Greens want to replace Parliament's bells with birdsong

The Green Party wants to replace Parliament's bells with birdsong.

"The bells are an absolutely horrible sound," MP Gareth Hughes told Newshub on Friday.

"I think most MPs are a little bit like me - they hear the bells, you get that sense of stress because you've got to race to the chamber."

The bells ring out whenever MPs are required in the House, and can often be heard in the background of TV interviews done on Parliament's bridge.

"Every time I'm hosting a meeting in my office and the bells go, people immediately think, 'Jeez, it's a fire alarm - do I need to evacuate the building?'" said Hughes. "They're more akin to fire alarms."

The Greens say replacing it with the sound of native birds would "be a pretty neat experience for visiting dignitaries or guests in the precinct".

"It's peaceful, it's iconic, it's uniquely New Zealand. It treasures our history and our native taonga species... who knows if the other parties will support it, but it's got to be better than the bells," said Hughes. 

Gareth Hughes.
Gareth Hughes. Photo credit: Gareth Hughes/Twitter

The suggestion is one of almost a dozen the Greens have suggested Parliament's Standing Orders Committee consider at its three-yearly review. Submissions closed at the end of October.

To prevent cross-party bickering over which avians to feature, the Greens have suggested:

  • changing it each day to match RNZ's 9am pre-news bird call
  • letting the Minister of Conservation choose, in consultation with other parties
  • updating it each year in line with the winner of Forest & Bird's 'Bird of the Year' competition.

"We've got some quirks in our Parliament - Member's Bills are pulled from a cookie tin from I think Deka or Farmers back in the '90s," said Hughes. "This could be another little iconically New Zealand quirk of our little Parliament."

On more serious matters, the Greens have also suggested restricting lobbyists' access to Parliament, having a blind vote to "depoliticise the election of the Speaker", giving the Opposition more questions at Question Time to reduce the number of patsies from Government MPs, and getting rid of the cookie tin choosing which Member's Bills get debated in Parliament.

"At the moment it's entirely up to the luck of the draw from this quirky cookie tin," said Hughes. 

"Major reforms - from marriage equality to homosexual law reform - have all been down to the luck of the draw... I believe if you could get  threshold - maybe 50 percent of MPs to sign a letter saying they'd support it - there's no good reason why this legislation shouldn't go straight to Parliament for a vote.

"Some MPs can go their entire career without getting a Bill drawn, so we should make it easier for good ideas and good laws to get voted on." 

David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill was a Member's Bill, and was voted into law - pending the result of next year's referendum - earlier this week.