Students get taste of political life

By JOHN IRELAND john.ireland@hbtoday.co.nz

OPPOSING VIEWS: Napier students Rebecca Newman (left) and Leigh Bedford pose with Opposition MP Stuart Nash while attending the 2016 Youth Parliament event. PHOTO: SIMON WOOLF PHOT
OPPOSING VIEWS: Napier students Rebecca Newman (left) and Leigh Bedford pose with Opposition MP Stuart Nash while attending the 2016 Youth Parliament event. PHOTO: SIMON WOOLF PHOT

A pair of Napier students recently enjoyed a rare opportunity to peek behind Parliament's curtain and view the inner workings of the machine that runs the country.

Rebecca Newman, a Year 13 student at Napier Girls' High School, and Leigh Bedford, who is in Year 12 at Taradale High School, participated in the 2016 Youth Parliament event, held July 19 and 20 in Wellington.

Rebecca, representing Labour's Stuart Nash, was one of 121 Youth MPs who debated legislation, sat on select committees and asked oral parliamentary questions of the ministers.

At the same time, Leigh joined 16 other budding journalists as members of the Youth Press Gallery, reporting on the Youth MPs' activities to ensure they are accountable to the public.

"It was such a cool opportunity," says Rebecca. "It made me see how much MPs really do outside the debating chamber.

"You can see how much work they have to put in to have all the knowledge about the bills, and all the committees they sit on. Both parties work really hard."

Rebecca had a full agenda over the two days. She sat on a select committee where the topic concerned how New Zealand can capitalise on its reputation by producing safe and high-quality food. She voted on a mock bill which addressed making webpages and apps more accessible for disabled people, and then spoke in the general debate about the price of driver's licences.

She also attended a Labour Party caucus meeting and listened to question time.
"It seemed like an accurate representation of what an MP's day is like," she says. "When you see all the things that go on behind the scenes, you can respect more what they do."
In the press gallery, Leigh was rubbing shoulders with political reporters from TV, radio and print.

"They did a couple workshops with us, explaining how to do their job," she says. "They gave us some tips for social media - what to do and what to avoid. It was pretty insightful."

One tip was especially helpful.

"They told us to ask direct questions and not open-ended questions. Otherwise, you might get the wrong response."

Based on their experience, do the students think the country is in good hands? "I think the way they do things is good," says Rebecca. "But it's good to have a strong Opposition to keep you on your toes when you're in control."

- Napier Courier

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