6 Aug 2019

Abortion, elections, and cannabis questions

From The House , 6:55 pm on 6 August 2019

Anywhere between 10 and 20 bills might be considered by MPs in the debating chamber each sitting week but watching all of that would take about 17 hours.

To save time here’s a brief description of three bills you should know about this week.

Cannabis questions - the Referendum Frameworks Amendment Bill 

Cannabis plants growing.

Photo: 123RF

A question on legalising cannabis will be asked at the 2020 General election in the form of a referendum. There is also the potential for a referendum on euthanasia as Parliament is considering the End of Life Choice Bill

Legislation has to be passed to enable a referendum normally determining the wording and rules for advertising. Rather than pass a specific bill for the cannabis referendum and then a euthanasia referendum, this bill creates a general framework for referenda which can be used instead; this includes an advertising spend limit of $300,000 and enabling the Electoral Commission to use locations and staff from the general election.

The debate on this started last week and will be finished off on Tuesday in about half an hour. The National Party is opposed, and Labour, the Greens, and New Zealand First are in favour.

More info can be found here:

Elections - the Electoral Amendment Bill

Polling booths are open for New Zealand's general election in Auckland on September 23, 2017. (Photo by MICHAEL BRADLEY / AFP)

Photo: AFP or licensors

This Bill will allow voters to enrol and then vote on polling day. Electronic lists of registered voters will enable this.

Polling places will be allowed to be set up in a wider range of places (including supermarkets and sports clubs), to attempt to go to where the public already is.

The Chief Electoral Officer will have extra powers to adjourn voting in locations where various kinds of problems might disrupt it including riots or threats of disorder, a natural disaster, adverse weather, an epidemic notice, or a cyberattack on the Electoral Commission’s systems.

The debate on this bill will come up after the Referendum bill debate is finished on Tuesday.

A more detailed article on this bill can be read here.

Abortion - The Abortion Legislation Bill

Minister of Justice Andrew Little speaks to media before heading into the debating chamber.

Minister of Justice Andrew Little is in charge of all three of these bills Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

This bill will decriminalise abortion and make changes that will mean, in general, abortion is provided like other health services. 

It’s an omnibus bill which means it will affect more than one Act. Among those changes is a requirement for a woman more than 20 weeks pregnant to undergo a statutory test. For a woman who is not more than 20 weeks pregnant, there is no medical test but the health practitioner would have to make sure the woman makes an informed choice. 

A special select committee will be set up to consider the bill if it passes its first reading. This will be done by a motion on Wednesday which will be debated until MPs tell the Speaker they've heard enough. 

Its first reading debate will be on Thursday shortly after question ends around 3pm.

More details:

Legislation before the Parliament is listed on the Order Paper which can be found here.