Matter of Opinion

'O' is for 'Orsome'… or not so much: The Political Year in Review

It was a florid sort of year in New Zealand politics, the display often trumping the substance.

Yet substance there was, and a lot of it:  the roll-out and accompanying debate over partial privatisation, electricity prices, housing costs, lending rules, foreign investment, the economic centrality of dairy, oil, mining, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, Treaty settlements, the Christchurch rebuild, the Auckland convention centre, welfare policy, transport funding, the constitutional conversation, the Government Communications Security Bureau – the list goes on.

No few were hardy annuals, the 'too-hards' and 'ain't it awfuls' of economic and social policy. The stuff of opposition and gaming, these issues received attention more for their political salience than for than any desire or potential for enduring solutions. 

Still, the relative inertia in areas such as fresh water management and lifting educational performance was more than off-set – many say precipitated by - the partial sell-off of the State's electricity assets, Treaty settlements, and the Government's holding of the line on tight economic and fiscal management.

There was also plenty on the sidelines the punters could get their teeth into.  The Coppers continued to yippee-kay-yay their way about the landscape (although kudos to them for holding a few of their bad apples to public account).  Workplace health and safety was brought – often tragically - into stark relief and underscored the need for a much closer look by Government.  Then there was the massive over-reach by Parliamentary Service in delivering up journo Andrea Vance's phone records as part of the inquiry into sensitive information leaks.  The "worrying failures" involved there demonstrated once again that the proper management of information is still terra incognita for all too many on the Hill.

And yet for all this, personalities led the column inches: the stumbling and eventual tripping of David Shearer, the attendant rise of David Cunliffe, the fall and almost rise of Peter Dunne, and the foreshadowed departure of John Banks (and possibly ACT) from Parliament at the hands of a private litigator and allegations of electoral fraud.

Then of course there's Len Brown. 

But whether the issues were trivial, transient or substantive the year threw up winners as well as losers.  Bill English led the bunch.  Highly intelligent, disciplined, and taking nothing for granted, he has charted a sometimes politically unpalatable course with a matter-of-fact calm, even managing to shrug off the mistake of having tried to sell too much of one thing at the same time.

On the other side, David Cunliffe emerged as he was always going to as Labour leader and Prime Ministerial hopeful.  His status as a winner though is not without qualification.  At the helm of a party that has entrenched identity politics as a raison d'etre and having to manage the ever-fraught relationship with the Greens, Cunliffe's time at the top will be extremely challenging. 

Russel Norman for his part built and then consolidated his place as moral leader of the Opposition. He also helped cement the Greens as the party that ended the traditional National/Labour duopoly.  Not all of this was due to Labour's maladroitness.

And then there's Colin Craig of the nascent Conservative Party.  Contrails, moon landings and the unpleasantness in Auckland aside, he has secured himself, for the moment at least, a place in the Prime Minister's pocket.

And finally there's David Tua.  Chased by the Maori Party, which has opted for appearances as their edge in 2014, he may yet have a life beyond being punched in the head.

Still, media and political solipsism ensured that bling prevailed over body and little of what we were served up with did much to engender confidence in the political classes.   For those looking for reasons for the low voter turnout in yet another local body election, politics in 2013 probably provides one.

In Review

Policy developments in 2013

Looking back at the policy and legal developments of 2013, the Government's activities have centred on completing key projects that were already in motion, and on introducing into the House key law reform projects.  The past year has also seen a progress of policy changes that do not require legislative amendment or new law, such as the implementation of new regulatory schemes.  Here are some of the major policy developments of 2013:

Completed Law Reform Projects

Regulation of the financial markets was subject to reform, with the passage into law of the Financial Markets Conduct Act and the Financial Markets (Repeals and Amendments) Act, which together abolish a number of existing statutes and regulations governing financial markets.  Part of the reform includes a new licensing regime, fair dealing obligations, and new financial reporting obligations.  This is part of the Government's goal to promote increased confidence and informed participation in New Zealand's financial markets.  The Government has since released proposed regulations under the Act.

The past year was also a year of consumer law reform, with the passage into law of the Bills divided from the Consumer Law Reform Bill, which was introduced in 2011.  It amended six statutes, repealed four, and created one new statute.  The amendments affected both the Fair Trading Act 1986 and the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993.  The changes allow contracting out of certain provisions between businesses, and adjust the regulation of unsubstantiated representations. 

The Government's intention to implement reforms to the resource management regime was also realised in the past year.  More significant reforms of the underlying principles of the RMA have however been stalled due to lack of political agreement among National's allies.  The Resource Management Reform Bill has adjusted the consenting regime and provided for regulation-making powers.  There have been other indirect changes to the resource management regime, including providing short-cuts through the RMA in certain circumstances, such as under the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act 2013. 

There was also legislative progress for the Government's policy relating to Crown minerals.  The Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill contained reforms aimed to promote prospecting for, exploration for, and mining of Crown-owned minerals, and was passed into law in spite of strong opposition.

This year also saw the enactment of legislation amending the operations and powers of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and related bodies.  The Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act, which was enacted in November, also affects the GCSB's functions by providing for network operators to work collaboratively with the GCSB to identify network security risks.

