New Zealand Parliament Pāremata Aotearoa
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  • Parliament Brief: The legislative process
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    25 May 2020
    The law is the framework within which citizens consent to be governed. Democratic theory is that having elected their lawmakers (legislators), citizens recognise the legitimacy of the laws made on their behalf by the lawmakers and consent to abide by those laws.
  • Parliament Brief: Parliament and the general election
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    20 May 2020
    A term of Parliament in New Zealand may not last more than three years. Several parliamentary processes, laws, and conventions (established practices) ensure a smooth transition and provide safeguards for democratic process when an election has been called.
  • Question Time: How do oral questions work?
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    12 February 2020
    It’s one of the highlights of watching a parliamentary debate: government and opposition MPs sparring at Question Time.
  • How to read the Order Paper
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    07 February 2020
    Each sitting day at Parliament, the Clerk of the House prepares and publishes the Order Paper – the agenda for the day’s proceedings.
  • A closer look at extended hours
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    11 December 2019
    The usual sitting hours of the House are 2pm to 6pm and 7:30 pm to 10pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and 2pm to 6pm on Thursdays. Sometimes the Government wishes to extend the House’s sitting hours to allow it to make progress on its legislative programme.
  • Standing Orders make for orderly sittings
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    17 September 2019
    Parliament follows rules set out in the Standing Orders to make sure its work is orderly, fair, and efficient.
  • Who are the Officers of Parliament?
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    15 August 2019
    You may be familiar with some of the regular faces you see walking the halls of Parliament – Ministers, MPs, the Speaker, to name a few.
  • What is a special select committee?
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    15 August 2019
    Most bills and other items of business at Parliament are referred to one of its select committees. However, on rare occasions, a special select committee is established to carry out a specific task.
  • The nuts and bolts stage: Committee of the Whole House
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    31 July 2019
    Many of the bills that go through Parliament are referred to a Select Committee. But did you know that there’s another committee that looks at and debates a bill before it becomes a law?
  • Parliament’s role in international treaties
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    17 April 2019
    A treaty is an agreement between countries, or with an international entity like the United Nations or World Trade Organization, that is binding under international law.
  • Annual reviews explained
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    06 November 2018
    Each year, from about November through March, Parliament’s select committees check on the performance of government organisations over the previous year.
  • The questions you don’t hear in the House
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    18 December 2017
    The Debating Chamber isn’t the only place at Parliament where questions are asked. Each year, MPs lodge literally thousands of written questions to Ministers.
  • A matter of conscience: Voting on conscience issues
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    13 December 2017
    When a bill goes through Parliament, MPs vote on the bill at several stages – a crucial part of the legislative process.
  • Delving deeper: Supplementary questions
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    27 November 2017
    Have you ever watched Parliament and wondered how it’s decided who gets to ask all those questions?
  • What is an urgent debate?
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    20 June 2017
    An urgent debate is a debate held with permission from the Speaker to discuss a matter of urgent public importance. The debate is held after question time and before the first business item of the day. An application for an urgent debate can be made by any member of Parliament who is not a Minister.
  • Lucky dip leads to ground-breaking law changes
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    07 June 2017
    Members’ bills have introduced some of New Zealand’s most significant law changes, often raising public debate and capturing a shift in the country’s thinking.
  • What is 'urgency'?
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    25 May 2017
    The House of Representatives sometimes goes into “urgency” to make progress on business additional to what would be possible under the normal rules for sitting hours and progress of business.
  • Parliament’s move to Wellington in 1865
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    15 April 2015
    The New Zealand Parliament permanently moved to Wellington in 1865, after spending the first ten years of its existence, from 1854, in Auckland. The story of the move of the seat of government and Parliament to Wellington in 1865 was full of political intrigue and drama, not to mention shipwrecks and the threat of earthquakes. It tells us much about the political constraints on representative government and how Parliament operated in those times. The move is the story of not only of where Parliament should be located but also of the housing of Parliament – never straightforward and always subject to the politics of the day.
  • Parliament Brief: Select committees
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    24 May 2014
    New Zealand’s select committee system enables members of Parliament to examine issues in more detail than is possible in the House of Representatives. Select committees can also provide the public with an opportunity to comment on and suggest changes to impending legislation and to participate in other parliamentary functions such as inquiries. Select committees carry out public scrutiny of Government spending plans and of the performance of New Zealand’s Government departments, Crown entities and State enterprises.
  • The Speaker in history
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    31 March 2014
    Historically, Speakers played a more partisan role in the House than today. They shaped Parliament by introducing ceremonial elements from Westminster, developing appropriate procedures for the House, and administering Parliament. The reforms of the mid 1980s gave the Speaker enhanced powers over parliamentary expenditure and control over Parliament Buildings and grounds.
  • Parliament Brief: Officers of the House
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    26 March 2014
    Some members of Parliament and officials have specific formal duties in the House of Representatives. They are known as officers of the House.
  • Parliament Brief : What is Parliament?
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    21 March 2014
    This Parliament Brief explains the difference between and the distinct functions of the institutions of Parliament, Government, and the House of Representatives. It also explains the ‘separation of powers’ – the relationship between Parliament, executive government, and the judiciary (courts) within New Zealand’s constitutional framework.
