RMA reform bill queue-jumps over legislative backlog

Events get in way of committee stages for a number of bills.

Members of parliament begin their last sitting session today with the government running out of time to deal with a backlog of legislation and introduce reform of the Resource Management Act.

Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee says priority will be given to completing the committee stages of the Support for Children in Hardship Bill and the Taxation (Annual Rates for 2015-16, Research and Development, and Remedial Matters) Bill.

The government had hoped to complete the committee stages of these bills when the parliament last sat.

However, as is the way with politics, events got in the way and the house's time was taken up urgently passing a bill to deal with the supervision of offenders deported from Australia.

Mr Brownlee also wants to complete the committee stages of a number of long-standing bills. There are currently nine bills on the top of parliament's order paper all waiting for their committee stage to be completed, but this can be slow.  

Most of the bills are not controversial, for instance, the Radio New Zealand Bill updates the organisation's charter and was introduced in 2009 with no party opposing it.

The parliament has had a relatively light legislative workload this year and Mr Brownlee had been working on getting some of the older bills passed, but time is running out with the house expected to rise for the summer next week.

This week Mr Brownlee will also have to give time to the Education Legislation Bill and the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill for their first readings. Ministers want to put these bills before select committees as soon as possible.

Also eating into the government's time in parliament this week is the last members' day of the year on Wednesday.

In all there will be more than 30 bills on the order paper when the house rises for the year. Some of these bills have been deliberately stalled due to ministerial doubts about them.

These include introducing plain packaging for cigarettes, criminalising cartel behaviour and the regulation of natural health products. Even including these, it is not the largest backlog in the parliament's history, but it may be enough to tempt Mr Brownlee into considering using urgency to get the numbers down.

The government is also keen to get the legislation lifting benefit payments as well as tax changes to research and development passed this year, though neither is essential at this point.

It also wants to get the Taxation (Residential Land Withholding Tax, GST on Online Services, and Student Loans) Bill before a select committee, as it moves to take heat out of the housing market and deal with other issues.

Select committees also have a number of bills before them which they will need to work on before Christmas or they will have to come back before parliament resumes next February.

The Local Government, Environment and Social Services Committees have bills due back in January and early February. The Transport and Industrial Relations Committee also has two important pieces of legislation to report back by February 12 - The Employment Standards Legislation Bill and the Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment Bill.

The minimum wage bill is opposed by National, but had the support of enough MPs to survive its first reading.