We have just had our sixth MMP election. Whether you railed at objectionable policy announcements by politicians or cheered politicians for adopting sensible policies in the national interest, voting to determine the government and who will be in Parliament will have provided some cathartic release.
So what can we expect from our newly elected MPs over the next three years? Has anything changed?
No government is ever the same, although this one comes close to the last one. We now effectively have a six-year term for new governments, our last single term government being in 1972 (Labour). After a short election campaign after the RWC, we are now back to business as usual.
National will have confidence and supply agreements in place with Act and United Future to be able to form a government by the end of this week. After that, it will have the 62 MP votes needed to pass legislation by a majority and probably also to take urgency when they want, as the support agreements will likely include support on procedural motions.
Thus, although Parliament will be noisier and more colourful with NZ First and Winston Peters butting heads with likely Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee in the Business Committee, and asking interesting questions of ministers at question time, it won't affect the passage of legislation. Winston knows House procedure very well, being a 28-year veteran of Parliament.
The holdup in swearing in new ministers will be the hui the Maori party are currently holding among their supporters to get a mandate to become a government support partner. If the Maori Party agree, which is likely, then ministers will be sworn in in the week starting December 12 when the Maori party's confidence and supply agreement with National will be completed.
The Greens are also likely to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government and to chair some important select committees.
Then it will be full steam ahead with implementing National's "Post-Election Action Plan", which was announced shortly before the election.
The Action Plan sets out, in no particular order, National's priorities, including implementation of the mixed-ownership model; the "Starting Out Wage" (code for youth wage); amending the RMA to put a six-month time limit on consents for medium-sized projects; changes to ACC to allow greater choice in the work account; and updating the Maritime Transport Act. Some of these will require empowering legislation. There will also be implementation of the concessions National negotiates with its support parties in the support agreements.
The greatest difference in this new Parliament will be the people. National is now faced with a large caucus of experienced MPs who will be vying for ministerial posts.
Personalities matter particularly in ministerial posts, where the seniority of the person and their ability to create momentum to successfully drive reform will affect what we experience as citizens at the other end of this process.
Now retired minister Simon Power is a good example of an effective operator whose killer ability to implement left the legislative and regulatory frameworks in his portfolios of Justice and Commerce fundamentally changed.
Parliament is likely to sit on December 20 and rise for Christmas on December 22. The Speech from the Throne, likely to be delivered by the Governor-General in the week before Christmas, will give a clearer indication of the Government's priorities for the next three years.
All business before the House at the expiration of Parliament lapses, but may be reinstated under the Constitution Act 1986 in the first session of the next Parliament by a majority vote. Reinstated business is resumed at the stage it reached in the previous Parliament. Expect the Government's order paper to remain largely unchanged.
Lastly, the referendum result means MMP is here to stay. The Electoral Commission will now review MMP and, given that in general, New Zealanders don't support big constitutional bangs, the commission is likely to recommend a few constitutional tweaks.
The Prime Minister has said any recommendations by the Electoral Commission to improve MMP will not be implemented without another referendum. Provided no changes are made to the reserve provisions of the Electoral Act 1993, there remains no law that requires a referendum on constitutional reform, although a convention to this effect appears be evolving.
Mai Chen is partner in Chen Palmer and author of the forthcoming book Public Law Toolbox.