Although I’m not a government major or have a strong interest in politics, I had a lot of fun at the most recent Arcadia event. This past Wednesday Arcadia put together a visit for us at the parliament buildings which were only about a 15- 20 minute walk from the Kelburn campus. During this visit we learned a little about what New Zealand’s government is like, got to sit in on question time of the House of Representatives and then we got the chance to speak with Paul Foster Bell, a member of Parliament.
The first thing we did was go into an education room where we had a 10 minute presentation of how parliament works. The room is set up like a smaller version of the chamber that the members of the House of Representatives actually sit in. There is a beautifully designed chair for the Speaker at the head of the table, and in a U shaped design, the other members from the different parties sit. Some of the chairs that we sat in had titles sewed into them so that you can visualize the different people who actually sit in those seats in the chamber.
From the education room, we were given two stickers that gave us access to question time. Before we could actually go into the chamber, we went over how question time works. There are 12 questions that are chosen to be discussed, all of which can be directed to anyone in the room at the time. Depending on when you go, the questions will revolve around different topics. If you notice, some questions are quite vague and sound something like, “ Does [insert title and name] stand by the statements they made on [insert such topic]”? You don’t know what these questions really are until that question is finally ready to be discussed. When we had a general understanding of question time, we went into the chamber. We sat above the actual floor so we overlooked everyone in parliament. We came in about question 10.
I will be completely honest, it was not what I expected- officials in suits taking turn talking to one another and answering the questions being asked. Instead, members were shouting over one another when what was being said was against their own views. The members even said things to one another like “...I would expect someone with your title to already know the answer to that question…”. It was a really sass filled question time! When it was time to leave the chamber, we didn’t want to go!
After question time, we went back by the education room and waited for Paul Foster Bell. He told us about what his job is and what his days look like. From there we had the chance to ask him questions. We spent around 20 minutes with him and learned quite a bit. We also learned how U.S. politics are being talked about even in New Zealand.
Overall, it was a great time! Even if you don’t have an interest in politics or history, it is more than worth it to go to take a Peek at Parliament. It’s always nice to learn about another country’s government, especially one that is comparatively smaller to your own country’s.