After last week’s ‘disgraceful’ behaviour in parliament it seems to be getting even worse.
Winston Peter’s petulance earned him an ejection from the house – Peters ejected as soldier tribute marred.
But that wasn’t the only thing that exasperated the speaker, Lockwood Smith.
Speaker Lockwood Smith has been increasingly tetchy with rowdy MPs lately…
Dr Smith had already thrown Winston Peters out of the House for arguing with him, and even threatened to “name” the NZ First leader.
This should have put all MPs on notice that Dr Smith was on the rampage, as “naming” is a rare and serious parliamentary punishment – a trial-by-earbashing in which the entire House takes part.
After Mr Peters had stormed out in his usual dudgeon, Dr Smith turned his sights on Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce. Mr Joyce gives out sarcastic comments in the same emollient way a kindly aunt gives out sweeties, so doesn’t always get pinged for unparliamentary conduct.
But yesterday Dr Smith was on to him.
Mr Joyce’s smirk did not noticeably abate. He did not look noticeably more genuinely sorry, or indeed genuinely sorry at all. On the contrary, he looked rather pleased with himself. It was a tense instant.
It did not, however, distract Dr Smith from a further long lecture about sarcasm. “There’s been too much needling going on,” he chided.
If a question contained provocative inferences, it was OK for ministers to lob back a slightly salty reply. If they were asked a straight question, they had to give an answer without any digs.
Dr Smith reiterated that he wanted ministers “to resist the temptation” to be rude – predicting they wouldn’t have to resist it for long. Sure enough, Mr Cunliffe’s next questions were handily loaded with political digs.
Mr Joyce turned delightedly to Dr Smith, saying: “Mr Speaker, this must be the time that you were referring to!” and proceeded to describe Mr Cunliffe and Labour leader David Shearer as “co-leaders of the Labour Party” – provocation, but this time without penalty.
So there’s the new parliamentary rule: rudeness is OK, but only if the Opposition does it first.
The Opposition have been ‘doing it first’ for yonks. It’s a self perpetuating excuse for bad behaviour.
Winston Peters and Stephen Joyce may have thought they were just playing the same old game in parliament.
But outside parliament the voters have had a gutsful of the supposed leaders of the country resorting to childish bickering and abuse.
The Speaker needs to be pressured more by the public to deal with this. And decently behaved MPs should have the gumption to apply peer pressure.
Parliament should set an example for the country to follow, not to deplore.