New Zealand Committee signs up for new ideas

Broadcast captioning and dealing with the health consequences of problem gambling were on the agenda during a recent visit by delegates from the New Zealand Parliament. 

During its annual visit, the delegation visited Canberra and Sydney to exchange ideas with other parliamentarians and parliamentary staff. 

Delegates were Members of New Zealand Parliament Select Committee for Government Administration. This is the smallest committee in the New Zealand Parliament and deals with a broad range of topics, from financial and legislative reviews, as well as the examination of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the running of Parliament itself. It is comparable to the Australian Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA). 

Chairperson of the Committee the Hon Ruth Dyson MP said apart from the New Zealand Parliament being a unicameral system, there are some noticeable differences in how the committee systems operate in the two counties. 

“Our Select Committees tend to focus on legislation, whereas the Australian system has much better focus on inquiries, which in my opinion results in the Parliament being better informed about issues of importance,” Mrs Dyson said. 

Accessibility is an important issue to the New Zealand Parliament. This was highlighted when the delegates attended Question Time in the House of Representatives. Sitting in the Distinguished Visitors’ Gallery an Australian Sign Language interpreter acted for Ms Mojo Mathers MP, New Zealand’s first deaf Member of Parliament. Whilst interpreters have been permitted for some time, this was the first instance of it occurring in the Australian House of Representatives (although technically, not within the Chamber). 

Delegates also attended Question Time in the Senate. 

Issues around accessibility were explored further during discussions about captioning of parliamentary proceedings with JCPAA, the Department of Parliamentary Services and the Australian Communications and Media Authority. 

Like Australians, New Zealanders enjoy a flutter - but problem gambling is becoming an increasing problem in the land of the long white cloud. This issue was discussed at length with the senior executives of the Department of Communications and the Arts, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, and Liquor and Gambling New South Wales. 

Mrs Dyson also said Australia’s actions on the health issues associated with gambling were well ahead of those in New Zealand and the Committee were keen to learn more on addressing the issue. 

“It’s something we have backed off on and I think Australia has shown some courage on a really serious issue – we know that people literally take their own lives as a result of harm done through problem gambling,” Mrs Dyson said. 

The delegation were also hosted by His Excellency Mr Chris Seed, the High Commissioner to New Zealand, members of the Australian/New Zealand Parliamentary Group, as well as the Presiding Officers President of the Senate, Senator the Hon Stephen Parry, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, The Hon Tony Smith MP.

NZ Delegation in Question Time
New Zealand delegation in Question Time with an Australian Sign Language interpreter