What is Parliament?
If you’ve watched the news on television, you may have heard reporters say, “Today in Parliament …” or “Parliament has passed a new law …”. You’ve probably seen photographs of Parliament Buildings in Wellington, or you may have even visited them. But do you know what happens there? What is Parliament and what does it do? Our Parliament has two parts: the Sovereign (the King or Queen) and the House of Representatives. In New Zealand, the Sovereign is usually represented by the Governor-General.
The House of Representatives is made up of about 120 elected members of Parliament (MPs). The members of Parliament represent the views and concerns of the people of New Zealand, which means we are a representative democracy. As well as representing the people, some members of Parliament form the Government (or Executive) and are responsible for running the country. Parliament also has the job of making new laws, updating old laws, and approving decisions about how tax money will be spent for the benefit of all New Zealanders. In addition, Parliament has opportunities to question the Government’s actions to keep it “accountable” for the decisions it makes. The Governor-General, on behalf of the Sovereign, acts as New Zealand’s head of state. The Governor-General’s role in the work of Parliament is to sign off new laws by giving them the Royal assent, open Parliament at the beginning of a new term, and close it when there is to be a general election. The Governor-General is chosen by the Prime Minister and is appointed by the Sovereign, and carries out these responsibilities on advice from the Government.