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PARLIAMENTARY REPORT


Youth Parliament


The 2013 Youth Parliament was held on 16 and 17 July 2013. Youth Parliament, which has been held every three to four years since 1994, is a chance for young people to see firsthand how New Zealand’s Westminster system of Parliament works. The Youth MPs were selected


from throughout New Zealand by their local electorate MP or list MP, along with 20 Youth Press Gallery members. The Youth MPs spent their two days much like any regular MP’s day, with briefings, caucus


NEW ZEALAND


meetings, select committee meetings, and debates in the Chamber. As has become custom during Youth Parliament, the Youth MPs took part in question time, where actual Ministers answered their questions. A legislative debate was held on a mock bill, entitled the “Electoral Law Reform Bill”, which aimed to increase voter participation, particularly of young people, in the electoral process by lowering the voting age from 18 to 17 years of age, introducing electronic voting, and making voting compulsory. Following


robust debate in the Chamber, youth members exercised a personal vote and voted down the mock bill.


A general debate was also held on the Youth MPs’ self-selected topics ranging from capital punishment, to binge drinking, to the Maori language. The Youth MPs also participated in select committees and reported back to the House on their inquiries into a number of areas, including “Can New Zealand afford to be free range?” and “Purchasing online: supporting modern


THIRD READING: NEW ZEALAND The Education Amendment Bill


The Education Amendment Bill, began its third reading on 4 June, and allows for the creation and operation of a new type of school to be known as “partnership schools kura hourua” (publicly funded, privately-owned schools, formerly referred to as charter schools). Moving the third reading Minister of Education, Hon. Hekia Parata, MP, said the Bill would “play a key role in supporting the government’s objective of how we get five out of five students achieving educational success”. These schools would allow “for partnership between the community sectors, business, and education”. “We have single- sex and co-ed; we have total immersion in English and total immersion in Maori, and bilingual units; we have faith-based and secular-based schools; what partnership schools do is offer us another option.”


Hon. John Banks, MP, (ACT) referring to “a long tail of underachievement in New Zealand” said “tonight kids are the winners”. Ms Tracey Martin, MP, (Green) responded: “If this policy was about targeting those children who are achieving in the tail…If these schools had closed rolls only to target those students whom we are not supporting well enough inside our public school system, that would be different, but they are not.”


Opposing the Bill, Mr Chris Hipkins, MP, (Labour) said: “Seventy-one percent of New Zealanders are opposed to charter schools…because they know that the money that is sucked out of the education system…is not money that is going into educating kids.” “Stanford University did research into charter schools and found that for 37 per cent of learners, they produced significantly worse outcomes—for 37 per cent. For 46 per cent they made no difference at all, and only 17 per cent did better in charter schools.” Dr Megan Woods, MP, (Labour) warned “the ongoing funding and support for charter schools will not be guaranteed under a future Labour Government. We will not guarantee any charter school established during this term of the present government the right to integrate into the State school system. No further charter school will be established under a New Zealand Labour Party Government, and legislation allowing for their establishment will be repealed”. Mr Simon O’Connor, MP, (National) said: “This Bill is not about replacing schools; this is about an addition. This is not removing the current system; this is adding on to it in the same way that our special character schools work.” The Bill passed its third reading by 62 votes to 57.


222 | The Parliamentarian | 2013: Issue Three


The Crown Minerals Amendment Act 2013 Amendment Bill The Crown Minerals Amendment Act 2013 Amendment Bill progressed through all stages under urgency on 17 and 18 May. The Bill amended the Crown Minerals Amendment Act, which was passed on 16 April 2013 by a majority of one vote. In his first reading speech on 17 May the Minister of Energy and Resources, Hon. Simon Bridges, MP, said the legislation was needed because of significant omissions in the transitional provisions of the Crown Minerals Amendment Act 2013, which “established a new approach to the Crown’s management of the petroleum and minerals estate”.


At the Bill’s third reading on 18 May the Minister of Conservation, Hon. Dr Nick Smith, MP, speaking on behalf of the Minister of Energy and Resources, responded to criticism by Opposition members during the earlier stages of the Bill. “Much has been made by the opposition of the Bill correcting errors in the previous Act that was passed.


The only people in this Parliament who have not made mistakes are those who have not done anything. I also note criticism that these amendments have been picked up before the Act took effect…I take the opposite view. For the Minister to get on and fix these errors before the Act comes into effect ensures that the public is not adversely affected by any such errors.” Opposing the Bill and its passage under urgency Ms Moana Mackey, MP, (Labour) said “We have had no New Zealand Bill of Rights Act vet on this legislation. We have had no regulatory impact statement. We have had no ability to scrutinize the legislation at a select committee to see whether or not it is consistent with international law. All we got was a regulatory impact statement for the previous Bill.”


Mr Gareth Hughes, MP, (Green) described the process as “lawmaking at its worst”, because the government under urgency was “passing amending legislation to amend legislation that still has not come into effect, with no select committee process, no regulatory impact statement, and, in fact, no actual answers in the Committee stage. The only parliamentary scrutiny our country has is the ability to question the Minister and his officials. Yet the Minister refused to take a single call, and neither did any National member take a call, in the Committee stage”.


The Bill passed by 68 votes to 46.


consumerism.” The Youth Press Gallery members were mentored by members of the Press Gallery. They had the opportunity to observe the Youth MPs’ debates and attend select committee meetings, and some even had their work published in regional newspapers. The Hansard for Youth Parliament and the select committee reports will be available on the New Zealand Parliament’s website, once the Minister of Youth Affairs tables the documents in Parliament.


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