  • Parliament Brief: Government Accountability to the House
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    21 March 2014
    An important function of the House of Representatives is holding the Government to account for its actions. The term ‘responsible government’ means that the Government has the confidence of the elected House from which its members are drawn. As a consequence, the Government is required to be accountable to the House.
  • From talking shop to party government: procedural change in the New Zealand Parliament, 1854-1894
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    04 May 2012
    This article looks at parliamentary business in the nineteenth-century New Zealand Parliament, making comparisons with the British and Australian state Parliaments.
  • History of Parliament's buildings and grounds
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    28 March 2012
    Parliament has been housed in a variety of buildings over more than 150 years since it first met in Auckland in 1854. Following Parliament’s move to Wellington in 1865, parliament’s buildings and grounds have been located on Molesworth Street. The original buildings, greatly extended from the 1870s to the 1890s, were largely burnt down in a fire in 1907. Only the Library building survived. Following the fire the site was extended and redeveloped into its modern form and a new Parliament House was built, 1912-1922. In the 1970s a new Executive Wing (the Beehive) was built. Today the refurbished Parliament House, Library building and the Beehive represent key national heritage buildings set in spacious and attractive grounds.
  • From legislative machine to representative forum? Procedural change in the New Zealand Parliament in the twentieth century
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    19 March 2012
    This article analyses procedural developments in the New Zealand parliament in the twentieth century. Political party organisation strengthened while the role of private members diminished. Closure of debate was eventually introduced in 1931. The two-party system transformed the House. Fewer government bills were introduced but legislation was virtually guaranteed success. Sitting hours declined and closure and urgency became an accepted part of procedure. From the 1960s parliament’s role was strengthened with a daily question time and increased select committee powers. This shift was enhanced by the reforms of the 1980s and 1990s in which select committees were reorganised, private members’ bills made a reappearance and parliament acquired stronger scrutiny powers over finance.
  • The earth may move, but Parliament stays put
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    16 September 2011
    A special engineering system of base isolation has been used in the strengthening of Parliament House and the Parliamentary Library. Base isolator bearings were inserted between the buildings and their original foundations during a 1992-95 strengthening and refurbishment project so that these buildings could withstand an earthquake of 7.5 magnitude on the Richter Scale.
  • Refusal of assent – a hidden element of constitutional history in New Zealand
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    30 September 2010
    This article explores Britain’s influence historically over legislation passed in the New Zealand Parliament through its power of giving or refusing assent. It suggests that Britain’s role was substantial, particularly in the 19th century, and continued until New Zealand adopted the Statute of Westminster in 1947. Britain refused to allow thirteen pieces of legislation to go onto the statute book. In two instances Britain disallowed Acts already assented to by the Governor and on the statute book. On five occasions Britain refused assent to bills and on another six occasions it held its decision in abeyance (withheld assent) for two years and the bills became void. Other legislation was amended on Britain’s instructions.
  • A shifting balance: Parliament, the executive and the evolution of politics in New Zealand
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    18 June 2010
    The reforms to the New Zealand Parliament of the 1980s and 1990s shifted the balance between executive and legislature away from the former. Through much of the twentieth century the executive had dominated. This article looks at an earlier period when the balance between the executive and legislature was strikingly different. It describes the shift towards greater executive dominance in three respects important to the functioning of Parliament — parliamentary expenditure, the impact of political parties and electoral politics, and increased government control over business in the House of Representatives.
  • Political participation and electoral change in nineteenth-century New Zealand
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    18 June 2010
    This article suggests that it is important to look at the early decades of elections in New Zealand’s political history, a time when many believe that politics was undemocratic and political participation was low. In order to evaluate this issue statistics on the numbers voting and electorates contested have been generated by extensive newspaper research for the general elections in the period 1853 to 1876, on which there is little information. In these early elections the issues lay more in the failure to register on the electoral rolls and considerable numbers of uncontested electorates than in exclusion due to the property franchise or failure to vote by those registered. The article concludes that politics was more democratic and participation higher than usually thought. In the latter part of the nineteenth century increases in registration and in voter turnout are examined as a precursor for political parties and high levels of political participation that became characteristic of modern-day electoral politics in New Zealand.
  • The business of Parliament in history
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    18 June 2010
    In the past 150 years the way in which Parliament has conducted its business has changed greatly. The length of time Parliament sits, the hours it sits for, and the ways it deals with business are very different now from in the past. This is the result of the changing role of Parliament and its MPs. An MP from the 1850s who stepped into the twenty-first century chamber would find it a very unfamiliar place indeed. (This paper looks at the House of Representatives although much of the discussion applies equally to the upper house of the Legislative Council which existed from 1854 until 1950.)
  • History of the Parliamentary Library
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    23 December 2009
    The library has played a vital role over more than 150 years, supporting representative and parliamentary democracy and responding to the needs of MPs. It was established in 1858. By the end of the nineteenth century it was akin to New Zealand’s national library and was a magnificent national treasure house in a splendid building. In the twentieth century it administered New Zealand’s copyright deposit provisions for New Zealand publications and began to provide a reference service for MPs. It was part of the National Library from 1966 until 1985. Today it is a focused research and information service for Parliament in the same historic building.