The Government's privacy law reform agenda was also progressed with the enactment of legislation changing the ways in which departments share information with each other.  These changes are also positioned within the Government's wider policy intention to improve public services.

The convention centre agreement between the Government and SkyCity was confirmed by legislation in November, with the passage of the New Zealand International Convention Centre Act.  The negotiations and agreement were realised in spite of the Deputy Auditor-General's February report into the matter, which was critical of some aspects of the procurement process.  The legislation is part of the Government's goal to stimulate the economy through building international-standard convention centres. 

The Pike River disaster Royal Commission findings have been implemented in new legislation governing health and safety in the workplace, as well as more specific laws on safety in mining operations.  These changes also saw the creation of a new workplace health and safety agency, WorkSafe New Zealand.

Charter schools (partnership schools kura hourua) were also given statutory recognition in June, as part of National's confidence and supply agreement with ACT.

Projects Underway

Seven Treaty of Waitangi settlement Bills were introduced into Parliament this year.

The Credit Contracts and Financial Services Law Reform Bill was introduced in April, and aims to amend the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act 2003 and repeal the Credit (Repossession) Act 1997.  Provisions include heightened disclosure obligations, and responsible lending criteria.  The Bill is currently before the Commerce Committee, with a report due by 17 March 2014.

The Companies and Limited Partnerships Bill is currently awaiting its third reading, and aims to implement the Government's wider policy of increasing confidence in New Zealand's financial markets and in the regulation of corporate forms.  It amends the nature of directors' and partners' duties, and the ways in which bodies corporate are governed. 

The second phase of the Government's local government law reform was introduced in November, in the form of the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No 3).  This phase is intended to reform the consultation processes, by introducing a new consultation document that local authorities must use, largely removing the special consultation requirement, and provide for a new scheme for development contributions.

Non-legislative policy changes progressed

The Government's mixed ownership model for former state-owned Enterprises was initiated with the partial privatisation of Mighty River Power and Meridian Energy.  The sale of Mighty River Power was challenged in court by the New Zealand Maori Council, the Supreme Court confirmed the Crown's ability to sell the shares in February. 

The Government began drawing up the Auckland Unitary Plan, a key resource management document, enabled under the resource management reforms.  It is intended to provide for the Auckland Council's implementation plans, regulatory plans and funding programmes, and to be a basis for major council strategies.

In Politics

Privileges Committee Report released

The Privileges Committee has released its interim report on the unauthorised disclosure of information held by Parliamentary Service during the Henry Inquiry.  The report, released on 3 December, criticises the actions of those involved in the particular events, as well as the systems and procedures that were applied.

The Speaker of the House had tasked the Committee with examining the unauthorised disclosure of email metadata, email content, phone logs and swipe card records during the ministerial inquiry into the leak of the Kitteridge Report on the Government Communications and Security Bureau.  The Committee was not asked to investigate the disclosure as a contempt of the House, or to determine responsibility, and its report contains no comment on those issues.

The report sets out the Committee's factual findings on the Henry Inquiry's progress and of the disclosure of the material in question.  It then lists the Committee's key concerns and the main issues arising from the incident.  The general theme of the report was the Committee's disappointment that none of the parties involved or processes employed had accounted for certain principles, which might have prevented the unauthorised disclosure. 

The Committee expressed concern that no consideration was given to the Parliament's absolute privilege of exclusive cognisance, which gives it the power to control its own operations without external interference.  The materials disclosed were held by Parliamentary Service, and so were potentially covered by the privilege, which could prevent an executive inquiry accessing the information in question. 

The Committee was also disappointed that the principle of the separation of powers had not been considered.  The incident involved the executive seeking both MPs' and Ministers' information held by the legislature, and the separation of these two branches of government should have been taken into account in the decision whether to release the information.  The Committee accepted Parliamentary Service had been tasked with holding both MPs' and Ministers' metadata for reasons of practicality, but it considered ministerial data should be handed back to ministerial services, to maintain this separation.

The Committee was particularly concerned that the Inquiry had not approached the Speaker with its request for the information.  It stressed that the Speaker's role is central to the proper management of processes involving Parliament.  The Committee also expressed disappointment in the lack of consideration of the importance of the press in Parliament, which could have made a difference to the disclosure of data relating to journalist Andrea Vance.

The Committee acknowledged the need to create certain protocols applicable when information held in Parliament was requested by external parties.  It envisaged that such protocols would better help those holding information to differentiate between different types of information (held by a MP or by a Minister), and so to decide how to respond to requests appropriately.

The report ends with a statement that such disclosure incidents, if left unchecked, could weaken New Zealand's representative democracy and its constitutional arrangements.  The Committee will continue to consider the wider matters of principle, and will again report to the House in due course.  The interim report can be found here.

In The News

Customs and Excise Act to undergo review

Customs Minister Maurice Williamson has announced that the Customs and Excise Act 1996 will be reviewed by policy officials, in consultation with the private sector.  The stated purpose of the review is to "develop a flexible legislative framework that can adapt to changes at the border and technology, and allow minor changes to be made by regulation".  However, officials have confirmed that the review will involve a fundamental and comprehensive restructure of the current regime. 

