The Parliament of New Zealand consists of the Queen of New Zealand and the New Zealand House of Representatives and, until 1951, the New Zealand Legislative Council. However most people incorrectly refer to the House of Representatives as 'Parliament'. The House of Representatives usually consists of 120 Members of Parliament (MPs), sometimes more due to overhang seats. MPs are directly elected by universal suffrage. New Zealand essentially follows the Westminster system of government, and is governed by a cabinet and Prime Minister chosen by the House of Representatives.
Parliament is physically located in Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand since 1865.
The Parliament was established by the British New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 which established a bicameral legislature, but the upper house, the Legislative Council, was abolished in 1951 so the legislature is now unicameral. Parliament received full control over all New Zealand affairs in 1947 with the passage of the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act.
One historical specialty of the New Zealand Parliament was the Country Quota, which gave greater representation to rural politics. From 1889 on (and even earlier in more informal forms), districts were weighted according to their urban/rural split (with any locality of less than 2,000 people considered rural). Those districts which had large rural proportions received a greater number of nominal votes than they actually contained voters - as an example, in 1927, Waipawa, a district without any urban population at all, received an additional 4,153 nominal votes to its actual 14,838 - having the maximum factor of 28% extra representation. The country quota was in effect until it was abolished in 1945 by a mostly urban-elected Labour government, which went back to a one voter, one vote system.
Richard John Seddon
Prime Minister 1893 to 1906
The New Zealand Parliament is sovereign with no institution able to over-ride its decisions. The ability of Parliament to act is, legally, unimpeded. For example, the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act is a normal piece of legislation, it is not superior law as written constitutions are in some other countries. Parliament is limited in extending its term, deciding on who can vote, how they vote (via secret ballot), how the country should be divided into electorates, and the make up of the Representation Commission which decides on these electorates. These issues require either 75% of all MPs to support the bill or a referendum on the issue. The entrenchment of these provisions was done through a normal Act of Parliament however.
The New Zealand House of Representatives has been the New Zealand Parliament's sole chamber since 1951. It is democratically elected every three years, with eighteen select committees to scrutinize legislation.
The New Zealand Parliament does not have an upper house; it is unicameral rather than bicameral. There was an upper house up to 1950, and there have been occasional suggestions to create a new one.
The Legislative Council was intended to scrutinize and amend bills passed by the House of Representatives, although it could not initiate legislation or amend money bills. Despite occasional proposals for an elected Council, Members of the Legislative Council (MLCs) were appointed by the Governor, generally on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. At first, MLCs were appointed for life, but a term of seven years was introduced in 1891. It was eventually decided that the Council was having no significant impact on New Zealand's legislative process, and the terms of its members expired on 31 December 1950. At the time of its abolition it had fifty-four members, including its own Speaker.
The National government of Jim Bolger proposed the establishment of an elected Senate when it came to power in 1990, thereby reinstating a bicameral system, and a Senate Bill was drafted. Senators would be elected by STV, with a number of seats being reserved for Māori, and would have powers similar to those of the old Legislative Council. The House of Representatives would continue to be elected by FPP.
The intention was to include a question on a Senate in the second referendum on electoral reform. Voters would be asked, if they did not want a new voting system, whether or not they wanted a Senate. However, following objections from the Labour opposition, which derided it as a red herring, and other supporters of MMP, the Senate question was removed by the Select Committee on Electoral Reform, and the issue has not been pursued since.
The New Zealand Parliament's model for passing Acts of Parliament is similar (but not identical) to that of other Westminster System governments.
Laws are initially proposed in Parliament as bills. They become Acts after being approved three times by Parliamentary votes and then receiving Royal Assent from the Governor-General. The majority of bills are promulgated by the government of the day (that is, the party or parties that have a majority in Parliament). It is rare for government bills to be defeated, indeed the first to be defeated in the twentieth century was in 1998. It is also possible for individual MPs to promote their own bills, called member's bills; these are usually put forward by opposition parties, or by MPs who wish to deal with a matter that parties do not take positions on.
Within the House of Representatives, bills must pass through three readings and be considered by both a Select Committee and the Committee of the Whole House.
If a Bill passes its third reading, it is passed by the Clerk of the House of Representatives to the Governor-General, who will (assuming constitutional conventions are followed) grant Royal Assent as a matter of course. Some constitutional lawyers, such as Professor Philip Joesph, believe the Governor-General does retain the power to refuse Royal Assent to Bills in exceptional circumstances - specifically if democracy is to be abolished. Others, such as former law professor and Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Matthew Palmer argue any refusal of Royal Assent would lead to a constitutional crisis. Refusal of Royal Assent has never occurred under any circumstances in New Zealand.
Once Royal Assent has been granted, the Bill then becomes law.
Text from Wikipedia
residence across from the cathedral
National Library of New Zealand
St. Paul's Cathedral
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