4 May 2021

Visas, budgets, and counter-terrorism laws before MPs this week

From The House , 2:00 pm on 4 May 2021

This week MPs will work on bills to extend or cancel visas, approve spending for past budgets, counter-terrorism laws and an increase in sick leave.

2pm Question Time

National MPs Andrew Bayly and Michael Woodhouse react to answers in Question Time

National MPs Andrew Bayly and Michael Woodhouse react to answers in Question Time Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

At the start of each sitting day (scheduled days when MPs are required to be at Parliament), Ministers are asked questions by other MPs about the job they’re doing. 

It’s one of the fastest moving parts of the House and is often the most watched because it takes an hour and happens early on.

Up to 12 questions can be asked of Ministers and they must be lodged in the morning. 

The follow-up questions (supplementaries) remain secret but are allowed at the discretion of the Speaker who can give and take away questions from MPs.

Questions are published here

Granting powers to extend or cancel visas 

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Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi is in charge of this bill which lets the Government extend some visas Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

A year ago, Parliament gave the Government powers to extend some visas but those powers will expire on May 15. 

So, the Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill will extend those temporary powers until May 15, 2023 as well as how long extensions can last. 

The powers allow the Government to deal with applicants as a group or class instead of individuals. Some of the powers include: 

  • amending visa conditions for large groups of people

  • extending the visas of large groups of people for varying periods of time (to enable staggered processing of applications by people who need to remain in New Zealand)

  • stopping people overseas from making applications while it is not possible to travel to New Zealand due to border restrictions

  • enabling revocation of deemed entry permission for people while border restrictions prevent travel to New Zealand.

A bill at its second reading has usually come back from consideration by a select committee - a smaller group of MPs from different parties who look more closely at the legislation and hear from submitters. 

Their report is normally the basis of debate in the second reading and can include recommendations for change but in this case the Education and Workforce Committee recommends the bill be passed without any amendments. 

Because of the impending expiration of the immigration powers this bill has a very tight turn-around and the plan is to put it through the Committee of the Whole House Stage (where the details are debated and final changes can be made) and the third (and final) reading this week as well.

Checking off last year’s spending

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Minister of Finance Grant Robertson is in charge of this bill but various Ministers will be called in front of the House to answer questions during this stage Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

One of Parliament’s jobs is to approve Government spending and while Budget 2021 is set to be announced on May 20, MPs still have to do the final checks on Budget 2019.

It’s official name is the Appropriation (2019/20 Confirmation and Validation) Bill but it’s often referred to as the Annual Reviews.

The purpose is for Parliament to check on the performance of government organisations over the past year. Select committees can call in the chief executive or minister for an organisation and question them about the past financial year to examine whether Parliament money was spent as intended and what was achieved with it.

Once the hearings are complete the committees write a report for the House to read and discuss in the Annual Review Debate.

The debate is a little different to other bill readings: It’s split into sections with about an hour given to each one.

The Government party MPs will likely talk about how well it’s done. Opposition MPs will likely focus on the flaws and talk about how much better they’d do if they were in charge.

The point of all this debate is in the interests of transparency. MPs can give speeches outlining their views on the subject area up for debate and also question Ministers in the open so the public can see what’s going on.

The debate will start at about 4pm on Tuesday and will likely cover; finance and infrastructure, agriculture and land information, environment and oceans & fisheries, health, the Speaker, and education.

Other sections will be debated next week but the whole debate must be completed before the budget is announced on May 20.

Other business

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Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

The MPs will also work through some other bills including the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill which creates a new definition including a new definition for what constitutes a 'terrorist act and three new terrorism offences to target those planning or preparing for an attack.

MPs will also work on the Holidays (Increasing Sick Leave) Amendment Bill which increases employer funded sick leave from five days to ten. The bill is at its second reading meaning it’s come back from a select committee where the public was able to have its say. 

See how far the House gets each day here