The review therefore provides an opportunity for interested parties to raise concerns about the current regime, and seek to improve aspects of the legislation to address current anomalies, facilitate more efficient transportation, storage and processing of goods, or otherwise make dealing with Customs easier.

A discussion paper is to be published in May 2014, with a consultation period to follow.  However, businesses interested in having particular issues included within the scope of the review may wish to engage with officials at an earlier stage, prior to the discussion paper being released.

Further changes proposed to directors' duties

The Minister of Commerce released a second supplementary order paper to the Companies and Limited Partnerships Amendment Bill (SOP 403).  The Bill is currently awaiting its Committee of the whole House stage and third reading, and contains provisions that criminalise the breach of directors' duties. 

The SOP revises the offence created by the Bill relating to a director's duty to act in good faith and in the best interests of the company.  It states that a director commits an offence if they exercise powers or perform their duties in bad faith and in a manner that the director believes is not in the company's best interests.  The director must know that, or be reckless about whether, their conduct will cause the company serious loss, or will benefit someone than the company. 

The SOP contains certain saving provisions so that directors will not be liable in some situations, including where:

  • the company is a subsidiary or carrying out a joint venture between its shareholders
  • the company constitution expressly states certain conduct is in the best interests of a company's holding company or its shareholders in a joint venture;
  • the company's shareholders have agreed in advance to the director's conduct; and
  • the director believed that the conduct was in company's or its shareholders' best interests

SOP 403 also creates an additional offence so that a director would be liable if they cause the company's business to be carried on in a way that causes serious loss to creditors.  Again, the director would have to know that serious loss will be suffered.  The SOP defines serious loss as more significant than a mere material loss.  There are two situations in which a director will not be liable:

  • if they reasonably believe that all creditors, who will suffer serious loss, have been identified and have consented to the business being carried on in the manner causing loss; or
  • if the company enters into a formal work-out arrangement with creditors, as provided for under the Companies Act 1993.

SOP 403 can be found here.

FMA seeking submissions on licensing fees

As part of a wave of consultations under the new Financial Markets Conduct Act 2013, the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) is calling for feedback over a proposed licensing fee regime.

The transition to the new Act will be conducted in two phases. Phase one begins on 1 April 2014, and will make the FMA the primary regulator of fair dealing in financial markets. Phase two begins on 1 December 2014, and will bring licensing and conduct obligations into force.

The new fees introduced for market providers will be calculated as a flat fee plus an hourly rate in certain circumstances. The flat fee applies to 'standard application' service providers, who are expected to be in the majority. The hourly rate is charged additionally to 'resource intensive' providers, as a means of regulating outliers.

The new fees will affect the following service providers:

  • Managers of registered managed investments schemes;
  • Discretionary investment management services;
  • Independent trustees of restricted schemes;
  • Derivative issuers; and
  • Regulated intermediaries (such as crowd funding platforms).

The FMA has indicated it will provide a list of circumstances for which it would charge the hourly rate in addition to the flat fee, and will give notice as soon as practicable if the hourly rate is likely to be charged. The criteria for the extra fee will be assessed in accordance with the following:

  • incomplete applications;
  • providers with large and complex legal structures; and
  • high risk applicants that require investigation.

The FMA may impose conditions relating to licences, including expiry dates, which must be between two and eight years.

Parliamentary Privilege Bill introduced

The Parliamentary Privilege Bill was introduced into the House on 2 December.  It seeks to implement the Privileges Committee's 2013 Report on parliamentary privileges as interpreted in by the Supreme Court in Attorney-General and Gow v Leigh in 2011. 

The Bill, if passed into law, is intended and expected to give more comfort to those participating in parliamentary proceedings in what they say and what information they pass around.  This could create a heightened risk of publicity for otherwise confidential, sensitive or damaging information, which might be passed between MPs, Ministers, political advisors, and officials.

The Bill is intended to reverse the direction the Courts have taken in interpreting Parliament's absolute privileges of freedom of speech and of the exclusive power to govern its own proceedings.  At the same time, the Bill aims to reaffirm and clarify the scope of those privileges.

Parliament's absolute privileges stem from article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1688 (UK), which states that no one outside Parliament may question or impeach proceedings in Parliament.  Occasions covered by the privilege, and those people participating in those occasions, are fully protected from legal liability, such as for defamation.  The Courts' interpretation of 'proceedings in Parliament' has been seen as too restrictive and as inconsistent with comparable jurisdictions,  Also, the Courts have developed a principle that the privilege does not apply to an affirmation outside the House of a statement that itself was originally privileged ('effective repetition').  This has led to criticisms that the privilege and its protections are being applied too narrowly.

The Bill aims to overturn these developments, and proposes specifically to:

  • define "proceedings in Parliament" more widely than the Courts have interpreted the term, and to include officials' materials provided to Ministers so they might respond to oral questions (which was the subject of the Leigh case);
  • provide statutory guidance as to how to interpret "question" or "impeach";
  • clarify the protections for certain broadcasts and reports of parliamentary proceedings;
  • abolish the 'effective repetition' principle by providing there is no liability for anyone affirming, adopting or endorsing statements made in parliamentary proceedings; and
  • confirm Parliament's power to fine for contempt when privilege is breached.

