bills in the ballot can be found here.