Speaker troubles – Key’s and Shearer’s responsibility

In an escalation of a running battle between Labour and the Speaker, two Labour MPs (Trevor Mallard and Chris Hipkins) were expelled from the House during question time yesterday. It has been brewing since David Carter was appointed as speaker last month.

ONE News reporter Simon Bradwell tweeted that today’s events have been a long time coming and the Opposition and Speaker have been on collision course from day one.

There has been growing frustration amongst the opposition that Ministers are getting away too much with not answering questions adequately – there’s some justification for their complaints, it is common for Ministers to avoid giving direct answers.

But there are also indications that Labour MPs are manufacturing mayhem to try and unsettle Carter. It’s hard to understand their aim, if Carter got sick of all the crap and stood down another speaker would take his place – and that wouldn’t be Trevor Mallard, despite his ambitions. New speaker, new attacks, same sad kindergarten antics.

Another complaint is that Ministers are making political jibes with impunity while opposition MPs are being reprimanded by Carter. Again there is some justification for this complaint, but it is overstated, Carter is frequently interupting Ministers and criticising them when he notices them launching into an unnecessary taunt.

John Key is one of National’s main offenders (and Labour’s main target) – and in my opinion, while some political banter is an appropriate part of the parliamentary game, I think Key does this too much.

When things flared up yesterday Key was the centre of attention and attack, and he deliberately kept pouring more petrol in an incendiary environment. That was poor from him, and made Carter’s job much harder. He was eventually asked to withdraw a comment after much prompting from the opposition.

But Labour MPs over-reacted, and it’s easy to suspect they deliberately self-martyred to try and attract attention.

First was Trevor Mallard, who nows exactly who things work in Parliament, so must have either lost control of himself, or deliberately challenged the Speaker to see what he would do.

Tension had been brewing for some time until:

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No. We are not doing further points of order on this.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: If it is a fresh point of order, I will entertain it, but if it is a continuation of the other, then I will be asking the member to leave the Chamber. So if it is a fresh point of order—

Hon Trevor Mallard: Yes, it is an absolutely fresh point of order. The point of order is whether you have rewritten the Standing Orders—

Mr SPEAKER: The member is now—[Interruption] Order!

Hon Trevor Mallard: Sit down until I am finished. For goodness’ sake!

Mr SPEAKER: The member will now leave the Chamber. The member will leave the Chamber.

That was disgraceful from Mallard, no matter what frustrartion he may have felt.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder if you could clarify for the House what the point of order Trevor Mallard was going to raise was, because we have not heard it.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I had determined very quickly that it was a relitigation of the matters that have been raised. [Interruption] I have so ruled. Does the member have further supplementary questions?

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Is it a fresh point of order?

Chris Hipkins: It is a fresh point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: If it is a fresh point of order, I will entertain it. Otherwise I will deal with the—

Chris Hipkins: I am now going to raise with you the point of order that Mr Mallard was going to raise, which—

Mr SPEAKER: No. That is now relitigating—

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will now leave the Chamber.

More disgraceful challenging of the Speaker, this time from Labour’s Chief Whip. If he is out of control what does that say about the Labour benches?

And as soon as he left the house Hipkins started to complain on Twitter. He should be whinging at his own stupidity.

Green MP Gareth Hughes  blogged last night:

How would you rate Speaker Carter’s performance?

Question Time is an important part of our parliamentary democracy. How do you think the new Speaker is going in refereeing it?

Some might throw their hands up in the air and consider this typical politics and unfixable but I disagree. In a Parliamentary system where checks and balances on executive power are few and far between, Question Time is an important channel through which we can make sure the elected Government is held accountable.

I responded:

You shouldn’t just be considering the performance of the Speaker, who is in very difficult position.

Serious questions should be asked of National and their behaviour and disrespect for the chair – including John Key. National should be able to be held to account in a fair and reasonable way.

But serious questions should also be asked of Labour, how they are attacking the chair and disrupting the House. They had good cause to be annoyed today, but the way they dealt with it was disgraceful and they deserved to be ejected – in fact it looked very much like that was what they were forcing to try and score some sort of “poor us” point.

The two largest parties both need to get their house in order. Then the Speaker may be able to concentrate on doing his job – with the support of the House.

There was a response to this from Alex Perrottet · Contributing Editor, Pacific Media Watch at Pacific Media Centre, AUT University

Totally agree with Pete. They were kicked out of Parliament for being disrespectful to the Speaker, clearly. Mallard has a terrible manner.

Norman raises his objections with decorum, as does Peters. But Labour were terrible.

The one thing stopping the Parliament descending into (too much) farce is that the Speakers word goes and people shut up and move on.