The Bill is not intended to change the privileges or the Bill of Rights 1688 in any way, but rather only to reinforce them, and to confirm in statute the nature of absolute privilege.  To that extent, the Bill's stated purpose is to recognise the mutual respect and restraint ('comity') in the constitutional relationship between the legislative and judicial branches of government. The Bill passed its first reading on 11 December, and has been referred to the Privileges Committee.  Submissions are due on 31 January 2014.  A copy of the Bill can be found here

FMA Releases Stakeholder Feedback Report

On 5 December the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) released the findings of the 2013 FMA stakeholder feedback report.  This progress review comes as the FMA approaches the end of its second year in operation, and is based on the views of key stakeholders from across the public, private and community sectors.  The intention behind it is to assist in shaping the priorities for future regulation.

The review sought to gather and synthesise stakeholder views on the following topics:

  • key achievements and shortcomings of the FMA's work to date;
  • gaps in the FMA's activities or mandate;
  • organisational capabilities of the FMA;
  • prioritisation of key shortcomings and gaps to be addressed; and
  • priorities for the FMA going forward.

Stakeholders were generally impressed with the FMA's performance over its first two years.  They indicated that it had a collaborative, engaged and proactive working style and that this represented a significant cultural turn-around from that of its predecessor, the Securities Commission.  Key achievements highlighted included the execution of legacy litigation activities, the establishment of the Strategic Intelligence Unit, and an increase in staff capabilities.

The shortcomings identified by the report are of particular interest, as these are likely to form the basis of the FMA's future priorities.  A lack of investor education activity was generally considered to be the largest shortcoming.  Other potential areas indicated as needing improvement included:

  • the lack of clarity and consistency in some of the FMA's guidance and advice, particularly disclosure guidance;
  • an insufficient level of conduct guidance, especially for Qualifying Financial Entities (QFEs); and
  • concerns regarding the tone of a number of communications with market participants.

Some stakeholders expressed concern that the FMA was not allocating enough attention to smaller firms at the "fringes" of the market.  Other stakeholders thought larger firms were escaping surveillance.  There were also mixed views, particularly between public and private sector stakeholders, on the FMA's role in and level of public communication on policy reforms.

The FMA's CEO has said the report will be useful, as it tells the FMA what it was doing well and how it could improve.  A copy of the report can be found here.

Judicature Modernisation Bill introduced

The Judicature Modernisation Bill is the Government's response to the Law Commission's 2012 review of the Judicature Act 1908.  The Commission found that more coherent legislation was needed to provide efficiency, transparency and accountability.  Designed to make the courts more accessible, people-focused and modern, the Bill is divided into six parts, which are intended to form several new Bills:

  • the Senior Courts Bill;
  • the District Court Bill;
  • the Judicial Review Procedure Bill;
  • the Interest on Money Claims Bill;
  • the Electronic Courts and Tribunals Bill; and
  • 17 separate amendment Bills.

Part One of the Bill covers the senior courts. Broadly, this part:

  • repeals the Supreme Court Act 2003 and the Judicature Act 1908, replacing them with one piece of coherent legislation retaining most of the powers of the previous Acts;
  • streamlines the appointment of non-permanent judges, restricting it to former and current judges;
  • establishes a judicial panel in the High Court to hear specific types of commercial cases;
  • introduces requirements on the judiciary to publish information relating to reserved judgments, recusal from cases, the suitability of judges holding outside office or employment, and all final written judgments; and
  • imposes a requirement on the Attorney-General to publish the process of making judicial appointments.

Part Two of the Bill deals with the District Court and covers a wide range of matters, including:

  • repealing and replacing the District Court Act 1947, with the aim of creating a more people-centred, transparent and accessible system;
  • reconstituting the District Courts as a single court sitting in multiple locations with divisions for Family and Youth courts and a District Tribunal;
  • increasing the monetary limit of remedies from $200,000 to $350,000 ; and
  • introducing the same requirements as in Part One on the Courts and Attorney-General.

The remaining parts of the Bill focus on specific areas of the judicial system, including:

  • Judicial Review procedure - the Bill aims to modernise the Judicature Amendment Act 1972 as a standalone act;
  • interest on money claims - aiming to introduce a simple and accessible statutory system in which compound interest will replace simple interest, and will be applicable at both pre- and post-judgment periods;
  • e-technology in hearings - allowing paper-based requirements to be interpreted as allowing electronic processes, and increasing flexibility around audio visual technology; and
  • a new power for the Minister of Justice to appoint a body to resolve primarily commercial arbitration matters (the Arbitrators' and Mediators' Institute of New Zealand), which is intended to enhance New Zealand's standing in international commercial arbitration.

The Bill as introduced can be found here.  Submissions to the Justice and Electoral Committee close on 21 February 2014.

Constitutional Review Panel Report released

The Constitutional Advisory Panel published its report on its public review of the constitution (the Constitution Conversation) on 5 December.  This review emerged from an agreement between the National Party and the Maori Party after the 2008 election. 

