Parliament ends on high note

Thursday December 07, 2017 Written by Published in Politics

The second sitting of parliament for 2017 ended on a high on Tuesday with prime minister Henry Puna’s announcement that the government will provide a bus for schoolchildren on Mangaia.

 

The bus has repeatedly been requested in parliament by Mangaia MP Tetangi Matapo. 

Said Speaker of the House Niki Rattle: “It certainly made my day.

“It is the perfect conclusion after seven days of debating and passing some significant bills with full support from the House. And it is fitting with the festive sentiments as we prepare for the celebrations of Christmas and the New Year.”

Parliament concluded on a positive note, with MPs wishing their constituents a merry Christmas following days of cross-party exchanges over bills and some minor government controversy.

The much-anticipated Crimes Bill 2017 was given an indefinite extension to allow the select committee to complete their community consultations.

The legislation will eventually modernise the out-of-date Crimes Act 1969. 

The first bill to be passed with unanimous support from the House was the Justice of the Peace Bill, followed by the Companies Bill which divided parliamentarians.

Opposition MPs said they needed more time to review the 400-plus clauses covered in the legislation.

However, modernisation of the Act will now allow individuals to set up businesses online.

Finance Minister Mark Brown said the new legislation contained a number of new benefits for small business owners who choose to set up a company. They included limiting liabilities under a company structure, leveraging borrowing capacity and being able to claim back VAT on goods and services purchased.

The Incorporated Societies Amendment Bill and Personal Properties Bill were also passed earlier in the sitting but the Maritime Zones Bill missed out.

Deputy Clerk of Parliament Management, Helen Maunga says because it didn’t progress through to the second reading it will be the second bill up for debate at the next sitting of parliament, following the Crimes Bill 2017.

Prime minister Henry Puna earlier said that any resource issues not covered in the Marine Zones Bill would fall back on the earlier passed Marae Moana Act. That legislation covers the marine zones for the entire Cook Islands exclusive economic zone.

Two small amendments were also urgently passed this week under deadline to update the Currency Declaration Act and the Financial Reporting Transaction Act. The changes to legislation were identified through the recent “mutual obligations” evaluations undertaken in the Cook Islands.

Brown said tightening up the current Acts could result in a much better rating for the integrity of the country’s finance systems.

“And it was a good example of how parliament can work collaboratively to achieve an outcome for the benefit of our country,” said Brown.

Also updated over the last week were the Arms Ordinance Amendment Bill and the Family Protection and Support Amendment Bill. 

Parliament will resume its first session for 2018 in February, once a date for sitting has been scheduled.

In the meantime, Maunga says Pa Enua consultations for the Crimes Bill 2017 will be confirmed for January 2018 and not the week of December 18 as originally planned, due to insufficient flights available to charter an aircraft to Mitiaro, Mauke and Atiu.

The altered confirmation date includes the northern group consultation to Pukapuka, Manihiki, Rakahanga and Penrhyn.

Maunga said nine more public meetings would be held before the Crimes Bill Select Committee could wrap up its report. Those meetings will take in the remaining electorates on Rarotonga where consultations have yet to be held.

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