8 Nov 2017

52nd Parliament opens with traditional ceremony

7:16 pm on 8 November 2017

Parliament has opened for the new term with traditional pomp and ceremony and the Speech from the Throne setting out the government's legislative priorities.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the State Opening of Parliament

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the State Opening of Parliament Photo: RNZ / Benedict Collins

Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy and her delegation were welcomed by local iwi on the parliamentary forecourt, before she inspected the military Guard of Honour and entered Parliament's Legislative Council Chamber.

There she delivered the Speech from the Throne on behalf of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was seated to her right. Also present were the Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias, 11 other judges from the Appeal and High courts and the Sheriff of the High Court of Wellington.

Some of the judges were wearing the new ceremonial robes which replace the traditional red robes and "full-bottomed" wigs. The new robes are black with a red black and gold trim. Embroidered shoulder wings feature the three baskets of knowledge of Maori tradition set in fern fronds.

Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy at the State Opening of Parliament.

Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy reads the Speech from the Throne. Photo: RNZ / Benedict Collins

The Speech from the Throne covered the priorities of the new government, many of which it intends to implement in its first 100 days in office.

It confirmed the intention to effectively ban foreign buyers from purchasing existing residential homes, tax changes to discourage property speculators, consideration of moving the Auckland port to Northland and several other initiatives.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Opposition leader Bill English listen to the Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy reading the Speech from the Throne. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Climate change was also a significant focus.

"Climate change is the greatest challenge facing the world," the speech read by Dame Patsy said.

"If we do not urgently reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases warming will disrupt the climate which agriculture and other industries depend on."

Reducing child poverty was another key priority.

"This government will put child poverty at the heart of government policy development and decision-making.

"It will establish targets to reduce the impacts of child poverty and it will put these into law."

Heads of government departments would be required to work together to deliver "real" reductions in child poverty and the government would be held to account through "transparent mechanisms".

"Every Budget New Zealanders will hear about how many kids have been lifted out of poverty and we can all see clearly what more needs to be done."

Other commitments included resuming payments to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund "immediately", putting a levy on bottled water, cutting immigration and introducing a year of free tertiary study for some students.

One of the first orders of business as Parliament resumes today will be the introduction of a bill extending paid parental leave.

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Photo: RNZ / Benedict Collins

Following this morning's pomp and ceremony normal service resumed at Parliament with the government and opposition squaring off in the debating chamber, as party leaders responded to the Speech from the Throne.

The leader of the opposition, National's Bill English, got first crack at responding to the Speech from the Throne.

He took the opportunity to congratulate the new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her deputy Winston Peters, while still poking fun at the coalition government.

"I note reflecting the uniqueness of the government they've kept New Zealand First and the Greens far enough apart [sitting in the House] - that they hope each of them will forget the other is there," Mr English said.

He then went on the attack - accusing the government for being too reliant on good intentions.

"Here's a good example of just from the last couple of days about good intentions...

"Let's go to Australia and show them how firm and fresh the new government is by talking about retaliation for their tertiary fees policy - well, that was the intention.

"Well, guess what actually happened - Australians found out we're offering them free domestic tertiary education in New Zealand."

Mr English continued his attack on Labour's policy to introduce a free year's post secondary study.

"If you look at the needs to today's young people - the next half billion would certainly not go on helping lawyers and accountants through university more cheaply.

"And I hope the new government enjoys explaining to the checkout operators and the truck drivers why they are paying more, when the tax cuts are abolished... to make tertiary education cheaper," Mr English said.

Ms Ardern asked Parliament to allow her to vent her frustration at Mr English's attacks.

"The leader of the opposition has continually claimed that a checkout operator will be paying for others to learn.

"At what point did the leader of the opposition lose his ambition for New Zealanders that that checkout operator themselves could not aspire to go on to further education," she said.

Ms Ardern also reviewed National's record.

"And I understand the opposition's desire to defend their record, I would simply remind them that in defending their record they must also defend record homelessness," she said.

"They must also defend dirty rivers and lakes, they must also defend inequality and, yes, child poverty.

"So by all means defend the record of the last nine years, while we get on with fixing it."