18 Aug 2020

MPs return for unexpected three weeks at Parliament

6:31 am on 18 August 2020

MPs return to the capital today, for three weeks at Parliament they weren't expecting.

New Zealand parliament; beehive

New Zealand parliament. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The 2020 general election has been pushed back four weeks to October 17, which means politicians will reconvene in the House for general debate and question time.

Just when they thought it was all over, the 52nd Parliament is back.

"It's a bit like you've played a great game of rugby through to the final whistle and then the ref blows the whistle for another 10 minutes each-way of extra time and I guess you've just gotta love the game and keep playing," Act's leader David Seymour said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's decision to delay the election by four weeks because of the Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland means opposition parties are on the spot to question the government.

"I consider it important that Parliament is able to consider the decisions of government and that these decisions are still subject to appropriate scrutiny," Ardern said.

Seymour, who is an Auckland-based MP, had planned to be out campaigning in his Epsom electorate and across the country.

He has instead stayed in Wellington, away from the level 3 restrictions.

"We clearly need to debate our strategy. We can't afford endless lockdowns, we don't want to let the virus in, so how do we innovate our way out this?" Seymour said.

The debating chamber will be emptier than usual with social distancing and Auckland MPs from across the political spectrum told to stay-put.

This won't effect business in the House - it has been agreed there will be no limit on proxy votes.

National Party leader Judith Collins is looking forward to getting back into the debating chamber - albeit with fewer MPs.

"Well, I'm delighted that Parliament will actually give some scrutiny to the actions of the government," Collins said.

Behind the scenes, the pressure is on. Political parties now have to re-schedule their campaigns and the Electoral Commission has to reconfirm it's voting day venues and staff.

All this before Parliament dissolves on 6 September, which is when the campaign is set to kick off - again.

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