There were no major blows from the either side, just a few jibes in what was a pretty lukewarm start to the 2016 parliamentary session yesterday.
After greetings from the Speaker of Parliament Niki Rattle, Prime Minister Henry Puna presented a ministerial statement which was cleverly crafted on the achievements of the government, with the tourism industry’s success at the heart of his talk.
He also used the opportunity to highlight his constituency Manihiki in a metaphorical description of the Cook Islands fighting against the odds in the tourism industry.
Opposition leader Teina Bishop as per Standing Order 89, asked if the statement which he called “a half an hour of political campaign,” be printed and laid on the table as a paper for consideration.
The motion was seconded by PM Puna himself.
During question time, Bishop asked Puna if there was any political will in the government to reconsider political reform in the constitution.
Puna emphasised the key issue was sustainability adding that amendments, if any, were needed to be done for the right reasons.
He said government needed a two-thirds majority in the parliament to proceed with the amendments, capping off his response with the “we agree to disagree,” cliché.
MP for Nikao/Panama Ngamau Munokoa asked for an update on the Nikao Primary School project.
Finance minister Mark Brown said the government had held successful meetings with Chinese officials last month and work at the school would start at the end of the school term this year.
Brown said the Chinese had also approved the design the government had proposed and agreed to some of their terms including the inspection of building materials and progress on the project.
He said delays had been caused by the vetting process put in place by the Chinese government, and the language barrier.
Opposition Whip and MP for Titikaveka Selina Napa asked the government if there were plans to close down Titikaveka College after the redevelopment of Tereora College.
Puna, who is also the education minister, dismissed the question, adding, “there is no truth in that statement.”
The latter part of the session was dominated by the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility Bill 2016 presented by Brown.