19 Feb 2017

We have a government, still

From The House, 7:35 am on 19 February 2017

It didn't really deserve a drum roll as there was never any suspense about the result.

But regardless, there was still a fair bit of hoopla and merriment around the confidence vote that followed the 13 hour long debate on the Prime Minister's Statement.

Prime Minister Bill English outlines his agenda for the year and asks for the House to express confidence in the government.

Prime Minister Bill English outlines his agenda for the year and asks for the House to express confidence in the government. Photo: Supplied / The Office of the Clerk

The Statement outlines the Government's intentions for the coming year.

But it is also a formal request that the House vote to show it continues to support that agenda - that it has 'confidence' in the government.

That formal motion of confidence is why Bill English began his speech with:

"I move, That this House express its confidence in the National-led Government and commend its programme for 2017 as set out in the Prime Minister's Statement to Parliament."

Labour Party leader Andrew Little debates the Prime Minister's statement.

Labour Party leader Andrew Little debates the Prime Minister's Statement. Photo: Supplied / The Office of the Clerk

And why the Leader of the Opposition, Labour Leader Andrew Little, began his reply with:

"I move, that all the words after "that" be deleted and replaced with "this House expresses no confidence in this National-led Government because it is out of ideas and out of touch on the housing crisis, because it has cut the health services New Zealanders rely on, because it has underfunded education and undermined our children's futures, and because New Zealanders are crying out for a leader who will stand up for Kiwi values."

The first sitting of Parliament for 2017 begins with the Prime Minister's statement which is then debated by the other Party leaders.

The first sitting of Parliament for 2017 begins with the Prime Minister's statement which is then debated by the other Party leaders. Photo: Supplied / The Office of the Clerk

The debate began on Tuesday February 7th and after a number of adjournments across five days, it finally reached its conclusion on Wednesday 15th February, when the House was called to vote on the Prime Minister's original motion ("That this House express its confidence in the National-led Government…"), and the opposition's preferred version (that "this House expresses no confidence in this National-led Government…" ).

In anticipation of the final vote the Treasury benches filled up for a show of audible confidence in the Government, which made for a boisterous display from National.

In line with the confidence and supply agreements that the National Party has with the Maori Party, United Future and ACT the confidence vote split 63/57 in favour of the Government.

It was never likely to be otherwise - sudden changes in party support are not surprises sprung in the House.

Despite the lack of suspense, it's not all just play-acting.

The debate and the vote reinforce the understanding that New Zealand has a responsible form of government where the Government's continued existence is reliant on the support of a majority of MPs.

So we have a government, still.

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