Parliament to resume opening debate
By Peter Wilson
Parliament is about to plunge back into the strident, wide-ranging debate that marked its first sitting day of the year.
Prime Minister John Key kicked off the parliamentary year on Tuesday with a speech attacking Opposition parties over their stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The government signed the 12-nation free trade agreement last week amid protests and demonstrations, which Labour and the Greens aren't letting him forget.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei vowed her party would fight the TPP all the way, and was hoping it would never be implemented.
"We're going to dog the Government for years over this," she said.
Mr Key told parliament it was a tremendous trade deal for New Zealand.
"It's going to eliminate 93 percent of tariffs, open up exports to 800 million consumers, the value to New Zealand is $2.7 billion."
Cabinet Minister Michael Woodhouse said Maori protesters should think about the consequences for those who worked in the meat industry if New Zealand wasn't part of the TPP.
"Their jobs would be lost if Australia's lamb tariffs were reduced or eliminated, and New Zealand's weren't," he said.
"The upside of the TPP is very good, the downside is dramatically bad for this country."
Labour leader Andrew Little kicked off the debate on Mr Key's opening speech.
He said the Government's handling of the TPP had been "diabolical" and it hadn't had the confidence in the public to allow open debate before it was signed.
Green Party co-leader James Shaw said the Government should acknowledge the reality of the TPP.
"Stop telling us that it's good for all New Zealanders and start being honest about who gains and loses," he said.
"Because, as usual with this National government, most of the gains and most of the profits are privatised and most of the costs are socialised ... it's just not that great."
MPs can talk about anything during the opening debate and they're ranging from housing to health and welfare.