8 Feb 2022

Parliament begins year with a pep rally

From The House , 6:55 pm on 8 February 2022

MPs are back from their summer holidays and Parliament begins for 2022 with a marathon process known as the Debate on the Prime Minister’s Statement.

It’s a kind of pep rally for the various parties to flash their feathers and lay down their agenda for the year.

“The Prime Minister’s Statement sets out the Government’s priorities for the year. It sets out: what’s the government hoping to achieve during the year, what are the measures of success for the government for the year,” the government’s Leader of the House, Chris Hipkins, explained.

Jacinda Ardern begins the year with the Prime Minister's Statement

Jacinda Ardern begins the year with the Prime Minister's Statement Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

The debate that follows is a debate about that agenda.

“So it’s a pretty broad and wide-ranging debate, and it does give the Opposition the opportunity to set out their stall, as to how they think the year should unfold, and what they’ll be looking for and the issues that they’re going to be questioning the Government on during the year.”

As such it’s the first chance for the new opposition leader, National’s Christopher Luxon, to project some energy in his party’s cause and attempt to display some vision in a lengthy speech.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s statement unsurprisingly devoted significant focus to Covid-19, and the Government’s policy for handling this ongoing health crisis, even as an anti-vaccine mandate convoy beeped horns in protest outside and did their utmost to block traffic around the parliamentary precinct.

The thirteen-hour debate takes precedence over Parliament’s other business until the time has elapsed. But don’t worry, the MPs aren’t chained to the chamber for thirteen hours of straight debate. The aim is to spread this marathon debate across the first two sitting weeks.

“There’s no question time on the first day, question time resumes as normal on the second day. And every day after question time and after general business is finished, it will take precedence over other business, unless it is adjourned.

“Until that debate is finished, there’s no Members’ Days, there’s no General Debate,” Hipkins said.

Christopher Luxon responds to the Prime Minister's Statement

Christopher Luxon responds to the Prime Minister's Statement Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Key Business

After the first flurry of debate over the Prime Minister’s Statement, the debate is adjourned to leave room for some Government business, in particular the second reading of both the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill, and the Land Transport (Clean Vehicles) Amendment Bill.

Of the former, Hipkins said “this is banning practices that are effectively designed to ‘cure’ gay people of their gayness. They are very damaging practices.”

He noted that there has been “a little controversy” around the bill.

“Certainly some of the religious organisations have had a bit to say about that. 

“The Select Committee has endeavoured to navigate a very careful path there: to not overreach, not to infringe on free speech or freedom of religion, but to ensure that a practice that is clearly very damaging to an individual shouldn’t be happening.”

The other bill encapsulates the government’s latest efforts to ensure that New Zealand's vehicle fleet creates lower emissions and is ultimately better for the environment.

Meanwhile, the various speeches in debate around the Prime Minister’s Statement may be accompanied by less than usual boisterousness as the number of MPs in the chamber remains at a reduced level due to Covid restrictions.