There are other forums, outside the Parliament to discuss the Speaker’s handling of Parliamentary matters.It’s early days for him – he’ll hopefully warm into the role. It takes longer for some, and at the moment he looks pretty incompetent but at least he stands his ground – and kicking out Mallard and Hipkins was the right thing to do.

The National and Labour leaders should take control of their benches and insist on a far better standard of behaviour. Otherwise the Question Time farce will continue to present a terrible impression of Parliament and MPs.

John Key and David Shearer should address this ongoing disgrace, urgently.

The full video to see it all unravel is here:

27.3.13 – Question 12: Grant Robertson to the Minister responsible for the GCSB

Full draft transcript:

12. Government Communications Security Bureau—February 2012 Briefings

[Sitting date: 27 March 2013. Volume:688;Page:13. Text is subject to correction.]

12. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister responsible for the GCSB: Did GCSB Director Ian Fletcher attend the three briefings he received from GCSB in February 2012; if not, which, if any, of the briefings did Ian Fletcher attend?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Minister responsible for the GCSB) : I am advised that Ian Fletcher was present on the three occasions I met with the Government Communications Security Bureau in February 2012.

Grant Robertson: Noting his previous statements that he is not briefed on operational matters by the Government Communications Security Bureau, was he briefed on the outcomes of Government Communications Security Bureau operations at his 24 February meeting?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Not on the advice I have of the notes of that meeting.

Grant Robertson: Given that answer, what are the meetings he has with the Government Communications Security Bureau about?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is not my normal practice to answer those details, but, because the member is so prone to conspiracy theories, the director came to me to sign a warrant and I signed it on the 24th.

Grant Robertson: Given that the Government Communications Security Bureau received an email from police on 22 February 2012 that indicated that the three targets of the Dotcom surveillance were New Zealand residents and therefore the surveillance was in breach of the Government Communications Security Bureau rules, does he not think that Ian Fletcher should have informed him of that at his meeting 2 days later?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, the correct process was that the situation in terms of the legality of the actions that the Government Communications Security Bureau had undertaken in relation to Operation Debut needed to be clarified. The bureau went to its chief legal adviser. The chief legal adviser advised the bureau that it was legal. As we all know, that was actually wrong.

Grant Robertson: What role, if any, did he play in recommending the appointment of Ian Fletcher as Director of the Government Communications Security Bureau?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: His appointment was made by the State Services Commissioner, but if the member is trying to make some other allegation, then yes, I knew Ian Fletcher. I went to school with his brother. His brother was way brighter than Grant Robertson—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! And that answer does not assist the order of the House.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The point of order will be heard in silence.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Six times yesterday you ruled against the Prime Minister—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member please make—

Hon Trevor Mallard: Six times yesterday you ruled against the Prime Minister for making comments that were out of order—at least. Earlier when the Rt Hon Winston Peters made an out of order comment he was required to withdraw. You have never done that to the Prime Minister, and I just want to know whether it is going to be even both ways.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot be expected to withdraw that Grant Robertson is not as bright as Alistair Fletcher. He is not.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! The Prime Minister addressed the question and then added a remark that was not helpful to the order of the House. I moved immediately to stop him. I have now moved on. Does the member—[Interruption] Order! Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you going to now deal with the—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have dealt with—[Interruption] Order!

Hon Trevor Mallard: You did not deal with the Prime Minister—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have dealt with the matter. I have dealt—[Interruption] Order! The member will stand and withdraw that comment.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I withdraw.

Mr SPEAKER: Thank you.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You ruled that the Prime Minister’s comment was out of order. He then used the point of order process to repeat it, clearly in breach of your ruling and trying to overturn your authority here. You must ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that comment, because otherwise he is completely in breach of your ruling.

Mr SPEAKER: I accept that point. I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that comment, but I am not addressing any further the issue of his earlier answer. Would the Prime Minister withdraw?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I withdraw.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Is it a fresh point of order?

Hon Trevor Mallard: It is.

Mr SPEAKER: Good. We will hear a fresh point of order.

Hon Trevor Mallard: It is a suggestion that in future you listen to a point of order. You would have heard exactly the one that Russel Norman made.

Mr SPEAKER: I listen very intently to points of order. I listen—[Interruption] Order! I remind members that the gallery is here watching the proceedings of this Parliament. [Interruption] Order! I listen very intently. I do not always hear the points of order accurately because of the level of background noise in this Chamber. Does the Prime Minister—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You saw fit earlier today to threaten not to allow any more questions from me today. The Prime Minister for the seventh time in 2 days repeated his offence. I heard no such threat from you in respect of his ability to take part in this House in terms of question time, and I want to know why he did not receive a similar threat.

