Youth MPs grill ministers on mental health, inflation, Ukraine

By Achim Hanne* for rnz.co.nz  and is republished with permission.

Government Ministers were faced with a series of challenging questions at Parliament on Tuesday on a wide variety of subjects, including mental health challenges, New Zealand’s history curriculum, and the troubles caused by rising inflation.

Youth MP Lilii Tuila asks a question during Question Time at the 2022 Youth Parliament.
Youth MP Lilii Tuila asks a question during Question Time at the 2022 Youth Parliament. (Source: New Zealand Parliament/The Office of the Clerk)

While for all intents and purposes this may appear to be a normal day at Parliament, there was one major difference: no question was asked by anyone older than eighteen.

Youth Parliament 2022 is a triennial event, being held this year by the Ministry of Youth Development and the Office of the Clerk from 19 to 20 July.

Each of the 120 Youth Members of Parliament is selected by a member of the New Zealand Parliament, and will be given the chance to address the House over the course of the event.

Youth MP Simon Xiao asks a question during Question Time at the 2022 Youth Parliament.
Youth MP Simon Xiao asks a question during Question Time at the 2022 Youth Parliament. (Source: New Zealand Parliament/The Office of the Clerk)

Of these Youth MPs, 24 had the opportunity on Tuesday morning to question Government ministers on subjects relating to their portfolios.

Mental health, especially youth mental health, was kept in a keen focus by several speakers but other topics, such as inflation and the current crisis in Ukraine, were key highlights as well.

Among the questions, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was asked about how prepared New Zealand is to ward off the threat of foreign interference in elections, while Defence Minister Peeni Henare was asked about the country’s response to emerging risks to the sovereignty in Pacific regional countries.

Early in the session, Minister of Finance Grant Robertson was pressed by Quinn Rimmer, the Youth MP representing ACT list MP Simon Court, on the minister’s past decisions regarding New Zealand’s Covid-19 response.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson answers questions from Youth MPs regarding economic inflation, July 19, 2022.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson answers questions from Youth MPs regarding economic inflation, July 19, 2022. (Source: New Zealand Parliament/The Office of the Clerk)

Robertson held to his decisions, saying that he stood by every choice he made in the context of what was going on when he made it. Quinn, however, said that this is not enough.

“While [Robertson] did answer my questions to a level of satisfaction, it was not complete, and his economic analysis was flawed. The $350 cost of Living Relief Payment is untargeted as anyone earning under $70,000 a year will be adding to inflation through their spending.”

Youth MPs have the opportunity to discuss a variety of different subjects over the course of the Youth Parliament event. The questions posed to ministers were written by the Youth MPs themselves based on what they are most passionate about.

All Youth MPs will also have an opportunity during Youth Parliament general debate to deliver a speech on a topic of interest to them. The opinions expressed by Youth MPs are their own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the MP that they represent.

*Achim Hanne is a member of the Youth Press Gallery which takes the role of independent media reporting on Youth MPs and Youth Parliament 2022.

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