5 May 2019

A briefing, a farewell, and a paycheck at Parliament

From The House , 7:30 am on 5 May 2019

Parliament is often thought of as the place where party leaders shout at each other but there are many things happening between its walls. Here are three non-shouty things that happened at Parliament this week. 

1. UN Resolution 1325 - Women, peace, and security

United Nations New York.

United Nations, New York Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

A United Nations resolution is a formal text with a recommendation to be adopted by the UN body, (i.e. its member nations). 

UN Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security was adopted on 31 October 2000 and one of Parliament's functions is to keep tabs on how well the country is meeting its international obligations. 

This is done through select committees which are smaller groups of cross-party MPs who meet to examine bills and petitions, conduct inquiries, or hold briefings related to their subject area. 

Parliament has 12 committees and this week the Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade committee heard from officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) on Resolution 1325. 

"It was a crucial and groundbreaking resolution acknowledging the unique impact of armed conflict on women and girls," said Angela Hassa-Sharp from MFAT's UN Human Rights and Commonwealth Team.  

"The Resolution specifically called for adoption of a gendered perspective in peace proccesses."

Since the Resolution was adopted there have been six other related resolutions that have been adopted by the UN Security Council including one which prescribes indicators said Ms Hassan-Sharp. 

"Tangible, concrete ways of measuring progress against the Resolution. These indicators were wrapped around four pillars; prevention, protection, participation, and peace-building and relief and recovery," she said. 

Resolution 1325 encouraged adopting national action plans and New Zealand's current plan includes a focus on increasing numbers of women deployed overseas by researching roadblocks like organisational, ethnic, culture, and family. 

"Another one is training New Zealand personnel on appointmet and selection panels for international deployments on women, peace, and secuirity issues. So clearly we are thinking about how to get more women into these deployments."

2. Funding Government Watchdogs

Chief Ombudsman Judge Peter Boshier (center), Deputy Ombudsman Compliance  and Practice Emma Leach (left) and Chief Inspector OPCAT Jacki Jones, (right) speak to the Law and Order Committee about the illegal restraint of at-risk prisoners.

Chief Ombudsman Judge Peter Boshier (center), Deputy Ombudsman Compliance and Practice Emma Leach (left) and Chief Inspector OPCAT Jacki Jones, (right) speak to the Law and Order Committee about the illegal restraint of at-risk prisoners. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Parliament has a few measures to make sure the government doesn't step out of line one of which is employing three specialist watchdogs - the Officers of Parliament. 

They are the Ombudsman, the Auditor General, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. 

Because their role sometimes includes telling the government what it is doing wrong, they are not employed or funded by the government, but instead by its overseer, the House.

Before the budget every year, the House determines how much funding is required to run the Officers' small teams and then votes on this funding. That's what happened on Thursday when the House held a short debate and approved a motion.

For fans of formal language, here's the motion: 

I move, that a respectful Address be presented to Her Excellency the Governor-General commending to Her Excellency the alterations to the appropriations and capital for the 2018/19 financial year in respect of Vote Audit and Vote Ombudsmen, and the estimates of expenses and capital injection for the 2019/20 financial year in respect of Vote Audit, Vote Ombudsmen, and Vote Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.”

You can read more detail on the motion here. 

3. Haere rā Nuk Korako

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Departing National MP Nuk Korako Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

The leaving speech at the end of a career is a staple of many workplaces and Parliament is no different, except that the leaving speech is broadcast to the entire country live. 

It's called a valedictory and is often taken up by MPs who are leaving by choice (not because they've lost an election). 

National MP Tutehounuku (Nuk) Korako gave his farewell speech to the House of Representatives on Wednesday. 

These speeches are a chance to reflect on achievements, share funny memories, and give parting advice for the future. 

"I take considerable personal satisfaction in having had the privilege of chairing the Māori Affairs Committee in my first term. That has of course exposed me to the magnitude of Treaty breaches that the Crown is responsible for," he told the House.

Mr Korako acknowledged the work of former Ministry for Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson as well as the current chair of the Maori Affairs Committee, Labour MP Rino Tirikatene.

"I wish my whanaunga Rino Tirikatene well in the current role. This highlights the convention of the Māori Affairs Committee of members parking their political affiliations at the door and working together for what is best for our people."

He had words of advice for Māori voters as well warning against 'cheap talk'.

"You must demand of every politician that walks across your marae ātea that they show you the proof of their commitment to working hard for you before you give them your vote, because talk is cheap, whānau.," he said.

"Actions, ringa raupā—the calloused hands—those are what spoke loudly to our conservative tīpuna, and it is time to demand politicians show you their calloused hands, their ringa raupā, as evidence of what they have achieved for you."

Mr Korako's last official day is May 16. He will be succeeded by Paulo Garcia who is the next candidate on the National Party list.