The details of Budget 2021 were revealed on May 20 but the process to approve it is a lengthy one that MPs are just beginning.
The budget is a collection of economic and fiscal measures announced every year by the Minister of Finance. It’s details are kept secret until it’s revealed on Budget Day but while the amounts of money and where it’s spent changes from year to year the process to approve it largely stays the same.
The budget is a bill called the Appropriations (Estimates 2021/22) Bill and like other bills it has to be passed Parliament.
Firstly, the Minister of Finance moves that the Appropriations Bill be read a first time.
No debate takes place on this first reading so it’s much faster than a usual first reading in the House which would normally two hours.
There is a bit of a delay as the Minister hands out copies of the Budget Statement and related documents to party leaders, the Speaker, the Clerk, and the Hansard staff (who transcribe what is said in the chamber). This part feels a bit ceremonial.
Once the copies are handed out the Minister of Finance moves the bill be read a second time and at this point gives their big budget speech. There is no time limit on this part but it usually takes between 30 and 50 minutes.
Usual speech topics include the international economic outlook, how New Zealand’s economy is doing, how well the Government has done over the past year and then its economic plan for the country going forward.
The second reading takes place straight after the first. It's at this point that the Minister of Finances gives their budget statement. There is no time limit on this part but it usually takes between 30 and 50 minutes.
The speech usually includes the international economic outlook, how New Zealand’s economy is doing, how well the Government has done over the past year and then its economic plan for the country going forward.
There's a fair amount of clapping at anouncements made during the speech and after a long round of applause for the end of the Finance Minister's statement the Budget Debate begins.
The Leader of the Opposition goes first with a suggested change to the question being debated, including a ‘no-confidence’ motion.
If agreed to, this motion would mean a change of Government but as the Government has majority support in the House it's unlikely this will happen.
The Leader of the Opposition is followed by the Prime Minister and then other party leaders. Leaders with six or more MPs get 20 minutes to speak each, other MPs get 10 minutes.
Fifteen hours in total is allowed for this debate giving a chance for nearly every MP to speak (if they split their calls to make shorter speeches), but instead of doing it all straight away the debate is paused and the house sits under urgency to pass any bills needed to put in place the Government’s budget priorities.
Urgency is a tool the Government can use if it wants to pass things more quickly, shortening a process that can take months or even years, to just a few hours.
One of the rules of urgency is that the Government must list all the bills it wants to work on under urgency. Three bills were introduced:
- The Taxation (Budget 2021 and Remedial Measures) Bill is a tax bill in the name of David Parker (as Minister for Revenue). It passed through all stages.
- The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Validation of Managed Isolation and Quarantine Charges) Amendment Bill. It was passed through all stages.
- The Education and Training (Grants—Budget Measures) Amendment Bill
The first two bills were passed through all their stages but the Education bill was referred to the Education select committee to be looked at more closely by the cross party group of MPs. The committee can call for submissions from experts, officials, and the public.
Read more about the bills passed under urgency: Gone by lunchtime - budget urgency