13 Dec 2023

Crash learning: MPs adjust to new roles

From The House , 6:55 pm on 13 December 2023

Parliament’s in urgency in this hectic, penultimate week before Christmas, and most MPs are undergoing a kind of crash course of learning and adjustment.

It's a mass challenge of adjustment - not just for those first-time MPs learning on the job and coming to grips with the Parliament environment, but also MPs who are now in an opposite mode to the way they operated here in the last several years.

Labour MP Deborah Russell speaking in Parliament's debating chamber

There's a big difference between being in government and opposition: Third term Labour MP Deborah Russell is discovering what it's like to be in Opposition for the first time. Photo: Phil Smith

MPs who have been ensconced in government for up to six years are now discovering the freedoms and limits of being in opposition. And MPs who entered parliament in opposition now find themselves in positions of more responsibility, in the hot seat, as it were.

As such, we've seen an eagerness among Labour's MPs in Opposition to take up the opportunity to speak this morning during the committee stage of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Economic Objective) Amendment Bill. This includes MPs who just a couple of months ago might have been cabinet ministers defending against the opposition’s attacks on government policy, and who are now on the attack themselves.

It also includes backbenchers who until this month have only ever sat in the chamber as a member of the ruling party and as such have rarely had the chance to speak in a committee stage, because usually the committee stage is wall to wall opposition MPs questioning a minister.

New Government ministers are now in a position of power where they can dismiss some of the questions like swatting a fly. It's clear some of the new ministers feel comfortable in the new role and have been telling their nemeses on the other side that they accordingly are a natural fit for being in opposition.



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