MANA in Parliament, 4-6 December 2012Posted on December 10, 2012 by admin in Mana in Parliament
Government Bills up this week
- One of the first bills up this week was the Family Court Proceedings Reform Bill which proposes to introduce a $1000-plus fee to be able to access the family court’s new Family Dispute Resolution Services. Access to the court, and the counselling services it provides, is currently free. MANA opposed the bill at first reading and will continue to oppose it as it goes through the parliamentary law-making process.
- Another bill that MANA will oppose all the way is the Public Finance (Fiscal Responsibility) Amendment Bill which came up for first reading this week. Despite the word ‘responsibility’ in the title, the bill is anything but. Instead, the bill is about creating new laws to further reduce government spending on our health and wellbeing and to lock in those tax cuts made to higher income earners. It’s yet another abuse of power to ensure that money continues to flow from poor to rich and not the other way around.
- On a more positive note, a bill was passed on Thursday that gives legal recognition to the spelling of Whanganui with the “h” included. The bill started off as the New Zealand Geographic Board (Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa) Amendment Bill, and ended the long battle undertaken by Whanganui Iwi to have their place properly recognised. Ka mau te wehi koutou.
Wednesday was the last member’s day for the year. Just to recap, member’s days come up once or twice a month and are a chance for MPs to bring issues to the parliamentary table that are not part of the government’s policy programme. This week Parliament debated:
- Rino Tirikatene’s Employment Relations (Protection of Young Workers) Amendment Bill which unfortunately did not receive enough votes to continue on through the law-making process. The bill sought to introduce better working conditions and rights for those aged 16 years and under – including better health and safety protections. While it didn’t address all of the issues faced by young workers, and especially given that the government is trying to bring back lower minimum pay rates for workers aged 16-20 years, it did seek to make positive changes for young workers. MANA voted in support of the bill at its first and only reading.
- Russell Norman’s Climate Change (New Zealand Superannuation Fund) Bill which would require the fund managers of the NZ Super Fund to consider the implications of their investment decisions on climate change. As with almost all non-government MP members’ bills, this bill was also not supported to the next stage of the process. MANA supported the Bill.
Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)
This week New Zealand hosted the latest round of talks on the TPPA and it was hotly debated in Parliament during the week too. One of the biggest concerns is that the details of the TPPA are being kept top-secret. The only things that are known are from leaked chapters. The government has tried to peddle the view that because the TPPA will come before Parliament for a vote, the process is open and democratic. What they don’t say, of course, is that Parliament will vote on it after the government has signed off on it and that the actual details of the agreement will still be secret – and will remain secret for 4 years! And I’m not even making that up! And there are lots of reasons for keeping the details under-wraps too. For example, the TPPA includes things called “investor clauses” that will give international corporates the right to sue the government if they make laws or policies that ‘threaten’ their investment, like plain-pack cigarettes, or a moratorium on fracking, or returning resources to Iwi as part of Treaty settlements. And if sued, the cases are held in secret international tribunals where governments can be found liable for millions or billions of dollars, and have no right of appeal. And I’m not making that up either! What mostly happens, however, is that governments become less likely to make laws or policies that threaten international corporate investment – not that this government needs any more incentive to stomp on the health and wellbeing of our communities and environment while bowing down to big business. A big mihi to all those people who took to the streets, to microphones, and podiums during the week to stand up against this deal and have the voice of the 99%ers heard. See the MANA website, www.mana.net.nz, for the media statement made by John Minto highlighting these concerns.
And yet despite the power of the biggest corporations on the planet, they don’t always get what they want – they don’t always get to win. And such was the case of the multinational energy corporation Petrobras and their ambition to extract oil and gas from the Raukumara Basin in the rohe of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui. While the TPPA talks were getting underway in Auckland, Petrobras was announcing that they wouldn’t be staying as their testing had shown the region wasn’t going to be as lucrative as they’d hoped. And while the fight is not over yet given the government is still hoping another conglomerate more into “frontline exploration” will take over the permits, it’s important to acknowledge the wins along the way. See the MANA website for Hone and Annette’s media statement congratulating Te Whānau-ā-Apanui on the news and for their strong and determined stand against Petrobras which has inspired so many others around the motu.
Glen Innes housing protests
Residents of Glen Innes continue to protest against the removal of their homes, and more and more are getting assaulted and arrested by the police for doing so. MANA continues to call for a greater media interest and presence in order to report on the events and to also keep the pressure on the police to behave in a more reasonable manner to those who are defending their homes and community. Hone was back in court this week following his arrest at one of the GI housing protests back in early October. He pleaded not guilty to the charge of failing to remove a car from a road and will be back to court later next year.