A Little overshadowed in Parliament

Andrew Little has looked subdued and perhaps uncomfortable in Parliament this week. He is operating in the shadow of Winston Peters, who is at his best/worst at stirring up the House. This winds up John Key into full flight, and it’s not something that Little enjoys by the look of him yesterday.

Question Time was led by Peters, who again tested David Carter’s patience and was again threatened with ejection. NZ First colleague Ron Mark also joined the fray, fraying the patience of the Speaker.

Key revelled in the heated atmosphere, perhaps it is a release valve from his perpetual pressures as Prime Minister. It doesn’t look pretty at times.

After a patsy question it was Little’s turn to be ridiculed, and that happened at Key’s first opportunity. Not surprisingly Little didn’t seem to like it.

[Sitting date: 01 April 2015. Volume:704;Page:4. Text is subject to correction.]

3. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement that “falling off a high horse in Northland can force ACC levies up”; if so, is that why the Government has set work and earners levies above the levels recommended by ACC?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I say to the junior leader of the Opposition—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : —yes and no.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! It is that sort of start to the answer that does not help the order of this House.

But the point had been made – earlier in the week Little tried to talk up his status as ‘Leader of the Opposition’ but after handing over everything to Peters in Northland he is also being overshadowed substantially by Peters in Parliament.

The exchange ended with a a weakly asked question from Little, responded to very strongly by Key.

Little has a double challenge – trying to assert some sort of ascendancy over Peters, and if he manages that trying to go toe to toe with Key.

At least with Russel Norman bowing out of leadership last year’s dominant Opposition leader Little doesn’t have to compete there as well. For now.

But trying to better Peters and equal Key will be difficult, especially since rolling over to Peters in Northland. Parliament now has a three week recess (politicians get a long Easter), giving Little and his strategy team to think of a way of standing tall.

In Parliament yesterday he looked stooped.

The rest of Question 3 transcript:

Andrew Little : Is his concern about horses in Northland really about high horses, or well-run thoroughbreds?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : All I know is that in 2014, like in 2011 and 2008, we went off to the races and we won big time.

Andrew Little : Given that ACC itself has recommended against the $350 million overcharge, why is National forcing Kiwi businesses and workers to pay excess ACC levies that even ACC says it does not want or need?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I would remind the member, firstly, that the ACC board often makes a range of recommendations. In 2010-11 the Government actually increased ACC levies by $1.137 billion less than what was recommended by ACC. Today, actually, I read an interesting quote that said the following: “The Employers’ levy remains the same at an average of 90 cents per $100 of payroll. Although ACC recommended a reduced levy rate of 85 cents, the government decided there was a need to give employers more stability in levy rates from year to year, as well as building up reserves.” That was from Lianne Dalziel, Labour’s ACC Minister in 2002-03.

Andrew Little : Moving on 13 years to this year, is it in the public interest, particularly the interests of levy payers, for ACC to take more in levies than it needs and more than it wants when its work and earners accounts are already overflowing; if so, how?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I take it from the member that he is thinking that we should do as he says, not as Labour has done. That seems to be the subtext of his question. I go back to the point I made earlier. Over time the ACC board has made a series of recommendations. The Government adopts what it thinks is right. It is on track to do that. As you know, from 1 April—today—there have been further cuts. There will be more on 1 July, I think from memory. It is on track for about $1.5 billion worth of cuts in the last 12 to 18 months alone.

Andrew Little : Given his failure to end his ACC rip-off this year, will he now commit to cutting next year’s ACC levies by at least $350 million in the coming Budget; if not, why on earth not?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : What the Government will do is get a further set of recommendations, as is required by law, from the ACC board and consider those in context. But I would make a couple of points, and that is that if one looks at ACC and the factors that drive its levy recommendations, one sees that there are a number of moving factors in there, including the discount rate. So the member just better be a little bit careful what he wishes for, because the ACC board may well come out with a recommendation he does not like.

Andrew Little : Why did he fail to tell New Zealanders that most of his ACC reductions were just reversing his Government’s earlier levy hikes, put in place because of Nick Smith’s creative and fake crisis as the smokescreen for privatisation? Why does he not reverse those? Tell the truth.

