1 Dec 2020

Parliament works on festival drug testing, more sick leave and a new tax bracket

From The House , 6:55 pm on 1 December 2020

Drug testing at festivals, a new tax bracket, more sick leave, and a quicker change in Covid-19 alert levels will be worked on at Parliament under urgency this week. 

MPs are sitting for the first regular week of Parliament following the General Election and have a few bills to work on before they finish up on 9 December.

Debating Chamber from Commission Opening

Debating Chamber from Commission Opening Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

But first, Question time

Up to 12 oral questions can be asked of ministers from any MP. Supplementaries (follow-up) questions are allowed at the discretion of the Speaker. This normally takes place just after 2pm on a sitting day.

The questions are published beforehand here.

And then, Maiden speeches

Labour MP Ibrahim Omer gets his colleagues laughing during his maiden speech at Parliament

Labour MP Ibrahim Omer gets his colleagues laughing during his maiden speech at Parliament Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

The first speech in the House from a new MP is called a maiden speech.

MPs commonly outline their hopes and ambitions for their parliamentary career and give some insight into their personal beliefs.

Fifteen minutes is allowed for a maiden speech and there are 42 in total to get through. They’ll be spread out over the coming months as part of the Address in Reply debate.

Up to 19 hours is allowed for this debate which is technically about whether to send a ‘respectful address’ (aka a nice note) to the Governor General in response to the Speech from the Throne.

In reality the debate is about the Government’s legislative agenda for the coming parliamentary term and the first opportunity for many of the new MPs to share their first words in the chamber.

Returning MPs who have a speaking slot will focus more on the Government's plan for the next three years.

Times for maiden speeches can be found on New Zealand Parliament’s Facebook and Twitter

Urgently working through bills

Leader of the House Chris Hipkins is sworn in at Parliament

Leader of the House Chris Hipkins is sworn in at Parliament Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

On Tuesday evening (around 7pm) the Government will move to sit under urgency so the House can work on four bills which will:

The rules say a bill can’t go through more than one stage per sitting day, so a bill can’t be introduced and then debated on the same day. The idea being that MPs need time to familiarise themselves with the bill and process their thoughts.

But if things need to be done more quickly then the Government can have the House sit under urgency.

Urgency is a tool the Government can use to speed up the legislative process and can shorten it from one that normally takes months to days or even hours. A minister has to list the reasons for urgency and the House can only work on the bills listed.

Declaring a climate emergency

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Ollie Langridge spent 100 days outside Parliament calling on the Government to take action on climate change Photo: RNZ / Jonathan Mitchell

After question time on Wednesday the House will spend an hour debating a motion declaring a climate emergency.

Motions are suggestions put forward by an MP for the rest of the House to consider and do not necessarily require any action once they’re voted on. Motions can ask for a range of things to be done from agreeing a bill pass its first reading or that the House sit under urgency to marking a significant event, or congratulating a couple on their wedding anniversary.

Other bills

If the House gets through the bills listed to work on under urgency then there are three others on the plans for it to work through:

The House usually sits from 2pm to 10pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and from 2pm to 5pm on Thursdays.