NZ MPs give some parliamentary tips to Tonga

I’m just back from a useful parliamentary trip to Tonga. I was one of five NZ MPs there to explain how we did things in our Parliament.

The timing was good because elections for a parliament with full powers – the first in Tonga’s history – are due to take place on November 25.

About 50 candidates and prospective candidates turned up to the main workshop we ran. My topic was parliamentary transparency, rules of conduct, and how MPs hold the government to account.

Tonga is going through a momentous change. The constitution has been altered to remove the long-standing power of the King to appoint the Prime Minister and Cabinet. After the election that task will fall to a Parliament of 17 people’s representatives and 9 representatives from the Tongan nobles. To his credit, the King has gone along with the changes.

There will be a wide range of candidates including pro-democ

racy activists (such as

Akilisi Pohiva

) unionists (like PSA leader

Mele Aminaki

) and more traditional politicians. There are no registered political parties as such.

It was great to see such enthusiasm for the changes, and to be able to convey some of our experiences from a bigger and more developed Parliament.

MPs on the trip were Eric Roy (leader), Katrina Shanks, Maryan Street, Chris Hipkins and myself.