Mr SPEAKER: Because I would have thought it was extremely obvious to the member that if other members want to ask the Prime Minister any question, they expect an answer. Has the member—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No. We are not doing further points of order on this.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: If it is a fresh point of order, I will entertain it, but if it is a continuation of the other, then I will be asking the member to leave the Chamber. So if it is a fresh point of order—

Hon Trevor Mallard: Yes, it is an absolutely fresh point of order. The point of order is whether you have rewritten the Standing Orders—

Mr SPEAKER: The member is now—[Interruption] Order!

Hon Trevor Mallard: Sit down until I am finished. For goodness’ sake!

Mr SPEAKER: The member will now leave the Chamber. The member will leave the Chamber.

  • Hon Trevor Mallard withdrew from the Chamber.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder if you could clarify for the House what the point of order Trevor Mallard was going to raise was, because we have not heard it.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I had determined very quickly that it was a relitigation of the matters that have been raised. [Interruption] I have so ruled. Does the member have further supplementary questions?

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Is it a fresh point of order?

Chris Hipkins: It is a fresh point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: If it is a fresh point of order, I will entertain it. Otherwise I will deal with the—

Chris Hipkins: I am now going to raise with you the point of order that Mr Mallard was going to raise, which—

Mr SPEAKER: No. That is now relitigating—

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will now leave the Chamber.

  • Chris Hipkins withdrew from the Chamber.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave for the Labour Party to be given a chance for its point of order in the name of Mr Mallard to be put.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I do not know whether it is appropriate for the member to seek leave on behalf of another party, but to clear the matter up we will put the leave that the Rt Hon Winston Peters has put. Is there any objection? There is. Has the member got further supplementary questions?

Hon Lianne Dalziel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like you to rule on the question of referring to members of the gallery in debate or in the House, because that is what you did as Speaker. You referred to who was in the gallery. That is not something that we are allowed to do as members of the House, because it is against the Standing Orders to refer to the gallery and that influencing behaviour in the House.

Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate that point that the member is making. She is quite right. It is not appropriate for members to refer to people in the gallery, but the member might like to note my opening remarks at the start of Parliament, when I specifically referred to people in the gallery and invited the House to greet them.

Grant Robertson: In light of the Prime Minister’s answer to the last supplementary question, when he introduced the nature of his relationship with Ian Fletcher, can he enlighten the House as to whether he has had further contact with Mr Fletcher since their school days, perhaps in London?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I cannot recall particular occasions; I am sure I may well have done so. What I can say, if the member wants to know, is that my mother was best friends with Ian Fletcher’s mother. If that makes a conspiracy, fair enough.

15 Comments

  1. Darryl

     /  March 28, 2013

    I have been watching Parliament at every sitting. Trevor Mallard/Norman/Hipkins/Peters continuously interrupts with points of order, in an Argumentive way. To me it has been obvious that the Left are out to discredit the Speaker. They act immature and quite frankly rude. The questions are politically loaded and deserve the answer they get. Yes John has added footnotes to his reply, which is not necessary, but the opposition’s questions are of an accusing nature. There is nothing a miss with David Carter, he is merely doing his job. Cast the mind back to Margaret Wilson, and how she treated Helen Clark. David Carter is trying to stop mayhem and good on him, Lockwood Smith let the left get away with far too much.

  2. Joe Bloggs

     /  March 28, 2013

    IMHO Mallard was very lucky not to have been ‘named’ by the Speaker yesterday. Telling the Speaker to “Sit down until I am finished.” is utterly disgraceful conduct.

    Mallard has now been kicked out of the Debating Chamber over 70 times now – and his behaviour yesterday was one of his worst performances. To think that we taxpayers pay for this rubbish is intolerable.

    As for the tin-foil hat conspiracy theory around Key’s mother’s friendship with Mrs Fletcher? Labour is clearly scraping the bottom of the barrel.

  3. Rex Morris

     /  March 29, 2013

    If the Ministers and the Prime Minister answered questions honestly and appropriately, none of this would happen. The flippant manner of these people is where the problem starts. Carter is clearly biased towards National.

    • Do you honestly believe Labour are an innocent injured party?

      I don’t accept that this is a one side of the house problem. Labour are as responsible as National for what is happening. They have been running a campaign of disruption since Carter became speaker, it is obvious they are trying to challenge him and pressure him and stare him down – and bring him down.

      National are taking advantage of the mayhem that is largely created by Labour.

      • Darryl

         /  March 29, 2013

        My last comment was for REX MORRIS, Pete, not you.
        I agree with your comment Pete, 100%.

