Introduction to the New Zealand Parliament
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Introduction to the New Zealand Parliament

December 8, 2019


Parliament is the supreme legislative
power in New Zealand and is made up of two parts: the Sovereign, represented by
the Governor-General, whose role is to open and dissolve Parliament at election
time, as well as sign off laws once Parliament has passed them. The second
part is the House of Representatives, which is made up of about 120 MPs.
Parliament has five primary functions. One: to represent the people of Aotearoa New Zealand. Two: to provide a government. Three: to challenge and hold
the government to account. Four: to make laws, and five: to approve how taxpayers’
money is spent. The shape of Parliament is determined by an election,
which happens usually every three years. Kiwis cast two votes: one for who they
want to represent them locally, and the second for which party they want
governing New Zealand. The party vote determines the number of seats each
party gets in Parliament and the government is formed by the party or
parties that together hold the majority of seats in the House.
The Prime Minister then appoints MPs from the government party, or parties, to
become Ministers. They are given responsibility to oversee areas such as
health, police, education, and transport. The government’s role is to run the
country, propose policy and laws, and decide how taxpayers’ money is spent. The opposition’s role is to hold the government to account and provide an
alternative government in waiting. They do this through asking questions of
Ministers through debates in the House on major issues in legislation, and
through the work of select committees. Overseeing the order and business of
Parliament is the speaker, who acts much like Parliament’s chairperson. Party whips or musterers act as party managers, making sure MPs are where they need to be and
they cast votes for their party in the House. An important role of Parliament is passing new laws and improving or
repealing old ones. For a bill to become law it must go through a rigorous
process. First the bill is introduced to Parliament for its first reading debate.
Then it has a cross-party select committee take a closer look. Select
committees are small groups of MPs who work together to do the detailed work of
the House. The committee also invites the public to have their say. The bill is then
reported back to the House with any recommended changes, and a second reading
debate is held. If it survives a second reading vote, MPs will then debate to the
bill in detail in the Committee of the Whole House. This is the last chance to
change the bill. The bill then goes for its third and final reading. If it passes,
it’s certified by the Clerk of the House and then sent to the Governor-General
for Royal Assent before becoming New Zealand law. There are five agencies on the
parliamentary precinct that contribute to the day-to-day running of New
Zealand’s Parliament. The first two, Parliamentary Service and Office of the
Clerk, directly serve our Parliament. The Parliamentary Counsel Office drafts New
Zealand’s laws. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet provide
advice and support across the public sector, and Ministerial and Secretariat
Services supports the Prime Minister and executive government. The Parliamentary
Service provides administrative and support services to members of
Parliament and the House of Representatives. It also manages members’
funding entitlements. The Office of the Clerk supports House and select
committee proceedings, gives advice on parliamentary law and procedure, and
records, publishes, and broadcasts the debate from this chamber. We also provide
drafting support for members’ legislation before it’s introduced and
for members’ amendments to legislation. Along with the Parliamentary Service, the
Office of the Clerk plays an important role in educating the public to
encourage participation in our democracy. The Parliamentary Counsel
Office is New Zealand’s law drafting and publishing office. We draft government
legislation and provide independent advice to Ministers and departments on
legislative matters. Together we aim to produce legislation that is fit for
purpose, constitutionally sound, and accessible to all users. The Department
of the Prime Minister and Cabinet advises and coordinates and leads
across the public sector, with a particular focus on good governance , good policy, and national security. We provide advice and support to the Prime Minister, to the Governor-General, and to Cabinet Ministers. Ministerial Services supports
the Prime Minister and executive government with a range of services.
These include staffing, administrative support, advice on their entitlements, and VIP transport services. We also plan and
coordinate national commemorative events such as ANZAC Day and provide logistical
support for official guests of the New Zealand government. In summary these are the five agencies that are on the parliamentary precinct and that support
the running of New Zealand Parliament: Parliamentary Service, Office of the
Clerk, the Parliamentary Counsel Office, Department of the Prime Minister and
Cabinet, and Ministerial and Secretariat Services. If you have any further
questions or need any other information, everything is available on
the official New Zealand Parliament website.

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