More Top Stories


Alleged rapist in remand

27 April 2024

Rugby league

Moana target 2025 World Cup

11 November 2022

Parliament urged to focus on results, not just sitting time

Saturday 27 April 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in National, Parliament


Parliament urged to focus on results, not just sitting time
Tai Tura - Speaker of the House (left), and Gerry Brownlee – New Zealand’s Speaker of the House during the inter-parliamentary exchange between parliamentarians of both countries. MELINA ETCHES/24041812

The difficulty of drafting a Private Members’ Bill, which can be introduced to Parliament by any member who is not a Minister, has been discussed in Parliament House.

The dialogue was part of the inter-parliamentary exchange between the Aotearoa New Zealand’s Speaker of the House of Representatives, Gerry Brownlee, and his delegation, and local parliamentarians last week.

Leader of the Opposition Tina Browne raised the issue of the Opposition not having access to expertise to draft members’ Bills.

Cook Islands Parliament Speaker Tai Tura said that they “simply lack the resources”.

Tura said Parliament does not have legal counsel, and especially for Opposition members, it is more difficult to obtain help for a Members’ Bill.

He added that, as for the government, they have access to Crown Law for legal professionals.

Brownlee said: “We are fortunate that we can call on Crown Law and Parliamentary Council to assist with Members Bills in New Zealand – starts with the Parliamentary Council, Crown Law become involved if it gets a bit of progress.”

“But the real point of Members Bills is to raise an issue and to have it talked about in Parliament.

“The message that we were trying to suggest is that the quality of the writing in the initial stages is not quite so important as the discussion that comes from the issue in the Bill.”

Brownlee said parliamentarians may be looking to use that system to highlight things in their constituencies.

Tura said “it is time” to have the inter-parliamentary exchange with the New Zealand Parliament, emphasising the need to upskill MPs in the processes of drafting Members’ Bills, including the requirements and so forth.

He said that it is a matter of working together with the New Zealand counterparts to lead MPs through the process of drafting and developing a Private Members’ Bill.

Other discussions included the number of days local Parliament sits in a year.

New Zealand’s Standing Orders set out that the sitting programme must provide for the House to sit on approximately 84 days in the year.

Last December, the Cook Islands Parliament approved 42 sitting days for 2024. In 2023, Parliament only managed to meet just over half the number of the 45 days allocated for the year – when they only sat for approximately 24 days.

Brownlee was asked to give his opinion on the value of the Cook Islands Parliament sitting more often.

“It depends on what the business is that you’ve got before Parliament,” he said.

“There is no point in having Parliament sit for the sake of sitting, it has to have a purpose.

“I think that in which the organisation of the Cook Islands Parliament operates at the moment is clearly working for the Cook Islands.”

Brownlee added that in New Zealand they tend to sometimes have things that fills up at times – “some of that is valuable and some of that is perhaps not so valuable”.

“Maybe we should be looking at thinking in a free society do we need to be making laws as frequently as we are.”

Brownlee and his cross-party delegation who visited Rarotonga for four days included Cook Islander Tangi Utikere MP (Chief Whip – Labour Party), Dr Vanessa Weenink MP (National Party), Greg O’Connor MP (Assistant Speaker – Labour Party), and Scott Willis MP (Green Party), and Cook Islander Amber Walters who is the Interparliamentary Relations Lead.