Marlborough Express - An introduction to Select Committees

Columns
Sunday, November 9, 2014

Since being elected, there have been a lot of celebrations and ceremonies, which have been great fun and a privilege to be a part of. But now, with Parliament officially opened and maiden speeches given, it’s time to get down into the real work of Parliament and of being an MP. While all the traditions and festivities were great, this is what I’ve come here to do, and what I’ve been really excited about.

One of the most important processes of our governmental system in New Zealand is the select committee process. Each select committee is focused on a different issue-area, and once a bill passes its first reading it is sent to the relevant committee for analysis.
Select committees provide the opportunity for fair and open discourse on a bill. They are multiparty – the chairman and deputy-chairman are usually from the governing party, but the committee also consists of members from the opposition. Select committees examine issues in more detail than is possible in the House. And while debate in the House is confined to members of Parliament, select committees directly involve the public in their work.

Most of the work of committees involves a process of investigation. We hear from interested groups and individuals outside the public sector, and seek input from within it. It is an opportunity for the public to comment on and suggest changes to impending legislation. The committee uses this investigative process to reach conclusions, balancing public opinion with expert advice, before making a report to the House.

I am on the Social Services committee, and the deputy chairman for the Primary Production committee. Although the Primary Production committee was a more natural fit for my skill set and a sector that I am so passionate about I am also very much enjoying being a member of the Social Services committee. This is a field that is relevant to all of us; we will all be touched by social issues at some point in our lives, whether that be personally or through someone we know, directly or indirectly. Having the opportunity to gain such an involvement in this area, and to develop my knowledge base and understanding, is something that I thoroughly appreciate.

It’s still early days in our select committees, having just completed the first set of House-sitting weeks. But as Parliament gets into the swing of this new term, and we all settle into our roles, one thing I am particularly looking forward to is getting deeper into the select committee process.