ICYMI: Here is what you might have missed in Parliament  

Parliament sg PAP

Day 1: Housing aspirations, childcare and the revival of a long-forgotten feud 

There were several issues on our minds when Parliament reconvened on Monday (Sep 18). But before we could get down to the bread-and-butter of things, Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Mr Leong Mun Wai, demanded a formal apology on record, in the Hansard, from Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan. All for a private remark made two years ago. It does not get more superfluous than this.

At this point, Speaker Mr Seah Kian Peng had the good sense to declare that the complaint was “out of time”. It should have been made, at the earliest opportunity as required under the Standing Order, said Mr Seah.

With that settled, we moved on to matters of greater urgency. For a start, Minister of State (MOS) Sun Xueling provided an update on the Kinderland affair, reassuring parents that multi-layered safeguards are in place to keep our young ones safe.  

Next, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee explained how the refreshed housing framework will keep homeownership affordable and ensure a good social mix. Not surprisingly, the solution is not a Soviet-style price distortion of below-cost flats.  

Instead, it is about altering behaviour, where stipulations such as a 10-year minimum occupation period (MOP) and a ban on whole-unit rental for Prime and Plus flats will signal that HDB homes are strictly for owner occupation, not speculative investment. 

Of course, no Parliament session is complete without Orders of the Day. Besides an Immigration Bill to digitise and strengthen border control, there was a spirited debate on the Child Development Co-Savings Bill. When passed, it will provide fathers with four weeks of paid paternity leave and increase unpaid infant care leave from six to 12 days. 

Perhaps more can be done, but these are still strides in the right direction, not only at building a Singapore Made for Families but also shifting caregiving stereotypes and promoting gender equality. As MP Ms Mariam Jaafar (Sembawang GRC) shared in support of the Bill, “If we want greater equality of opportunity for women, we need to provide greater equality for men at home.” 

Day 2: Cost-of-living, rule of law and keeping workplaces safe 

There is no escaping inflation, as cost-of-living matters took centre stage on the second day of Parliament (Sep 19).  

Recognising the stresses Singaporeans face with healthcare costs, MP Mr Ang Wei Neng (West Coast GRC) is pushing to raise the income criteria for blue and orange Community Health Assistance Scheme (CHAS) cards. Meanwhile, MP Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC) is worried about how an increase in school bus fares would affect students, especially those with special education needs who rely on them more.  

In addition, MPs Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) and MP Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Bukit Panjang SMC) have expressed concern about the impact of rising food and energy prices on lower and middle-income groups.  

Responding to these questions (and more), Minister of State (MOS) for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan noted that inflation in Singapore has eased in recent months and should slow further for the rest of the year. There was also more good news from Senior Minister of State for Finance Chee Hong Tat, who announced that the Government is studying further enhancements to the Assurance Package to help Singaporeans through these difficult times.  

By now, we are halfway through Parliament, which saw MP Pereira moving the second reading for the Society of Saint Maur Incorporation Bill. As obscure as it is, the Bill also highlights the dedication of our MPs who speak up for various clauses, even ones unlikely to attract eyeballs. 

Trudging on, we reached the main event. Leader of the House Indranee Rajah looked solemn, but who wouldn’t when dealing with a Motion undermining the Rule of Law? As Minister Indranee had rightly pointed out, PSP is moving a Motion to suspend Mr Iswaran solely to cut off his MP allowance. All of which sounds like a playground tiff, especially since there is no legal basis. Which might explain why nobody, not even Opposition members, voted in solidarity for it.   

In the end, it fell on MP Mr Melvin Yong (Radin Mas SMC) to conclude September’s Parliament session with an adjournment motion to keep workplaces safe. It was a befitting end, and a reminder of what Parliament stands for – a platform where MPs can speak up for underserved communities and provide suggestions to improve the lives of all Singaporeans.  

Photo Source: Desmond Lee/ Seah Kian Peng/ Joan Pereira/ Liang Eng Hwa/ Melvin Yong via Facebook