Cook Islands Speaker Niki Rattle says Parliamentary rule changes will allow for more sitting days. And that’s backed by the prime minister.
The Standing Orders of Parliament are set to be reviewed to allow some new changes, including more sitting days.
Prime Minister Henry Puna in his closing remark at Parliament before it adjourned sine die on Thursday night said the government was hoping for regular sittings in the near future.
The Puna government has received criticism in the past for a low number of sitting days in Parliament.
The prime minister said they need to “tweak” the Standing Orders to enable regular parliamentary meetings in order to carry out their responsibilities as members of Parliament.
Speaker Niki Rattle said the review will enable Parliament to sit more often regardless of the number of MPs in the chamber.
The review will also look at putting some mechanism in place to allow work of absent MPs to continue uninterrupted in Parliament when they are out of the country during the sitting.
“When the Standing Orders committee sits, they will review the Standings Orders and see if there are something we can do in enabling the Parliament to sit a bit more regularly than usual,” Rattle said.
“In some parliaments, they don’t have the quorum. In some parliaments, the MPs are away, and they can leave their proxy vote to another member to vote on their behalf.”
Rattle said they would also add a provision in the Standing Orders to allow members to seek to leave in advance before the sitting.
“At the moment, they are having to seek leave from Parliament but we are saying when Parliament is not sitting, they can write to the Speaker and seek leave. This is where a medical certificate is required to confirm that leave. I think that’s a much more practical way of dealing with this issue.”
Prime minister Puna was pleased with the June sitting in which the government managed to pass some key bills including the Appropriation Bill 2019/20.
“I thank the members of Parliament for a really constructive and positive session. The spirit has been excellent throughout which shows what we can achieve if we consult with each other and work together.
“This is indeed a new spirit we should embrace moving forward. I hope that we will convince our people when the need arises for us to come together as members of Parliament and work, we will be more than happy to do that.”
Other bills that were passed in last week’s sitting include the Welfare Amendment Bill to allow for adjustments in the child benefit, Justice of the Peace Bill, Infrastructure Bill and Seabed Minerals Bill.
The Justice of the Peace Bill which was passed in 2017 was amended to allow some changes such as permitting government employees to work as JPs.
Rattle said the Law Practitioners Bill was taken off the order paper after a motion was put to take it back for more work.
“The bills which were passed will be taken to the Queen’s Representative who will then assent to the bills and if he doesn’t find anything that he doesn’t agree with, these bills will then become the law of this county.”.