MANA in Parliament, 26-28 March 2013

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Government bills up this week

Screen Shot 2013-04-07 at 9.19.35 PMThis week a number of government bills came up for committee stage in Parliament. This is the 4thstage of the 6 stage law-making process where the whole of Parliament goes into committee and each part of a bill is debated clause-by-clause and voted on. Its also where changes to bills can be tabled and talked to and voted on as well. Up for committee stage this week was the:

  • Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill MANA continued to oppose;
  • Local Electoral Amendment Bill (No 2) MANA continued to support;
  • Student Loan Scheme Amendment Bill (No 2) MANA continued to oppose. This Bill to further erode the student loan scheme also went up for third reading on Thursday. It will become law when it is signed-off by the Governor-General, which is the 6thstage of the law-making process called the Royal Assent.

Members Bills

It was a full week of committee stages with two high-profile Members bills also going through their committee stages on Wednesday the Mondayisation or Holidays (Full Recognition of Waitangi Day and ANZAC Day) Amendment Bill and the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill. MANA continued to support both bills. A number of changes to the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill were tabled, including some that called for the bill to be put aside until a referendum on the issue is held. None of the changes were supported as a majority of MPs rightly felt that they did nothing to strengthen the bill and the clear stand for marriage equality that it makes here and now. A large crowd gathered on the lawn outside Parliament on Wednesday night during the committee stages half supporting marriage equality and the other half protesting against it. Security fenced each group off from the other as they did their best to out-sing the other. All I know is that it sounded great from my office!

Christchurch visit

Hone did a round of visits in Christchurch during the week also and heard a raft of concerns from wh?nau there, including the on-going saga of the school closures and the governments decision to relocate one of the kura kaupapa M?ori despite there being no good reason for it. Another key issue raised was the high rents being charged given there are still housing shortages following the February 2011 earthquake. On average, rent prices have climbed over 25% with some landlords charging $1000 a week for an ordinary three-bedroom home. Hone issued a media statement calling for the government to intervene and introduce rent control measures to stop landlords from preying on families in need. See the MANA website,www.mana.net.nz, for a copy.

Mining in our national parks back on the governments agenda

Despite government promises that our national parks (Schedule 4 land) will be off-limits to mining companies, it came to light during the week that eight prospecting permits have been granted and two companies have been given permission to look for minerals in the last three years. In 2010, tens of thousands of people marched down Aucklands Queen Street to oppose the governments plan to mine for minerals in the nations national parks, and it was a huge win to have the government do a u-turn and agree to scrap those plans. But true to form, the government has broken this promise and let the mining companies in anyway under the pretence that its just for scientific research. Its a pretence because the mining companies wont be investing time and money unless they know they can turn their research ventures into a commercial mining venture. MANA is opposed to mining in national parks. Our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the wellbeing of Papatuanuku and her finite resources need to be properly cared for and not dug up and polluted for the profiteering of multinational companies.

Feed the Kids Big Breakfast event

The countdown is on for Hones Feed the Kids Bill which is expected to come before Parliament for first reading in early June. Support is building for the introduction of breakfast and lunch programmes in low-decile schools to help address the high levels of child poverty in New Zealand caused by high unemployment, inadequate benefit levels, chronically low wages and rising living costs all of which are exacerbated by a government that continues to strip back spending in health, housing, and education. Labour, Greens, M?ori Party, NZ First, and Independent MP Brendan Horan are supporting the Bill, leaving us one vote short to get the Bill through to a parliamentary select committee for further consideration. To help continue to build public and political support for the Feed the Kids policy, Hone is hosting a Big Breakfast event for around 3000 school kids on the morning of Wednesday 17 April. The Otara-based event will celebrate the way schools, wh?nau, community and charitable organisations, and local businesses are currently working together to feed their kids and ask that government step up and provide a greater level of secure funding to ensure that all our kids are fed now and into the future. A number of high profile New Zealand food companies are donating the kai and a whole host of performers will entertain the kids while they eat. A large number of well-known sportspeople, actors, and television personalities will help community and wh?nau volunteers serve breakfast, and the whole thing will be filmed by theP?kana crew and screened in the coming weeks. Its going to be a truly fantastic morning. Everything has been donated including the sound system, stage, and the buses for the kids to get there safely and weve been overwhelmed by the level of generosity and commitment to feeding our kids. A huge thank you to all involved for supporting this really important kaupapa.

And just a quick reminder that ahead of the Big Breakfast event is the Feed the Kids Symposium in Tokoroa on Saturday 13 April. A great line-up of speakers is confirmed, including CEO and founder of the KidsCan Charitable Trust, Julie Chapman. Register for the event on the MANA website.

Parliament is in recess next week and will resume on Tuesday 9 April.

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