On Wednesday David Carter had a difficult day in Parliament, causing consternation amongst opposition MPs with some apparently new rulings and with his interpretation of Minister’s questions, and receiving criticism in media and on blogs – see Carter struggling as Speaker.
This resurfaced from the start of Question Time yesterday when opposition MPs raised the issue of the Speaker making interpretations of answers in his own words.
However Carter was prepared, had taken advice and dealt with it by saying he would no longer interpret answers.
In future what I will do is not attempt to reinterpret the answer, but will rule simply whether the question has been addressed to my satisfaction…
Simple and effective – either rule that the answer was adequate or appropriate to the manner of the question, or request the Minister answer the question properly.
…and, therefore, I do not think that members can expect me to continue to justify the decisions that are made.
Fair call, justifications require interpretations which leads to the Speaker putting the question in his words, not the Minister’s.
This was a much better performance from the Speaker, he was well prepared, assertive and remained in control.
A relatively subdued and orderly Question Time followed.
Carter learned quickly from his mistakes and uncertainties from the previous day. He is making his own mark as Speaker, this will take some time but if he continues as he went on Thursday and is reasonmable and fair with his rulings he may be a very good speaker.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The issue we have is that in effect it is not me who has brought the Speaker into the debate; it is the Speaker who has brought the Speaker into the debate by giving an interpretation that today has been contradicted by Mr Joyce answering on behalf of the Prime Minister. It leaves the Opposition in a very difficult position in terms of being able to hold the Prime Minister to account when an interpretation is given by the Speaker and then it is contradicted by the Minister.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the difficulty arises where the Speaker interprets the answer, because members on both sides are then left not able to refer to what is then put in Hansard by the Speaker in any way other than to pretend a fiction. We have here the Prime Minister saying that the interpretation that the Speaker put on the Prime Minister’s comments yesterday was wrong. I think that leads to the view that I think has been put by Mr Brownlee previously, as well as by Opposition members, that this is where we get to when the Speaker interprets the answer that is given by a Minister rather than requiring the Minister to answer for him or herself.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I do not think that New Zealand First would oppose the proposition that you can interpret the Minister or the Minister’s answer, providing that that is the answer that binds the Minister as well. If the Minister wants to be excused from that, they must get up and immediately rebut it; otherwise it stands in their name, and it means we can have a meaningful question time.
But Carter had obviously given things some thought, had done his homework and had sought advice. He responded with a change of approach to dealing with whether questions were answered properly or not.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept the points raised are genuine. I accept the difficulty with this particular issue is my attempt to interpret an answer yesterday. The difficulty I am faced with is that on numerous occasions yesterday members who had asked a question then felt that question had not been adequately addressed. In future what I will do is not attempt to reinterpret the answer, but will rule simply whether the question has been addressed to my satisfaction, and, therefore, I do not think that members can expect me to continue to justify the decisions that are made. The situation we have here today is that we are now relitigating rulings that I made yesterday, which will lead only to disorder. So I am concluding this matter.
InTheHouse video: 21.2.13 – Question 1: Grant Robertson to the Prime Minister
Full transcript of the question and exchange on procedures: 1. Skycity, Convention Centre—Negotiations