Wednesday, 19 June 2019

The Things the NZ Government Put Off until "After the Budget"

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Henry Cooke and Collette Devlin in Stuff's Politically Correct  look at action in Parliament before its three-week recess starting on July 1st.

As the post-Budget period settles in this week, many of the things the Government put off until" after the Budget" will soon be due. Both sides of Parliament would like to get some more runs on the board ahead of a three-week recess starting on July 1, a period in which both will face less routine scrutiny from reporters and each other. Leaving a good taste in the public’s mouth is key.

Here’s a look at what will happen before the House rises at the end of next week.


Cabinet reshuffle
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has promised her long-awaited cabinet reshuffle will come before the end of this sitting block - our money is on her announcing it at her post-Cabinet press conference next Monday.

Ardern has cautioned that the reshuffle will not be major, but she has a few tricky areas to work through. Housing and Transport minister Phil Twyford is facing a lot of pressure over the failure of KiwiBuild, Labour’s flagship policy on its flagship issue of housing. Taking the policy off him completely would provide some clean air for the "reset" but might not actually help fix anything as no one knows this issue better than him. So perhaps taking Transport off him to give him more time on Housing would make more sense. This is complicated by the fact Twyford and Ardern are quite close.

Justice Minister Andrew Little, quite well-regarded in the media, is understood to be falling out of favour thanks to a perceived habit of doing things without checking in with the prime minister first.

There are also issues outside of Cabinet. Kris Faafoi is clearly worthy of a promotion after strong stints in ministries outside - but what to give him? The Māori caucus are also very keen for Meka Whaitiri to pick up some power again following her demotion for allegedly manhandling a staffer. Then there’s the delicate balance of moving backbenchers up into committee chairmanships and under-secretary roles, all before you even get into any messiness with your coalition partners.



(As an aside, Bill Ralston offered his opinion. Phil Twyford, Ian Lees-Gallaway and David Clarke should be stood down, and Kris Faafoi and Michael Wood elevated. I’ve no comment other than to say that I thought Health Minister David Clarke came across very well on Monday’s Q&A. His answers were full and direct, far more so than Judith Collins who earlier in the programme talked about KiwiBuild, Simon Bridges’ leadership and her own political ambitions.)


Endless estimates
While the Budget might feel like a while ago, the actual legislation is still working its way through Parliament which means we have a lot more "estimates" select committees to get through. In these meetings, ministers come to select committees to defend their forecasted year of spending. But in practice they defend a lot more than that. Expect fireworks in particular on Thursday, when some heavy-hitters are appearing.

Reigniting debate
Fresh from the ACT party rebrand, expect leader, David Seymour, to try and reignite the hate speech debate in the House.

It follows his announcement on Saturday that he would put forward a member's bill - the Freedom to Speak Bill - that would prevent the state from punishing people ‘on the basis of their opinions’.

It would remove the words ‘abusive’ and ‘insulting’ from the Human Rights Act and leave ‘threatening’ as a crime.

He plans to make a point of order and table his members' bill in Parliament on Tuesday.

Parliament was the one place where free speech was totally protected and when it returned on Tuesday, there would be a straightforward choice, he said. "If they are in favour of free speech, they will vote for it."


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