This week: State of the Nation according to Kumara Bill and the chipmunks

Time for chasing down the best tasting chips is over as politicians have to go back to work today. ?The House is sitting, and as is traditional, the Prime Minister will make his “statement”.

The Prime Minister?s statement is the annual equivalent of what the Governor General or the Queen does at the State Opening of a new Parliament (after an election).

It serves the same purpose (a mix of state of the nation and statement of intent) but with less pomp and pageantry.

The Prime Minister and each member of the governing coalition get a chance to outline a vision for their future intentions and every single opposition MP gets a chance to hold the government to account or to paint their own picture of what an alternative government would look like.

Every. ?Single. ?MP. ?

The Prime Minister can speak for as long as he wants, the leaders of Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First will get 20 minutes each, and every other member will get up to 10 minutes.

The time limit is 14 hours – not including the initial speech from the PM.

Most debates in Parliament are very specific, focusing on a particular proposal put to the House and any MP speaking on that proposal has to stay relevant.

Not so on the first day back.

So this week is the perfect occasion to kick off an election year. Each party leader is likely to take the opportunity to make a first campaign pitch to the public. Their speeches will probably indicate the tone and messages of the campaign to come.

It will be an interesting week to follow Parliament closely.

It all starts at 2pm on Tuesday February 7th and will likely stretch through both Wednesday and Thursday?s sittings and possibly into the following week.

How many days it will last depends on whether the government has other business it wants to scatter into the mix. If this is the case, they will adjourn the debate for later.

You can follow proceedings starting at 2 pm on TV ( Freeview 31, Igloo 50, Sky 86, Vodafone 86 ), streaming audio via Radio New Zealand and streaming Parliament TV via the internet. After the sitting day, on-demand replays can be found at In The House.


-?Phil Smith, RNZ