    • Darryl

       /  March 29, 2013

      Rubbish. The Left’s questions are politically loaded with accusation. They deserve everything they get. I have been watching Parliament for years, and quite frankly Mallard/Hipkins/Little, I could name a number of others, are disrespectful and a dam disgrace. They simply out to discredit David Carter, and good on him for pulling them in to line. There personal dislike for John Key is OBVIOUS. I don’t blame him for getting a quip in every now and then.

  4. Rex Morris

     /  March 29, 2013

    But of course – Minister Parata fully and honestly answers all her questions. Ha !

    • Some of Parata’s answers have been abysmal.

      And Labour’s inability to ask good searching questions and especially to follow up with supplementaries that are relevant has also been abysmal.

      One of the few Labour MPs capable of thinking quickly on their feet – Cunliffe – has been pushed to the back benches.

      It was terrible recently when National switched the minister responding to a question (Joyce replaced Key) and Shearer kept asking his pre-prepared questions which obviously couldn’t be answered by Joyce.

      One reason why National get away with so much is Labour’s poorly thought through and poorly executed tactics.

      There’s one simple fact – an adept and competent opposition would adeptly and competently hold Ministers to account and not use the Speaker as an excuse for their ineptitude.

  5. Rex Morris

     /  March 29, 2013

    The frustration of not having questions answered properly has led to this abysmal performance. And now the new speaker gives license to the Ministers to get away with the kind of flippant and blatantly dishonest replies that do NOT fairly answer the original question – of course the opposition are going to get out of hand. This speaker must go.

    • Darryl

       /  March 29, 2013

      For goodness sake Rex Morris, if there is anyone who is biased it is you. It is time the Labour Party, got rid of there blatantly under performing MP’s, and learnt what the word respectful means. The Speaker doesn’t need to go, but by god there is a number of Labour MP’s who need to be shown the door.

  6. Rex Morris

     /  March 29, 2013

    I am biased, and I am a Labour supporter. However I expect the Speaker of the House and the Minsiters of the CRown to carry out their duties with integrity. This quality is sadly lacking in the Ministers. There are many many instances of this but I have referred to Minister Parata as a particular example – her answers to questions are extremely disrespectful of the many facets of governance and democracy. Just because I am a Labour supporter does not mean that my bias prevents me from commenting on this. The Speaker clearly does not require the standard that the previous Speaker had – Lockwood Smith required Ministers to answer questions, not merely ‘address’ questions. The approach of the current Speaker is clearly biased towards National and defers to the Prime Minister, a feature that Speaker Lockwood Smith would never tolerate. The current Speaker must go. This role is clearly beyond his capabilities.

    • Darryl

       /  March 29, 2013

      Well I can assure you Mr Morris, the Ministers from the Labour Party have NO integrity whatsoever. I find it rather interesting that you have got your sting into Hekia Parata. The Labour Party and the unions have NEVER liked ANY National Minister who has had the Education portfolio. When Lockwood Smith was Education Minister, Labour and the Unions abused him something chronic, or have you conveniently forgotten that. Lockwood as speaker was good, but he let the Left get away with far too much, and now that David Carter is in the job, he is trying to stop that Argumentive rhetoric, from Mallard, Little, Hipkins, Cosgrove, Peters, (just to name a few,) have gone out of there way to bring the speaker down, and I don’t blame him one little bit, for him putting these foul mouthed clowns in there place. The cheek of Mallard telling the Speaker to sit down while he spoke, you think that is ok. The trouble with the Labour Party, they are still in denial that the lost the last election, and they have done nothing to improve there nasty ways. When you ask accusing questions expect to get the answer it deserves.

  7. Rex Morris

     /  March 29, 2013

    Darryl, you seem to be reading stuff into my posts that I have not commented on. How did you deduct that I had conveniently forgotten about…Lockwood Smith as Minister? My posts have been about [1] the performance of the Speaker, and [2] the dismal way Ministers have answered questions, deliberatly obfuscating. And where did I even hint that I thought it was okay for Mallard to address the Minister as he did? I focused on Minister Parata because I have seen more of her in the house during question time than others and I have never seen her answer a question fully, honestly and fairly. Her responses are best described as appalling. The purpose of question time is for Ministers to account for their actions in their respective portfolios and must be able to explain their decisions. Minister Parata clearly cannot do this. When Lockwood Smith was Speaker he would make her answer the questions – Speaker Carter does not. Their is an issue of democracy in their.

  8. Rex Morris

     /  March 29, 2013

    My last sentence should read “There is an issue of democracy in this.”

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