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Budget bill nowhere in sight

Friday October 03, 2014 Written by Published in Politics
One Cook Islands leader Teina Bishop has concerns regarding the start of parliament and the day’s order paper.  One Cook Islands leader Teina Bishop has concerns regarding the start of parliament and the day’s order paper.

Preparing and tabling a budget is expected to be the first order of business for an upcoming sitting of Parliament, but it appears the Government has other plans in the works.

Yesterday, Aitutaki Member of Parliament Teina Bishop said he has received his summons to appear in Parliament on October 8 – the date advised to Queen’s Representative Tom Marsters by Prime Minister Henry Puna.
Not included on the day’s order paper – a document prepared by staff at Parliament that sets the daily agenda – is an appropriation bill, said Bishop.
“It is the most important piece of legislation,” he said.
Earlier this week, Secretary Richard Neves with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management said Ministry staff have been working with Cabinet to have budget legislation ready for the scheduled sitting.
On Wednesday, Finance Minister Mark Brown said the Cook Islands Party-led caretaker Government will be presenting a “holding” budget in Parliament, due to the “timing issues of elections and hearing of petitions”.
A holding budget was previously described by Brown as one that will outline spending priorities for at least the remainder of 2014.  
“... depending on the fiscal situation we may need to have a supplementary budget into next year,” he wrote in an email, adding that further amendments may be required to accommodate “pressing needs”.
“Next year we are expecting a big year to celebrate our 50 years, therefore I would expect a number of competing priorities for government funding,” he said. “We have taken a sensible approach to managing the nation’s finances.”
Also of concern to Bishop is a 5pm start date for the scheduled October 8 sitting of the House.
As per Standing Orders, Bishop – who stated his intention to attend the session – said Parliament typically sits at 1pm between Monday and Thursday, and 10am on Fridays.
The One Cook Islands leader inquired as to whether the start time was a typo.
Next week’s session will be the first since July’s general elections, and Standing Orders require a number of procedures to be undertaken.
As expected, the names of the recently elected members will be read out by Clerk John Tangi, and will be followed by the election of the Speaker. At that point, the Speaker is required to present her or himself to the Queen’s Representative and take the Oath of Allegiance, before returning to Parliament.
Parliament then proceeds to elect a Deputy Speaker, followed by adjournment.     

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