The report summarises the views of over 5,000 submitters and makes recommendations for the future direction of the constitution.  The primary recommendation is that, before major changes are made, there should be a greater level of constitutional literacy.  The Panel therefore recommended an ongoing conversation, with an emphasis on education about constitutional matters in schools and communities.   

The Panel made more specific findings, including the following:

  • In light of New Zealand's unwritten constitution, the Panel recommended that current constitutional arrangements be more readily accessible. It indicated a number of ways to achieve this, including collating the existing arrangements into a single document.  However, it stated that this should not become supreme law. The Panel suggested that there be further education about the advantages and disadvantages of the options.
  • The Panel recommended further education about the current constitutional role of the Treaty of Waitangi.  It found that some New Zealanders doubt whether the Treaty should have any role at all, but said it is not desirable to wind back the clock on what it concluded has become a fundamental element of the constitution.  The Panel suggested reconsidering the role of the Treaty in order to create more constitutional certainty.
  • The Panel considered Maori representation at both the national and local levels of government, and recommended no change to the Maori seats in Parliament but did recommend improvements to involving iwi in local decision-making.  The Panel listed a number of alternative options that might enhance Maori representation, and suggested these be considered as part of the continuing conversation.
  • The Panel suggested the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 could protect human rights more effectively.  Specifically, it questioned whether economic, social and cultural rights should be added to the Act, whether the consequences of a breach should be listed in the Act, and whether judges should be able to strike down legislation inconsistent with the Act.
  • In respect of parliamentary matters, the Panel recommended no change to the number of members of Parliament; holding a referendum on extending the term of Parliament to four years; and that a fixed election date be considered as part of any reforms.

The Panel's views are not binding on the Government or on Parliament.  However, the Attorney-General has indicated that it is worth an honest and objective look.  Labour spokesman David Parker has echoed the Attorney-General's comments. 

The full Report can be accessed here.

Ministerial conflict of interests proactively released

The Cabinet Office on 3 December released information about its management of ministerial conflicts between 1 October 2012 and 30 September 2013. The Prime Minister agreed to release such information after a recommendation from the Chief. A summary of this recommendation can be found in this earlier edition of Watching Brief.

The intention behind the annual releases is to demonstrate compliance with these rules and to ensure they are adequate to manage actual or potential conflicts of interest effectively. Information is released in such a way as not to compromise the privacy of individuals or the confidentiality of certain Cabinet discussions. The rules governing the management of ministerial conflicts of interests are laid out in paragraphs 2.56-2.77 of the Cabinet Manual 2008.

Last week's release makes it apparent that Cabinet has intended to manage conflicts of interest either by transferring responsibility to some other Minister and/or arranging for the conflicted Ministers not to receive official papers. The release divides the actual or potential conflicts into four categories:

  • pecuniary, relating to personal financial interests;
  • personal, relating to a range of non-financial personal interests;
  • portfolio, relating to the Minister's official responsibilities; and
  • constituency, relating to a Minister's role as a member of Parliament.

The list of ministerial conflicts of interests and the actions undertaken to manage them can be found here.

The Ministerial list since the resignations of Hon Peter Dunne and Hon John Banks can also be found here, and the list of responsibilities delegated to Associate Ministers can be found here.

Progress Of Legislation

New Bills

Accounting Infrastructure Reform Bill  

Type of Bill: Government Member in Charge: Hon Craig Foss

This Bill amends rules on who may perform statutory audits to allow more people who are competent to perform such audits.  It also aims to achieve its purpose of making the accounting and audit industry more efficient and effective by reducing restrictions on legal form for audit firms, and introducing a requirement for independent assurance of financial statements for medium-sized and large charities.  The Bill also proposes to allow the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants more freedom in how to structure itself.

Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: GovernmentMember in Charge: Hon Maurice Williamson

This Bill aims to amend the Building Act 2004 to change the system for managing earthquake-prone buildings, by requiring Territorial Authorities to complete a seismic assessment of non-residential buildings in their areas.  Buildings owners would also have heightened responsibilities, and the Bill provides for the steps to be taken after assessments are completed.

Judicature Modernisation Bill

Type of Bill: Government Member in Charge: Hon Judith Collins

This Bill proposes significant reforms to the New Zealand Courts system.  Please refer to the In the News article on this Bill, above.

Overseas Investment (Owning our Own Rural Land) Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Member'sMember in Charge: Hon Phil Goff

This Bill proposes to amend the Overseas Investment Act 2005 with a view to limiting the sale of New Zealand rural land to foreign buyers.

Parliamentary Privilege Bill

Type of Bill: GovernmentMember in Charge: Hon Gerry Brownlee

This Bill aims to define the scope of parliamentary privilege and to restate its purposes, with a view to overturning judicial interpretation of the privilege to date.  Please refer to the In the News article on this Bill, above.

