Members of Parliament 


What is the role of Parliament?
What’s the difference between the Government and Parliament?    
What is a Member of Parliament?
How do I become an MP?
What is an electorate?
What is the difference between an MP and a Minister?
How many MPs does New Zealand have?
Who are the current MPs?
Who are the current Ministers?


What is the role of Parliament?


Parliament has many activities and purposes including
  • making new laws: a lot of Parliamentary business is about making new laws or amending old ones
  • examining and approving Government taxes and spending: the Government has to get consent from Parliament to spend money or change taxes
Holding the Government to account through:
  • question time – this is held daily, and members can ask Ministers about how they’re managing the country
  • select committee inquiries: a select committee inquiry can carry out an investigation on the Government’s performance

 

What’s the difference between Government and Parliament?

Government and Parliament are often confused – but they’re actually two very separate things.

Parliament consists of the Sovereign (represented by the Governor-General) and the House of Representatives (elected Members of Parliament - MPs - who represent the people of New Zealand).

MPs make new laws and change existing laws, and make sure the Government is making the right decisions while spending its budget and carrying out the law .

Government is the group that is in power and carries out the laws. It is made up of the members of parliament who belong to the party (or parties) that received the most votes in the general election. The Prime Minister and Ministers are chosen from these MPs. (What is the difference between an MP and a Minister?) Each Minister has one or more portfolios, or a specific area that they deal with and run. For example, John Key is the Prime Minister, but he is also the Minister for Tourism.


What is a Member of Parliament?

A Member of Parliament, or MP, is a representative of the people in the House of Representatives.

The role of a Member of Parliament is varied.  An MP's duties include scrutinising, debating, developing and changing legislation.  Their work includes communicating with the media and the public about the issues they are involved in.

The things which influence an MP's work include the values, policies and objectives of their party, their own personal values, the views of the public and of interest groups/organisations, and, if they are an Electorate MP, the issues facing their own Electorate area and the views of people from within their Electorate.     
  


How do I become an MP?

In an election, as a voter you get two votes: one for a person to represent your electorate and one for the political party you want to form the government. You might choose an electorate MP from a different party to the one you give your party vote to.

Therefore, you can become an MP in two different ways. You can become an electorate MP by being elected by the people in that community. Otherwise, you can become a “list MP”, which means you are chosen by your political party and given a ranking on their list. The number of people on that list who become MPs depends on how many party votes the party wins.  If you are high up on the list, you are more likely to get a seat in the House.   

You can both stand for a particular electorate, and be included on the party list.


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What is an electorate?

An electorate, or an electoral district, is a geographic area of voters who are enrolled to vote in an election. Voters will normally go to a polling booth in their electoral district to cast their votes on election day.  If a voter is going to be outside their electoral district on that day, they can cast a special vote.

Each electorate is represented in Parliament by an elected MP; therefore, the MP representing your electorate - the electorate you live in -  is the MP representing you in Parliament.


What is the difference between an MP and a Minister?

MPs are representatives of the public in Parliament.  They gain the position of MP either :

  • by winning the majority of electorate votes in their electoral district or
  • because their party gained at least 5% of the party vote in a general election and they were sufficiently high up on their party's list to become a list MP.

 
So in an MMP parliamentary system, such as the one we have in New Zealand, there may be MPs in Parliament who come from a variety of different political parties with very different values and policies.

Ministers are chosen by the Prime Minister so they will usually come from within the coalition (or grouping) of political parties that form the Government.  The role of a Minister is a very powerful one as Ministers look after particular portfolios, or areas of Government services, such as health, education, welfare, or finance.  Ministers set the policy direction and the priorities for their Departments.  The heads of the Government Departments (which provide the services to the public) are answerable to their Ministers.        


How many MPs does New Zealand have?


The total number of MPs can vary from one election to the next. For example, if a political party wins more electorate seats than the number determined by the party vote, those extra seats (known as "overhang seats") are not taken out of the 120. This results in an increase of the total number of MPs, at least until the next election.

Currently there are 121 MPs in Parliament - 70 MPs are elected by the public to represent the different electorates or areas (including 7 Maori electorate MPs) and the rest are selected from party lists in proportion to the number of votes cast for each party. The party lists are ranked by the party and made public before the election – the higher someone is on the list, the more likely they are to get a seat in Parliament.  


Who are the current MPs?


You can find out who the current Members of Parliament are, and what party they belong to, by visiting the New Zealand Parliament website.


Who are the current Ministers?


A list of the current Ministers in cabinet is available online at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet website