25 Oct 2022

Fair Pay Bill hogs limelight again this week

From The House , 6:55 pm on 25 October 2022
Labour Party Whip Kieran McAnulty in the House

Kieran McAnulty Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

Contentious legislation which occupied much of Parliament’s energy last week is set to do so again this week.

The Fair Pay Agreements Bill, a proposed labour law which would establish sector-wide collective bargaining systems, continues at the committee stage where there’s quite a lot of debate left to go.

“It’s going to be going for a wee while yet. It’s one of those areas where there is genuine contention between the Labour and National parties," the Government’s Acting Leader of the House, Kieran McAnulty, noted.

It’s unlikely that a whole lot else will be debated this week, although third readings of the ​​Fisheries Amendment Bill and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (Hazardous Substances Assessments) Amendment Bill are in the line-up. McAnulty was optimistic that the Fair Pay Bill would have its third reading before the week was done. In the meantime, a new MP is being sworn in after the departure of the long-time Labour MP Trevor Mallard. Soraya Peke-Mason, the next candidate on the party list, is to give her maiden statement in the house this evening.

Back and forth 

Anyone following the next couple of days of Parliament business can expect to witness extensive inquisitions of the Fair Pay Bill’s finer details. This is partly due to a change to Standing Orders that was made for this current Parliament which aimed to facilitate a more robust committee stage process.

“It used to be the case that in each part or each debate, each member was limited to four contributions. Once they’d done those four five-minute contributions that was then done. So there was a natural time limit to these debates. Technically, if they remained relevant, every member of the opposition could do four speeches, but then they’d run out of puff and we’d have to move on regardless,” McAnulty explained.

“That’s no longer the case. A change to Standing Orders was brought in to try and encourage a more ‘back and forth’ style of question and answer. It hasn’t always worked that way. Unfortunately some members have just simply gone up and done a five-minute speech anyway. 

“But in this instance, I think it’s actually a good example of the new rules working as intended. The presiding officers always do their best to encourage a question and answer session but it does require both the opposition to be specific with questions but also the minister to answer them. And the more that the minister answers them the more there is a back and forth, and I think the honourable (Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety) Michael Wood is giving a good example of how committee stages should be working."


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