7 Dec 2021

3,2,1… finishing up, not winding down

From The House , 6:55 pm on 7 December 2021

Parliament has reached the penultimate week of its year. You might think it was about time it started winding down but the government’s to-do list is still prodigious.

The House lost a lot of sitting days to higher Covid-19 alert levels earlier in the year and quite a lot of time legislating responses to Covid-19 when it was in session. 

Over the last two months MPs have spent an extra morning debating every week to make up lost time, but there still appears to be a significant list of potential laws awaiting attention.

This week there are a number of notable bills making big jumps forward. But three are particularly worthy of attention.

Chris Hipkins speaks in an urgent debate on the travel bubble

the Leader of the House, Chris Hipkins in the debating chamber (file) Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

Housing rules 

The Resource Management Act (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill has a second reading scheduled for Tuesday and a committee stage down for Thursday morning. 

This bill is the one agreed between Labour and National to allow greater housing density in the major cities. It is expected to be amended this week during the committee stage after the Select Committee asked to alleviate the potential impact on neighbours of three story high dwellings close to property boundaries.

Gender and Birth Certificates 

The Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill is expected to be completed and passed this week after a long journey that became noisier as it went.

We’ve discussed this bill at length in the past. Basically it began as a dusty bureaucratic update to the births, deaths and marriages system and was unexpectedly transformed into a transformative bill for the trans community (because of submissions to the select committee hearing it). The bill would ease the process of correcting the gender on your birth certificate. 

The new version of the bill will be created by an amendment (an SOP) at the committee stage (on Tuesday). The Governance and Administration Committee recently held hearings on the proposed amendments in that SOP and unanimously suggested a few tweaks but otherwise appears to have approved the proposed new direction for the Bill.

It is expected to have third and final reading on Thursday. 

Easing the court experience of victims of sexual violence 

The Sexual Violence Legislation Bill is also expected to complete its final two stages this week. This bill aims to ease the experience of victims of sexual violence by changing the law around them presenting evidence. 

Victims would be allowed to give pre-recorded or remote video evidence, or be in the courtroom but out of view of the defendant.

There are also proposed changes to the rules around what questions are appropriate in cross-examination. Without judicial permission victims could not be asked about their sexual experience or disposition, including with the defendant. 

The National Party was not in favour of aspects of these changes during the second reading and is expected to offer amendments during the committee stage this week. 

Judges would also be required to consider directing the jury on misconceptions relating to sexual cases (including false attributions of victim reponsibility).    

If the House moves efficiently this bill might pass its third reading on Thursday morning. It would take effect six months after the Royal Assent.

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