David Carter is struggling as new Speaker. It’s a daunting task countrolling a house of harangers and Carter is finding the initial going tough.
Cam Slater at Truth slates Carter:
Despite all my warnings to the contrary, and because of a shabby little back room deal the man who never wanted to be Speaker is. The results so far are dreadful and I suggest it won’t improve.
Mike Smith at The Standard:
Oh dear. Lockwood Smith was by common consent one of the best Speakers we’ve had. David Carter seems to be heading in a different direction. Lockwood required Ministers to give direct answers. Today in the House Carter gave the answer for Hekia Parata, interpreting her words to get her off the hook. He may well have put himself on one though, if that is the way he is going to go.
Jane Clifton at Stuff in About The House:
Adding to the Opposition’s frustration was that when Mr Key gave his more elliptical answers, new Speaker David Carter, in a misguided attempt to keep the peace, tried to interpret them.
His interpretations led even the mild-tempered Labour leader David Shearer to say tersely that he was entitled to a clear answer from the prime minister, not a disputable interpretation from the Speaker of what he might have meant.
Increasingly flustered, to the point of referring to Winston Peters as “prime minister”, Mr Carter tried to enforce peace from on high by making two new rulings.
One was made after a row with Greens co-leader Metiria Turei, in which he forbade her to table a transcript of a radio interview with Mr Key.
The rules disallow tabling of news items and other freely available material. When their exchange became dangerously fractious, Mr Carter ruled that MPs were henceforth only to table “documents that I feel will be of benefit to the debate”.
Opposition MPs’ eyebrows rose as fast as their jaws dropped. This was unbridled Speakerly power.
Mr Carter tried to shut down further unpleasantness by reminding MPs that Standing Orders made him the arbiter of the quality of questions and answers.
On that basis he ruled that the prime minister had every right to respond in a political vein to Ms Turei’s questions.“Point of order! Which Standing Order says that?” the Greens’ Russel Norman asked with some belligerence.
“Oh, we’re not getting into quoting Standing Orders,” Mr Carter said grumpily – forgetting that he just had.
He unwittingly caused a further dust-up when he tried to enjoy an oasis of light relief. Mr Key was taunting Mr Peters with one of his old controversies, the “scampi” scandal, and Mr Carter was unwise enough to share the Government benches’ amusement.
“You might well smile there, Mr Speaker,” Mr Peters barked at him, “but you were sued on that issue yourself so I would not get too happy about that!”
Mr Carter’s one consolation was that even if the Speaker is not always right, the office confers a degree of immunity, enshrined in the final Standing Order he managed to quote – and with great severity: “The member must not bring the Speaker into the debate!”
Parliamentary Speaker is a tough job – and someone new to the job will find it hard dealing with seasoned pushers of boundaries and avoiders of questions.
How was Lockwood Smith when he first started in the job? I doubt he would have earned instant control or respect.
Carter looks easily flustered. Time will tell whether he grows into the job or keeps blustering his way through it. In the meantime we can expect a lot of frustration from the opposition.
National MPs would help the Speaker – and Parliament – if they supported Carter and didn’t abuse their speaking rights and obligations in the House.
If Parliament descends into more chaos than usual John Key will have to take some of the responsibility. It seems that he pushed a reluctant Carter into the job, so if the job isn’t done reasonably and fairly then Key will have to deal with it or be dealt the responsibility card.