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : It is true that this Government put up ACC levies when we first came into office. [Interruption] Interestingly enough, the member says “unnecessarily”. The recommendation from the board, which, by the way, he wants us to adopt this year, was to put them up by $1.3 billion, and the reason the board wanted them to go up by so much was that Labour left ACC unfunded and broke. What a disgrace from the Labour Opposition. What a disgrace.

Winston Peters apologises, pledges to work constructively

A very sober looking Winston Peters made several apologies last night and pledged to work constructively, first for the people of Northland who voted for him, second for the good of Parliament and of the country, and third to restore his credibility as a politician (Winston third).

Press Release
Winston Peters (NZ First Party)
31 March 2015

First I want to apologise to the people of Northland for using them as a means of carrying out political utu. I pledge to put their interests first and to work hard and diligently for the betterment of Northland.

Second I apologise the the Speaker David Carter for acting like a petulant child in Parliament and disrespecting the Chair and the House. I am sorry I acted like as bad a winner as Brad Haddin.

Third I apologise to John Key for calling him ‘a spolt brat’ and ‘lad’. I was the one who acted like a childish brat. I respect Key as the Prime Minister and work with him as best I can in a constructive manner for the benefit of Northland and the country.

Fourth I apologise to Andrew Little, who I ran all over after he threw Willow-Jean Prime under my campaign bus. He clapped me as loudly as anyone in the Labour caucus when I first rose in Parliament after my win. I thank him for what he’s done for me and humbly recognise him as the rightful Leader of the Opposition. I will go and talk to him about what I can do for Labour as soon as he summons me.

Now the euphoria of my grand triumph has worn off a bit I pledge to put the interests of the Northland electorate first and foremost, as I promised in the campaign.

I also pledge to start respecting the sanctity of Parliament and authority of the Speaker and act in accordance with positive and constructive politics.

And only my third priority I am determined to restore my dignity and credibility to the highest level it was at over the last forty years of my career.

A senior journalist, who wishes to remain anonymous, remarked “I’m shattered. If Winston reforms and becomes sensible, co-operative and constructive I’ll never get any headlines off him. Which politician will we laud over and promote now?”

Hide on Sabin and National’s corrosive conflict of interest

In his Weekend Herald column Rodney Hide writes of National’s ability to shut up and bury “a corrosive conflict of interest” with regards ex-MP Mike Sabin.

National MPs know how to shut up.

Despite the best efforts of the Parliamentary Opposition and the Fourth Estate, National MPs remain mum about who was responsible for former MP Mike Sabin chairing the Law and Order Select Committee while under police investigation.

Their evasions and refusals made ministers look foolish, tricky and arrogant, but it would be worse for National, I fear, if someone were to own up. The refusal to answer questions wasn’t pretty or nice but it worked.

It appears forever to remain a mystery how Parliament was so abused through such a corrosive conflict of interest.

That’s bad for democracy, justice and Parliament, but jolly good for National.

It does look bad for democracy, justice and Parliament. It may look jolly good for National so far to have swepth an awful embarrasment under the carpet but the yarn may yet unravel.

The courts have indicated they may lift a legal veil of secrecy next month. If attempts to keep things shut up are  unsuccessful (an appeal is likely) that looks like it will happen about a week before the Northland by-election that is necessary to replace Sabin.

National have succeeded so far in keeping key details secret. They may get away with this.

But the risk they have taken is that this may blow up and become one big embarrasment with political payback with accumulated interest.

One thing the media don’t like is being forced not to report on things they think are of public and political interest, or they think will attract viewers and readership.

They may yet pull the rug out from National’s furtive feet.

Strong Parliamentary speech virtually ignored

Most of the immediate media reactions to the opening speeches for the year in Parliament yesterday seemed to be on the trivial and juvenile.

John Kery called Andrew Little a derogatory name, Little snarked nack  and WInston Peters got attention for a bizarre claim that Key colours his hair (ok, that may be more senile than juvenile).

NZ Herald led the trivia with Politicians return to Parliament armed with new jokes and Peters: ‘John Key dyes his hair’. No wonder the public thinks Parliament is crap.

But amongst the hubris a strong speech raising serious issues was almost ignored. Peter Dunne and his United Future Party didn’t have a good last term but managed to survive.

