23 Feb 2021

Parliament finally pulls back the joystick

From The House , 6:55 pm on 23 February 2021

The election seems like a long time ago now. But getting Parliament properly off the ground and flying has been a stop-start business.

Parliament formed in late November and spent much of December on urgent tidy-ups and the formalities of beginning: agreeing an agenda (i.e. the 19 hour long Address in Reply debate), setting rules and sundry housekeeping, and welcoming a huge number of new MPs (maiden speeches). 

Then the summer break intervened. 

Parliament's Debating Chamber under Covid Alert Level 2

Parliament's debating chamber was been half empty and without any public in the galleries under level two. This tends to lower the energy levels. Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

When Parliament returned in February it managed one full week (but still with the above interruptions) before a Covid-19 mini-outbreak crashed it back into first gear. 

Now, finally (and fingers crossed), the 53rd Parliament gets its first full week without major interruptions from the Address in Reply Debate or Covid-19. It gets to get its teeth into both MPs' and the Government's agendas.

There are still five maiden statements to go - the five new National Party MPs delayed from last week need to get slotted in somewhere, but not this week apparently.

This week is not a Government free-for-all. Wednesday will be the first member’s day of the Parliament (deferred from last week’s trimmed back schedule). The members bills up for debate are interesting ones. They include bills on bereavement leave for miscarriages, revenge porn, abortion clinic 'safe zones', and medicinal cannabis

There are also two set-piece debates in the week (other than Wednesday's regular General Debate). 

Tuesday’s plan includes speeches around a motion to mark the 10th anniversary of the Feb 22nd 2011 Christchurch Earthquake. 

Thursday’s plan includes the first of a new species of debate that the revised Standing Orders (Parliament’s rules) for the current Parliament enabled - a special debate on a topic. The House will debate the subject of Aid to the Pacific. More on that here

On top of all that Tuesday will also include the first reading in Parliament of the Moriori Claims Settlement Bill and an urgent debate through the remaining stages of the Bill aimed at preventing referendums on Maori council wards. 

That's a busy week. It definitely feels like Parliament is out of second gear.