Rules for members’ use of resources now online
The by-laws regulating House of Commons members’ use of the funds, goods, services and premises made available to them to carry out their parliamentary functions have now been published online. Enacted by the House’s Board of Internal Economy, the by-laws are legally binding.
Press release: Board of Internal Economy, Update, 2 April 2012 http://www.parl.gc.ca/About/House/BOIE/boie-e.html
Reduction in House of Commons budget
Members’ office budgets, which cover staff salaries, office expenses, constituency office rent, advertising and local travel expenses, will be cut by almost 2% per year in the next three fiscal years as part of a 6.9% decrease in the overall budget of the House of Commons. Funding for House Officers, including leaders’ and whips’ offices and research bureaus, will be reduced by almost 7.5% per year over the same period. Savings will also be made in the House Administration’s budget.
Press release: Board of Internal Economy approves strategic and operating review proposals for the House of Commons (SOR), 28 March 2012 http://www.parl.gc.ca/About/House/BOIE/pdf/SOR-MediaRelease-270312-e.pdf
Electronic distribution of papers trialled
Meeting papers are to be sent to some members via their iPads for a trial period. Currently they are part of the daily print pack distributed to all members. If the trial is a success, it is hoped that this will lead to members preferring to receive their papers electronically rather than in printed form. Work is also underway on adapting the Folketing's website for tablet computers.
Glossary: Folketinget – Parliament
Media article: iPad-apps skal stoppe papir-frås i Folketinget, Jyllands-Posten, 17 April 2012 http://epn.dk/teknologi2/trend/article2751919.ece
MPs’ use of social media
A newspaper survey found that all but one of Parliament’s 200 members had their own website, 180 had Facebook profiles and 70 had Twitter accounts. The extent to which MPs were active online varied; many had used their Twitter accounts only a few times. Blogs were the most popular online tool, with 177 MPs using them, usually to comment on current issues and react to others’ opinions.
Media article: Facebook more popular than Twitter among Finnish members of Parliament, Helsingin Sanomat, 10 April 2012
New South Wales
Members disqualified from holding local government office
Members of the State Parliament may no longer also hold office as mayors or councillors. If a member is elected to civic office, they are disqualified from holding that office unless they have resigned as a member of Parliament before the first meeting of the council concerned after the election. Members who are currently also mayors or councillors may continue to hold that office until the end of their present term or for two years, whichever is the shorter period.
Act: Local Government Amendment (Members of Parliament) Act 2012, 11 April 2012 http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/sessionalview/sessional/act/2012-15.pdf
Media article: Ban on dual roles passed, Sydney Morning Herald, 4 April 2012 http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/ban-on-dual-roles-passed-20120404-1wbbh.html
Voting data now available online
A new statistical service provides easier, online public access to members’ and parties’ votes on specific issues. Up to now only the summary of party votes has been accessible in the record of proceedings, with more detailed information available on request. New voting equipment in the chamber has facilitated putting the data on line. The Storting plans to add further data sets to the service, making it simpler for users to put together their own statistical presentations.
Glossary: Stortinget – Parliament
Press release: Åpne data fra Stortinget, 18 April 2012 http://www.stortinget.no/no/Hva-skjer-pa-Stortinget/Nyhetsarkiv/Hva-skjer-nyheter/2011-2012/Apne-data-fra-Stortinget/
Ministers’ attendance at question time
The scheduling of a press conference involving the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Environment at the same time as the Storting’s weekly question time prompted the Storting Presidium to write a letter of complaint to the Minister. It was the second time in two weeks that the Minister had not been present to answer a question addressed to him. The letter reminded the Minister that question time is an important part of the Storting’s oversight function and remarked that good political processes require mutual respect between the Storting and the government. At the Presidium’s request, the Prime Minister had recently asked ministers to prioritise attendance at question time.