Bills Awaiting First Reading

Accounting Infrastructure Reform BillBuilding (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment BillEducation (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill Education (Food in Schools) Amendment BillElectoral (Adjustment of Thresholds) Amendment Bill Electronic Data Safety Bill Energy (Fuels, Levies, and References) Amendment Bill Healthy Homes Guarantee BillLand Transport (Safer Alcohol Limits for Driving) Amendment BillNew Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Amendment BillNga Rohe Moana o Nga Hapu o Ngati Porou Bill SuperGold Health Check BillOverseas Investment (Owning our Own Rural Land) Amendment BillUnderground Coal Mining Safety BillWaitangi National Trust Board Amendment Bill 

Bills defeated

Care of Children Law Reform Bill

Bills before Select Committee

Submissions open

Click here to view table.

Submissions clsoed

Click here to view table.

Bills Awaiting Second reading

Bills that have recently been reported back to the House from a Select Committee are in bold and the Select Committee reports on these Bills are linked.

Border Processing (Trade Single Window and Duties) Bill
Commerce (Cartels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 
Construction Contracts Amendment Bill (as reported by the Commerce Committee
Defence Amendment Bill 
Electronic Transactions (Contract Formation) Amendment Bill 
Employment Relations Amendment Bill (as reported by the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee
Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 
Housing Corporation Amendment Bill
Public Health Bill
Radio New Zealand Amendment Bill
Reserves and Other Lands Disposal Bill
Resource Management (Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits) Amendment Bill 
Social Security Amendment Bill (No 3) 
Spending Cap (People's Veto) Bill
Student Loan Scheme Amendment Bill (No 3) (as reported by the Finance and Expenditure Committee)
Subantarctic Islands Marine Reserves Bill 
Tasman District Council (Validation and Recovery of Certain Rates) Bill 
Taxation (Income-sharing Tax Credit) Bill
Te Tau Ihu Claims Settlement Bill 
Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill
Victims of Crime Reform Bill

Bills Awaiting Third Reading

Airports (Cost Recovery for Processing of International Travellers) Bill 
Appropriation (2012/13 Financial Review) Bill 
Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa Bill
Companies and Limited Partnerships Amendment Bill 
Families Commission Amendment Bill 
Gambling Amendment Bill (No 2)
Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Bill 
Insolvency Practitioners Bill 
Kaipara District Council (Validation of Rates and Other Matters) Bill
Natural Health and Supplementary Products Bill (formerly the Natural Health Products Bill) 
Taxation (Annual Rates, Foreign Superannuation, and Remedial Matters) Bill
Trade (Safeguard Measures) Bill

Bills Awaiting Assent

Auctioneers Bill (formerly part of the Consumer Law Reform Bill)
Carriage of Goods Amendment Bill (formerly part of the Consumer Law Reform Bill)
Consumer Guarantees Amendment Bill (formerly part of the Consumer Law Reform Bill)
Fair Trading Amendment Bill (formerly part of the Consumer Law Reform Bill)
Mokomoko (Restoration of Character, Mana, and Reputation) Bill 
Royal Succession Bill
Secondhand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Amendment Bill (formerly part of the Consumer Law Reform Bill)
Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 2)
Weights and Measures Amendment Bill (formerly part of the Consumer Law Reform Bill)

Acts Assented

Building Amendment Act 2013

This Act originated in the second of two Bills intended to implement policy decisions of the Building Act Review to provide incentives for building professionals and trades people to take responsibility for their work and to stand behind it.  It provides for new consumer protection measures that are aimed at being stronger than those previously in place, and it empowers authorities to deal with at risk buildings. 

Financial Reporting Act 2013

This Act replaces the Financial Reporting Act 1993, and will come into effect on a date appointed by the Governor-General by Order in Council, the latest possible date being 1 April 2017.  However, the External Reporting Board may continue to exercise its powers before this date.  The Act allows for the provision of information to external users, who have a need for an entity's financial statements, but are unable to demand them.  In this way it aims to make general-purpose financial reporting consistent with the primary objective of the financial reporting system, with a view to improving this system.  The Act also creates new financial reporting and auditing and assurance standards, and it provides for new tiers of financial reporting for different classes of reporting entities.

Financial Reporting (Amendments to Other Enactments) Act 2013

This Act was formerly part of the Financial Reporting Bill, and makes amendments to several other statutes including Building Societies Act 1965, the Charities Act 2005, the Companies Act 1993, and the Financial Markets Conduct Act 2013.

Game Animal Council Act 2013

This Act establishes the Game Hunting Council as part of the national wild game management strategy.  The Act aims to improve the management of deer, tahr, chamois and wild pig, and to improve the opportunities to hunt these animals.  It came about as part of the Government's confidence and supply agreement with the United Future Party.

Kaipara District Council (Validation of Rates and Other Matters) Act

This Act seeks to address a number of irregularities that occurred in the way in which the Kaipara District Council purported to comply with certain provisions of the Local Government (Rating) Act 2002.  To that extent it validates specified rates and penalties, and makes the payment of certain rates unlawful. 

Maori Television Service (Te Aratuku Whakaata Irirangi Maori) Amendment Act 2013

This Act amends the Maori Television Service (Te Aratuku Whakaata Irirangi Maori) Act 2003 following the report of a review panel comprising the Minister of Maori Affairs, the Minister of Finance, and the chairperson of Te Putahi Paoho.  It makes changes to the functions of the Service, with a view to better protecting the Maori language and better allowing the Service to establish a free-to-air digital terrestrial television network.  It provides for the Crown to transfer management rights to Te Putahi Paoho over 16 MHz of UHF spectrum for the establishment of such a network over an extended period of time.

