After a six-week wait that seemed to stretch into eternity, the new government has finally formed. Here we'll delve into the processes, ceremonies and pivotal moments that go into forming a new government. We'll also touch on what the government is planning to squeeze in before the Christmas break.
Swearing in ceremony at Government House
On Monday 27 November, Christopher Luxon was sworn in as the 42nd Prime Minister of New Zealand by Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro. The ceremony took place at 11 am at Government House.
The Governor-General asked Luxon to confirm he is able to lead a government that can command the confidence of the House of Representatives. In simpler terms, it’s about ensuring the government possesses the necessary backing, which is held by the coalition of National, ACT, and NZ First through their combined seats.
The Executive Council also had its moment in the spotlight. This includes all Ministers of the Crown, whether they're part of the Cabinet or not. An interesting part of this ceremony? Ministers get the title of 'The Honourable,' while the Prime Minister gets the extra distinguished title of 'The Right Honourable.' These titles signify their positions within the government.
First & Second Cabinet Meetings
Kicking off on Tuesday 28 November, the initial Cabinet meeting welcomed 20 ministers, marking the official launch of proceedings. This pivotal session primarily revolved around procedural matters, notably solidifying the Cabinet manual and the coalition agreements. Additionally, it laid out explicit expectations for ministers, emphasising the overarching goal to "deliver and get things done."
In continuation, on Wednesday 29 November, the second Cabinet meeting convened, marking another significant milestone as the 100-day plan was officially approved and publicly announced.
In the first post-Cabinet press conference, Christopher Luxon stated the government's main priorities were to "rebuild the economy to tackle the cost of living, restore law and order, and deliver better public services."
Opening of the 54th Parliament
MPs elected at the 2023 General Election will gather for the first time to officially open the 54th Parliament this week. There are two ceremonies that make up the opening:
The Commission Opening of Parliament, 11am on Tuesday 5 December
The State Opening of Parliament, 11am on Wednesday 6 December
These ceremonies bring together the Crown and the House of Representatives in a grand show of unity, marking the official start of the Parliament term.
Commission Opening of Parliament
This marks the formal commencement of Parliament. The Governor-General sends Commissioners to the House to declare Parliament open on her behalf. The Commissioners walk from the Supreme Court to the Debating Chamber at Parliament. The Clerk steps up, armed with a document from the Governor-General, authorising the Commissioners to act on her behalf. They declare Parliament open and then make their exit, leaving Members of Parliament to take their Oath or Affirmation of Allegiance to the Crown, administered by the Clerk.
The election of a Speaker follows, with the National Party nominating the Hon Gerry Brownlee for the role. Once Parliament elects a speaker, the decision must be confirmed by the Governor-General.
State Opening of Parliament
The following day the State Opening of Parliament will occur. The Governor-General comes to Parliament to tell MPs about the Government’s priorities for the coming term. It’s a bit of a process. First, the Governor-General heads to the Legislative Council Chamber. Meanwhile, Black Rod (the Governor-General's messenger for ceremonial communications with the House of Representatives) gets the job of summoning MPs to Parliament by knocking on the doors of the House and letting them know they’re wanted by the Governor-General. Members are led to the Legislative Council Chamber in a procession by the Serjeant-At-Arms.
The Governor-General then delivers the Speech from the Throne which outlines the government’s agenda and programme for office. The Speech from the Throne is a big deal. It’s the government's way of saying, "Here’s what we’re up to, and we’d like your support." It's like a roadmap for what Luxon's team plans to achieve over the next three years, setting the stage for what they want to accomplish legislatively.
Once the Governor-General delivers the speech, they hand a copy to the Speaker and make their exit. When the MPs return to the Debating Chamber, they get a chance to respond to this speech during what's called the Address in Reply debate.
Remaining Parliamentary Schedule
Following the State Opening of Parliament, here's what's on the agenda:
On Wednesday at 2 pm, the first debate of the new Parliament will take place, starting with the Address in Reply debate. This kicks off with two new National Party MPs sharing their maiden speech (the first speech given by a newly elected or appointed member). Then, it's time for the Party Leaders to take the stage - Leader of the Opposition, followed by the Prime Minister and then the other party leaders.
On Thursday 7 December, the first Question Time will take place. Question Time involves MPs asking allocated oral questions to hold the government accountable and explore key issues. After this, the Address in Reply debate will continue. More maiden speeches from the National Party will be made. There are 42 maiden speeches that need to take place in the new Parliament - 20 from the National Party, four from ACT, four from New Zealand First, eight from the Greens, four from Te Pāti Māori, and two from Labour. As there are so many to get through, some will have to wait until after Christmas.
With two working weeks left after the first week of sitting, it's a mixed bag of activities. The agenda includes the Address in Reply Debate, Question Times, and more Maiden Speeches. The Government also intends to move urgency for a range of Bills.
The National Party have stated the first Bill that they will introduce and move through all stages will be a Bill to return the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to a single mandate, focusing on fighting inflation. They also want to repeal Fair Pay Legislation, the Resource Management Act (RMA), and the Clean Car Discount (CCD) scheme. Extending 90-day trial periods to all businesses will also be introduced and referred to a Select Committee before the Christmas break.
The government is aiming to finish up around the week starting December 18, but it will be over to the opposition to determine the exact end time. As yet, we don’t know when the House will return to sit after the Christmas break. Usually, Parliament doesn’t resume until February, but Christopher Luxon has hinted at an earlier restart.
And that’s the roadmap ahead for New Zealand’s parliamentary journey! With agendas set, debates lined up, and legislative priorities on the table, the coming weeks promise a flurry of parliamentary activity. Stay tuned for updates as the government embarks on its journey, tackling key issues and shaping the nation’s future.
Mikayla holds a Master's degree in Public Policy, as well as a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Arts. She lives in Tāmaki Makaurau and has a keen interest in policy and politics.