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Ringside view of Parliament fosters knowledge

Ringside view-Shail Kaushal in Youth Parliament.jpgWhat are the steps that Members of Parliament should take to curb binge drinking among teenagers in this country?

How can this menace be stopped, or at least controlled?

What goes on behind the closed doors of Party Caucus?

Is life as a lawmaker useful and fulfilling?

These and other questions were answered as a group of 122 privileged teenagers, each representing a Member of Parliament attended the Youth Parliament in Wellington on July 6 and 7.

I was privileged to represent Labour MP Dr Rajen Prasad. At the outset, I was nervous and anxious that I should not fail one of the greatest personalities in our society and community. His training however had instilled confidence in me.

Beginning with a Powhiri in Parliament Building, Speaker Dr Lockwood Smith, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett and Opposition Leader Phil Goff welcomed us, followed by video messages from Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand and Prime Minister John Key.

Select Committees

It was time for Select Committee meetings. I was appointed to the Social Services Select Committee (representing Dr Prasad), where we discussed ways and means of addressing the problem of alcohol addiction among our teenagers and measures needed to stop binge drinking.

Select Committees are an essential part of the democratic process in New Zealand. All Members of Parliament are members of at least one Select Committee. New statutes, amendments to existing laws and such other issues are discussed at these meetings. Select Committee members have the responsibility of promoting the views of the party they represent at these meetings and brief their party leaders and members at regular meetings.

Caucus Meetings

Party Caucus meetings are among the most important gatherings of Members of Parliament. These meetings are held in camera and unless invited by the Leader of the Party on special occasions, outsiders are not allowed. Caucus meetings are perhaps the only platform for MPs to air their personal views and convey the opinion of their electorate or communities that they represent.

I obtained a glimpse of the way Labour Party Caucus meetings are held in Wellington and what is expected of MPs.

Later, we attended a special conference at the Beehive Theatre with Taika Waititi (director and star) and watched his movie ‘Boy.’

Our Select Committee meeting continued on July 7. We wrapped up our discussions and chose a member to represent at the debating chamber later in the day.

The Parliamentary session was interesting and informative. Question Time was among the most interesting sections of Youth Parliament.

After seeking clarifications from the Government on current affairs and other pending issues of national and international significance, we discussed issues affecting the country. Thereafter, Dr Smith invited chosen “MPs” to present their views on matters before the House. Opposition MPs’ constantly challenged the treasury benches.

It was amazing when Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee spoke about the controversial issue of mining. “You should then give up luxuries like ‘Walkmans,’ if you do not want mining in New Zealand,” he said.

As the Speaker adjourned the House and as we prepared to return home, we were satisfied that it was a great experience.

Shail Kaushal was a ‘Youth MP’ at the Youth Parliament at the ‘real’ Parliament Wellington on July 6 and 7. He represented Labour MP Dr Rajen Prasad. The picture shows him delivering his speech.

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