Glossary: Stortinget – Parliament
Letter: Stortingets presidentskap, Ad spørretimen 25. april d.å., 26 April 2012 http://pub.tv2.no/multimedia/TV2/archive/00963/Stortingets_brev_ti_963126a.pdf
Media article: Regjeringens pressekupp refses av presidentskapet, Aftenposten, 26 April 2012 http://www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/iriks/Regjeringens-pressekupp-refses-av-presidentskapet-6815629.html
Papua New Guinea
Stand off between Parliament and Supreme Court
When two Supreme Court judges, one of them the Chief Justice, refused to disqualify themselves from proceedings to determine the legitimate government, as the O’Neill government wished, Parliament used the newly passed Judicial Conduct Act 2012 to refer them to the Governor General for investigation by a tribunal. The Supreme Court stayed Parliament’s decision. The Prime Minister responded by saying that Parliament had oversight powers in respect of the judiciary and would not hesitate to exercise them. Parliament then passed the Supreme Court (Amendment) Act 2012 which rendered null and void all orders regarding the country’s legitimate government made by the Court since December 2011. This law has also been stayed by the Supreme Court.
Bills: Judicial Conduct Bill 2012, 13 March 2012 http://masalai.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/judicial-conduct-bill-2012.pdf; Supreme Court (Amendment) Bill 2012, 12 April 2012 http://masalai.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/supreme-court-amendment-bill-2012.pdf
Orders: Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea. In re Judicial Act 2012; special reference by Morobe Provincial Executive  PGSC 12; SC1178, 11 April 2012 http://www.paclii.org/pg/cases/PGSC/2012/12.html
Media articles: Parlt, bench clash, Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, 5 April 2012 http://www.postcourier.com.pg/20120405/news01.htm Two versions of new law certified, Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, 5 April 2012 http://www.postcourier.com.pg/20120405/news04.htm; Parlt digs in heels, Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, 13 April 2012 http://www.postcourier.com.pg/20120413/news01.htm; New law renders all court orders useless, The National, 19 April 2012 http://www.thenational.com.pg/?q=node/31637; Judges stay Supreme Court Act, The National, 30 April 2012 http://www.thenational.com.pg/?q=node/32117
Power of Parliament to defer election disputed
There was debate over whether the election would go ahead in June as scheduled, or whether a vote by Parliament to defer the election for six months would prevail. The Prime Minister said the vote was not binding, but an expression of frustration at the unpreparedness of the electoral rolls, and the election would be held as scheduled. The Speaker, citing parliamentary supremacy, maintained that the motion stood, and that the Electoral Commissioner could conduct elections only according to dates set by Parliament. Later the Prime Minister said it would be illegal for Parliament to extend its term beyond five years from the previous election.
Media articles: PNG parliament controversially rules to delay election by six months, Radio New Zealand, 5 April 2012 http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=67328; PNG polls to go ahead as planned: PM, Islands Business, 10 April 2012; Rescind motion for deferral – Nape, Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, 12 April 2012 http://www.postcourier.com.pg/20120412/news05.htm; Parliament has no powers to defer election, says O’Neill, The National, 24 April 2012 http://www.thenational.com.pg/?q=node/31842
Practice parliament for women candidates
58 women who are considering standing in this year’s election participated in a week-long Practice Parliament for Women. They received training in parliamentary procedures and key issues of national interest, before taking part in a mock question time and debating a draft bill. The workshop was organised by the Office of the Department of Women and the United Nations Development Programme as part of a national strategy to support women candidates.
Press release: PNG women debate national issues with vigour at first ever Practice Parliament for Women, 26 April 2012 http://www.pacwip.org/resources/news/2012/png-women-debate-national-issues-with-vigour-at-first-ever-practice-parliament-for-women.html
Australian aid to Parliament
In recognition of the 50th anniversary of Samoa’s independence, the Australian Governor-General announced that Australia would work with the Samoan government on a major multi-million dollar refurbishment of the parliamentary complex. Addressing Parliament, she also said that, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme, Australia would provide $880,000 for training and skills enhancement for parliamentarians and the parliamentary secretariat.
Media article: Samoa ‘true friend’ of Australia, Samoa Observer, 3 April 2012 http://www.samoaobserver.ws/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=38788:samoa-true-friend&catid=50:headline&Itemid=62
Careers advice and income guarantee for former members
Twenty of the 126 members who left the Riksdag after the 2010 election have since made use of the careers advisory service being piloted by the Riksdag. In 2011 the Riksdag paid 63.3 million kronor (NZ$11.461 million), the highest ever amount, in income guarantee support to former members. The payments are made to former members whose income is less than 80% of their previous member’s salary in their first year after leaving the Riksdag, with reduced payments thereafter to longer serving members, and are intended to assist with their transition. The income guarantee rules are currently under review.