Medicines Amendment Act 2013

This Act amends the Medicines Act 1981 with a focus on some provisions affecting the approval and prescription of medicines and medical devices.  It aims to modernise the definitions of medicine, medical advice and therapeutic purpose in order to align them with international norms.  The Act is also intended to align the prescribing framework for nurses and optometrists with medical practitioners, dentists and midwives.  It also establishes a mechanism to allow time-limited demonstration sites of extended prescribing rights to new groups of health professionals.

Non-bank Deposit Takers Act 2013

This Act implements the final components of the new regime for the prudential regulation of non-bank deposit takers (NBDTs), which arose out of the Government's Review of Financial Products and Providers.  The definition of NBDTs is extended to cover all persons who were "deposit takers" under the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act 1989 on or after 3 August.  This will include all lenders and financial service providers, who offered debt securities to the public.  The Act requires all NBDTs to be licensed by the Reserve Bank, and requires the Reserve Bank to vet the suitability of directors and senior officers.  It also requires the consent of the Reserve Bank for changes in ownership of NBDTs by 20 per cent and over.  The Act generally strengthens the power of the Reserve Bank in supervising NBDTs.

Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Covered Bonds) Amendment Act 2013

This Act establishes a legislative framework for covered bonds with the aim of ensuring New Zealand registered banks have access to the covered bond market as a source of long-term relatively stable finance.  It provides for the separation of cover pool assets from a bank's other assets, and makes registration compulsory for banks' covered bond programmes.  The Act also provides for independent monitoring of cover pools, and for cover pool assets to be held by a special purpose vehicle, which must be separate from the issuer.  It enables the Reserve Bank to allow entities other than registered banks to register covered bond programmes under this framework in the future.

Social Housing Reform (Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters Amendment) Act 2013

This Act amends the Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters Act 1992 with the overall purpose of creating a new social housing framework, which is intended to promote contestability by increasing the number and diversity of social housing providers operating in the market, and to increase the choices available for tenants and prospective tenants.  It aims to achieve this by increasing Housing New Zealand's powers to review state housing tenancies, and providing for offences of non-compliance.  It also provides a code of conduct to obtaining information, and for deduction notices.  It establishes a Social Housing Agency, tasked with assisting and advising on housing services and related matters, and managing applications for social housing.  The Act also establishes a regulatory authority to supervise community housing providers.  

Several amendments Acts have been assented to as part of the Statutes Amendment Bill.  Statutes Amendment Bills may be used to amend a large number of Acts of different subject matters, but the amendments must relate only to minor aspects of the operation of those Acts.  The following Acts were assented to under that Bill:

  • Accident Compensation Amendment Act (No 2) 2013
  • Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Amendment Act 2013
  • Aquaculture Reform (Repeals and Transitional Provisions) Amendment Act 2013
  • Armed Forces Discipline Amendment Act 2013
  • Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Amendment Act (No 2) 2013
  • Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Amendment Act (No 2) 2013
  • Companies Amendment Act 2013
  • Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Act 2013
  • Disputes Tribunals Amendment Act 2013
  • District Courts Amendment Act 2013
  • Electoral Amendment Act 2013
  • Extradition Amendment Act 2013
  • Flags, Emblems, and Names Protection Amendment Act 2013
  • Gambling Amendment Act 2013
  • Health Amendment Act 2013
  • Health and Disability Commissioner Amendment Act 2013
  • Insolvency Amendment Act 2013
  • Legislation Amendment Act 2013  
  • Local Electoral Amendment Act (No 2) 2013
  • Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Act 2013
  • Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Amendment Act 2013
  • Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Act 2013
  • Passports Amendment Act 2013  
  • Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Amendment Act 2013
  • Real Estate Agents Amendment Act 2013
  • Road User Charges Amendment Act 2013
  • Social Welfare (Transitional Provisions) Amendment Act 2013
  • Sale and Supply of Alcohol Amendment Act 2013
  • State Sector Amendment Act (No 2) 2013
  • Statistics Amendment Act 2013
  • Tariff Amendment Act 2013
  • Telecommunications Amendment Act 2013  
  • Unit Titles Amendment Act 2013
  • Unsolicited Electronic Messages Amendment Act 2013
  • Wills Amendment Act 2013
  • Wine Amendment Act 2013  

