MPs are back in the House

By Amelia Romanos

File photo / NZPA
File photo / NZPA

Parliament has resumed for its first sitting of 2012.

State asset sales, the Rena disaster, and the potential Crafar farms sale are among the topics the Government will be tested on in the year's first Question Time today.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman is questioning State Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall about what steps he has taken to ensure New Zealanders get first dibs on shares in the state-owned power companies slated for sale, while Labour deputy leader Grant Robertson is questioning Environment Minister Nick Smith about the clean up cost since the Rena container ship grounded last year.

Labour's David Parker is asking Prime Minister John Key about whether his ministers made the right decision regarding the approval for a Chinese company to purchase the Crafar farms.

Labour leader David Sharer and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters will also have turns questioning Mr Key today, asking respectively about the Prime Minister's confidence in the stability of the Government, and his confidence in his ministers.

Following Question Time, the first item of business is the continuation of the address in reply debate, which includes maiden speeches from new MPs.

Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee told APNZ the debate, which began last year and has 16 hours remaining, would be intermingled with Government business - much of which was being carried over from last term.

New legislation for the Government's partial state asset sales plans has already been flagged as a priority, and Mr Brownlee signalled legislation for welfare reform would also be high on the list.

Both plans have been met by vehement criticism from the Opposition, and are certain to be among some of the most controversial debates this year.

Mr Brownlee was under no illusion that all the legislation would sail smoothly through Parliament, saying "There'll be opposition to it, not everybody voted for us and not everybody likes everything we do" but that certain pieces of legislation were critical to the Government's programme.

Shadow Leader of the House Trevor Mallard agreed the two issues would draw fierce debate, and suggested legislation for charter schools would also be controversial.

Mr Mallard said it would be interesting to see how Parliament's new make up would affect voting numbers - Act having shrunk from five MPs to one, and New Zealand First having returned.

"It's MMP at its most interesting, where a Government is going to be searching for people to support particular bits of legislation. Other than confidence votes there's no guaranteed majority for any of it."

- APNZ

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