Glossary: Riksdagen – Parliament
Media article: Svag efterfrågan på jobbcoach i riksdagen, Riksdag & Departement, 4 April 2012 http://www.rod.se/svag-efterfr%C3%A5gan-p%C3%A5-jobbcoach-i-riksdagen
Size of lower house
An opposition motion that the next election for the House of Assembly be conducted on the current 25-seat model was amended in favour of supporting restoration of the number of members in the House to 35 at an appropriate time. The motion passed in its amended form. The Premier said that she remained of the view that while the government supported the principle, the difficult budgetary situation meant it was not a top priority.
Press release: Size of Parliament, 18 April 2012 http://www.media.tas.gov.au/release.php?id=34642
Media article: Libs lose vote on Parliament expansion, ABC News, 18 April 2012 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-04-18/20121804-libs-lose-vote-on-parliament-size/3958856
House of Lords reform
The joint committee considering the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill was firmly of the opinion that a wholly or largely elected reformed House of Lords would seek to use its powers more assertively, to an extent that could not be predicted with certainty now. Opinion within the committee varied as to the impact any shift in the balance of power would have on the primacy of the House of Commons. A majority of the committee did not advocate any proposals for the statutory entrenchment of Commons primacy, as they could give rise to the possibility of judicial intervention, which the committee considered to be profoundly undesirable.
Report: Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill, Draft House of Lords Reform Bill: report, HL Paper 284-1, HC 1313-1, 23 April 2012 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201012/jtselect/jtdraftref/284/284i.pdf -
Reviewing its operation since its establishment in 2010, the House of Commons Backbench Business Committee noted that the demand for backbench debates had consistently outstripped the supply of time available. Most of the time available for debates was allocated in response to members’ proposals at the Committee’s weekly open meeting. The Committee had aimed for a flexible format for the debates so that members could tailor them to the issue under discussion. The introduction of e-petitions had heightened competition for backbench time and had a significant impact on the Committee’s work.
Report: House of Commons Backbench Business Committee, Work of the Committee in session 2010-12, HC 1926, 26 April 2012 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmbackben/1926/1926.pdf
Use of electronic devices in the House of Lords
After a year-long trial of hand-held electronic devices in the Chamber and Grand Committee, it has been recommended that the devices should be able to used by members, and officials in attendance, for any purpose, provided that they are silent and used with discretion. It should also be permissible for the officials to use the devices to communicate directly with members instead of passing written notes. Continuation of the trial’s restrictions on using the devices to search the internet for information for use in debate has not been recommended.
Report: House of Lords Administration and Works Committee, Use of electronic devices in the House: follow-up report, HL Paper 298, 27 April 2012 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201012/ldselect/ldaccwks/298/298.pdf
MPs meeting constituents
In the run up to the election, a series of public forums is being held in which constituents can talk face to face with their MPs about issues concerning their areas and the country in general. The forums are hosted and facilitated by the Pacific Institute of Public Policy. The intention is to strengthen members’ accountability to their constituents, increase public participation and manage voter expectations about what their member can and should do.
Media article: MP Fes to Fes for single seat constituencies tomorrow, Vanuatu Daily Post, 27 April 2012 http://www.dailypost.vu/content/mp-fes-fes-single-seat-constituencies-tomorrow
Security guards employed on more flexible terms
Closure of the building housing the Assembly’s visitors’ centre on weekends when insufficient security guards were available led the Assembly to increase the number of guards employed from 50 to 64. This followed 15 guards taking voluntary redundancy since 2010 at a cost of more than £500,000. The Assembly said that the terms and conditions for the new staff were more flexible than for those who had left, which would significantly reduce the reliance on overtime and ensure that the needs of the Assembly could be met.
Media article: How the National Assembly employs more security guards than AMs, Western Mail, 20 April 2012 http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/welsh-politics/welsh-politics-news/2012/04/20/how-the-national-assembly-employs-more-security-guards-than-ams-91466-30797494/
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