Legislative Instruments

Arms (Military Style Semi-automatic Firearms—Pistol Grips) Order 
Arms (Records of Licensed Dealers) Amendment Regulations 
Climate Change (DF & LMJ Hannah Limited) Exemption Order 
Climate Change (Eligible Industrial Activities) Amendment Regulations (No 2) 
Corrections Amendment Regulations (No 2) 
Customs Import Prohibition (High-power Laser Pointers) Order 
Deposit Takers (Charitable and Religious Organisations) Exemption Amendment Notice 
Deposit Takers (Non-trustee Entities Risk Management) Exemption Amendment Notice 
Education (2014 School Staffing) Amendment Order (No 2) 
Education (Surrender, Retention, and Search) Rules 
Electricity (Safety) Amendment Regulations 
Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects—Permitted Activities) Amendment Regulations   
Fisheries (Amateur Fishing) Regulations  
Gas Governance (Compliance) Amendment Regulations 
Gas Governance (Critical Contingency Management) Amendment Regulations 
Health and Safety in Employment (Mining Operations and Quarrying Operations) Regulations  
Health and Safety in Employment (Tunnelling Operations—Excluded Operations) Order 
Health (High-power Laser Pointers) Regulations 
Health Practitioners (Quality Assurance Activity—College of Intensive Care Medicine of Australia and New Zealand) Notice 
Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas (Auckland) Amendment Order 
Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas (Schedule 1) Order 
Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters (Appointment of Agency and Regulatory Authority) Order   
Legislation Act Commencement Order (No 2)   
Local Government (Financial Reporting) Amendment Regulations 
Major Events Management (Cricket World Cup 2015) Order 
Marine Mammals Protection (West Coast North Island Sanctuary) Amendment Notice 
New Zealand Defence Meritorious Service Medal Regulations 
New Zealand Police Meritorious Service Medal Regulations 
Parole Amendment Regulations 
Securities Act (Charity Debt Securities) Exemption Notice 
Securities Act (Community and Recreational Purposes) Exemption Notice 
Sentencing Amendment Regulations  
Social Housing Reform (Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters Amendment) Act
Social Security (Overseas Pension Deduction) Regulations

In the Week Ahead

The House adjourned for the year on 11 December.  Before it rose for the year, it adopted the Business Committee's recommended sitting programme for 2014.  The House will sit again on 28 January 2014, and will have a total of 90 sitting days in 2014.  The 2014 sitting programme can be found here.

In Trade

Update on Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Negotiations

On 9 December, WikiLeaks published further documents shedding light on the confidential Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations.  This follows its leak of the draft TPPA Intellectual Property (IP) chapter on 13 November.  The latest leaks are a chart outlining the positions of each of the 12 negotiating countries on contested issues and a commentary on the state of play in the talks following the Salt Lake City summit, which took place from 19-24 November.  Both documents show widespread disagreement on a host of key issues, and scepticism that a deal can be reached by the New Year deadline. 

The chart shows that the US has almost no international support for many of its proposals, particularly in relation to the contentious IP chapter.  Currently there are 199 "outstanding issues" in this chapter alone.  Critics argue that US proposals will lead to increased costs and restricted access to prescription drugs, especially in poorer countries.  The chart shows that New Zealand continues to oppose key US proposals relating to patentability criteria, the extension of patent protection to new uses (such as plants, animals and surgical procedures), the extension of copyright terms to life plus seventy years, and enhanced penalties for copyright infringement. One particularly controversial US proposal threatens to hamper government health services' (e.g. Pharmac) ability to negotiate agreements with pharmaceutical companies for lower medicine prices. 

According to the leaked documents, "some countries have expressed annoyance for the way that they [the US] resubmitted a text that had been strongly rejected in the past".  The US has also been accused of exerting "great pressure to close as many issues as possible", although progress in related discussions was said to be "mediocre".  The commentary blamed the slow progress on the lack of any "perceivable substantive movement" by the US. 

The final round of TPPA negations for 2013 was held in Singapore and has now concluded.  Trade Minister Tim Groser has said "tremendous progress" was made and that further meetings are likely "in a few weeks".  Mr Groser was optimistic that a deal can be reached in the first half of next year.        

The leaked chart can be found here, and the commentary here.

World Trade Organisation approves new trade agreement

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) approved a  trade agreement at the Ninth Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia, on 7 December 2013. This trade agreement, often called the Bali package, is part of the Doha Development Round of trade negotiations which began in 2001. It is the first WTO agreement to be approved by all of its members.  Many believe that the WTO has in this way re-established its credibility as a multilateral forum for trade negotiations.

Although Trade Minister Tim Groser stated the agreement would provide little material benefit for New Zealanders, he stressed that a failure of negotiations would have been costly for the international trading system. The Minister also stated the Bali agreement was only the first of many agreements needed to address major issues in international trade. Many questions around tariffs and quotas were largely left untouched in the Bali package.  The Minister also emphasised the need for further agreements around agricultural trade, especially because of their commercial importance to New Zealand.

The central purpose of the agreement is trade facilitation.  The agreement intends to decrease costs and delays in international trade by simplifying and standardising countries' customs processes.  This is particularly significant in relation to trade with developing countries, which has tended to involve substantial import and export costs.  Overall, the reduction in trade barriers is expected to add around $US1 trillion to the global market.

Some have raised concerns that the implementation of such an agreement would impose an unreasonable cost on developing countries because the agreements would require the countries to make significant changes to their laws and infrastructure.  The agreement seeks to mitigate this concern by reducing tariffs and quota limits on imports for some developing countries.

The agreement also provides specifically for cotton trade, food security in developing countries and agricultural subsidies. The ministerial declaration on the draft agreement can be found here.

Tariff Concessions   

The following applications for tariff concessions have been made in the past two weeks:

Click here to view table.

In Consultation

Click here to view table.


Click here to view table.