18 Dec 2018

Tuesday’s things to do: reading it thrice

From The House, 2:50 pm on 18 December 2018

On Tuesdays MPs usually have a party caucus meeting in the morning and meet in the debating chamber for Oral Questions at 2pm. Then, as the dust settles from the dust-up, they get busy on an evening of debating proposed laws.

The first bills on the Order Paper (their agenda) include seven bills awaiting a third reading. A third reading is the last stage of debate that a bill undergoes in the House before it heads off to be confirmed as law.

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A detail from the Standing Orders (rules) about Third Readings Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Reducing child poverty - third reading

What:

  • The Child Poverty Reduction Bill. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is in charge of this bill.

  • It will require Governments to set targets to reduce child poverty, and also require transparent reporting on child poverty levels.

  • The National Party have joined the Government in supporting this bill since the first reading.

  • ‘The’ Bill is actually now two Bills (it was split at the committee stage)when bills cover a range of re), but they are still being debated together. The split-off second bill is called the Children’s Amendment Bill.

What did the MPs say?

  • At the Bill’s first reading, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said:

“Every Government, present and future, should be absolutely dedicated to the notion that children should get the very best start in life, free of poverty and hardship. I believe that that sentiment actually has long been shared in this Parliament, because there shouldn't be politics in child poverty reduction.”

  • In the second reading, National’s spokesperson on children, Alfred Ngaro said:

“We know inside of this that the child poverty indicators are critically important. We thank the Prime Minister and also the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet too, and the staff that worked with us to get to a point where we can have some targets, some measures that we could hold ourselves to account on. I want to acknowledge the fact that now we're going to have that from a fiscal perspective, where, actually, the Minister of Finance, in every Budget, will have to indicate how those measures have made a difference. So I want to actually acknowledge that piece of work. I think it's important.”

Tweaking Monetary Policy - third reading

What:

  • The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Monetary Policy) Amendment Bill in the name of the Finance Minister Grant Robertson.  

  • It amends the objectives that the Reserve Bank has to consider in setting monetary policy to include ‘consideration of maximum sustainable employment alongside price stability in monetary policy decision making’. It also formalises a ‘monetary policy committee’ to make decisions on monetary policy.

Why:

  • The Reserve Bank controls a few small levers for influencing the national economy and has rules about how it uses them. This bill adjusts those rules.

Who said what?

  • During the bill’s first reading, its sponsor Grant Robertson said:

“It is a very important part of our financial framework in New Zealand, but after 30 years with much change it is time to make sure that we create a resilient and sustainable and productive economy, and make sure that every part of our apparatus fits with that.”

  • National’s shadow finance spokesperson Amy Adams said:

“So my question again remains what is the problem we are trying to solve? How do we think this solution will solve it? Why have we differed from the very purpose clause that the Minister is introducing? And why have we not followed the international example which reflects that whole basket of economic conditions that the Reserve Bank has already taken into account?”  

Tūpāpaku inquiry outcomes

What:

Why:

  • Last year the Maori Affairs Select Committee held an inquiry into the intersection of Maori tikanga, and how quickly (or slowly) coroners allow families access to the bodies of the dead.

  • This bill enacts a recommendations made by that inquiry.

More than a slap on the wrist

What:

  • The third reading of the Conservation (Infringement System) Bill

  • This bill will introduce an infringement system for less serious breaches of conservation legislation. More serious than a formal warning but less serious than prosecution. For example, someone who fishes in a marine reserve but doesn’t catch any fish or do harm to the reserve could be served an infringement notice but someone who deliberately breaks the rules could be deserving of prosecution.

  • It’s an omnibus bill which means it will affect more than one Act. They are: the Conservation Act 1987, the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978, the Marine Reserves Act 1971, the National Parks Act 1980, the Reserves Act 1977, the Trade in Endangered Species Act 1989, the Wild Animal Control Act 1977, and the Wildlife Act 1953.

Who:

  • The bill was introduced under the previous National-led Government but is now in the name of Green MP and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage.

What the MPs said:

  • At the bill’s first reading, Minister for Women Julie-Anne Genter spoke on behalf of the Minister for Conservation Eugenie Sage and said:

“In general, each offence in the current law—fishing in a marine reserve, for example—encompasses a wide range of offending. Somebody who fishes in a marine reserve inadvertently, and does not catch any fish or do any harm to the reserve, may well be suitable for an infringement notice. Conversely, someone who deliberately flouts the rules and poaches fish from it is likely to merit prosecution action. The bill will make the treatment of less serious offending under conservation legislation consistent with the approach to enforcement we already have under our fisheries, biosecurity, and resource management laws. It should also remove unnecessary costs to the court system.”

  • Former Minister for Conservation and National MP Maggie Barry said:

“People in this House may recall the publicity around the jewelled geckos and people smuggling them out in their underpants, and so forth. The international market for some of our unique national taonga is such that they have been targeted. It was essential to up the ante and make New Zealand less of a soft target for these international poachers, and that's what we did and the fines were dramatically increased. We upgraded the language, as well, of the 1953 Wildlife Act to give the DOC rangers extra powers, which, again, they felt they needed.”

The ‘Other’ Crown Minerals Bill

What:

  • The third and final reading of the Crown Minerals Amendment Bill, in the name of Megan Woods.

  • Confusingly there have been two Crown Minerals Amendment Bills making their way through the House. The much argued bill that aimed to reduce future petro carbon exploration is now law. This is the other, less contentious bill.   

  • Uncontentious enough indeed that its report back from Select Committee suggesting amendments included no minority opinion.

  • It’s basically a tidy-up bill. The committee described it thus: “The bill aims to address regulatory duplication, gaps, errors, and inconsistencies within the Act, and to clarify and update statutory provisions.