Yesterday Dunne demonstrated that he can still be one of Parliament’s best speakers.

It’s worth highlighting some of the issues he raised. These will be split across the following posts but here is InTheHouse video of his speech.

How not to end your year

David Parker hasn’t had a good year.

ParkerQT11

The Labour policies he contributed significantly to helped lose Labour the election. He then contested and lost the Labour leadership, and looked like that whacked him hard.

Today in the last day of Parliament of the year Parker was the last to try and score a hit for Labour in Question time. It was as successful as his policies and leadership bid.

He seems dispirited and will probably be seriously contemplating his future over the Christmas break.

InTheHouse has somehow stuffed up their last two transcripts for the year, this one is not there. Probably just as well not to be on the record.

Responses to Parliamentary Disgrace

I’ve commented on the previous post Parliamentary disgrace in a number of forums with a variety of responses. Some have been predictable political slants, but most have been support of the message and recognising the problem.

Kiwiblog General Debate

So far all positive support and some comment.

The Standard Open Mike

More petty than Parliament but at least it draws attention to my comment, plus some followup discussion.

Whale Oil Friday General Debate

Positive response with genuine debate, some arguing against there being a problem.

Trade Me Message Board

A mix of political and supporting comments.

This can also be supported by retweeting in Twitter here and here and in Facebook here.

Parliamentary disgrace

Parliament this week has been a disgrace. Our supposed House of Representatives has been more of a melee of mongrel misfits in a house of reprehensible behaviour.

If the sort of behaviour we frequently witness in Parliament and in the political arena was practised in councils, boardrooms, committees, bars and school playgrounds they would be seen as dysfunctional and it would be condemned.

It’s bullying, dirty destructive behaviour that wouldn’t be acceptable in most parts of our society. New Zealand’s leaders should be setting a good example but they are doing the opposite.

It’s equivalent to kids throwing stones at each other.
It’s equivalent to eye gouging in rugby.
It’s equivalent to drunks kicking victims in the head.

It’s not only condoned by our leaders and parliamentary representatives, some of them actively participate and promote obnoxiousness, disrespect and abuse. They try to break people, destroy careers and bring down governments.

It’s not robust, it’s not holding to account. It far exceeds reasonable behaviour. It’s a very poor look for our House of Representatives. At times they represent the worst ways of dealing with issues, differences and competing agendas.

This is a problem that goes right to the top and most practised and prevalent in what are supposed to be our two major parties. The leaders of those two parties, John Key and David Cunliffe, are at the forefront of problem in what they do or in what they allow of their caucuses. Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee and Shadow Leader of the House Grant Robertson are also heavily involved.

They should be setting good standards and examples but they lead and allow the worst standards.

Parliamentary behaviour is often bad but this week was worse than usual.

The Speaker has an unenviable task trying to referee the rabble. In any sport if the referee or umpire was challenged, argued with and defied as happens in Parliament the game would be farcical and dysfunctional.

At times on Wednesday the Prime Minister severely tested the mettle and patience of the Speaker, who at one stage gave Key a final warning in Question 1 on Wednesday. Ironically it involved Cunliffe challenging Key about “high standards”.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The level of interjection now coming from my right is unacceptable.Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer is sufficient. [Interruption] Order! The Hon Gerry Brownlee—please tone it down a little.Hon David Cunliffe: If the Minister believes in high standards…does the Minister think that those are the standards that New Zealanders have a right to expect of him or his Government?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. [Interruption] Order! If members on my right want to stay for the full question time, I expect some cooperation. [Interruption] Order! A point of order has been raised. It will be heard in silence.Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not need assistance. [Interruption] Order! As to the first point of order, the Prime Minister should resume his seat immediately when I stand. I said that to him, so I consider that matter closed, but it better not happen again.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Supplementary question.Grant Robertson: To the rescue, Gerry!

Mr SPEAKER: Order! All members have a right to ask a supplementary question.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Has he seen any reports of interesting and innovative fund-raising methods deployed by political parties? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no prime ministerial responsibility for other parties. [Interruption]

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I just want to clarify before I take the point of order that the member is not in any way attempting to relitigate an answer I have given, because if that was happening, I would be tempted to ask the member to leave. If it is a point of order, I will hear it, but it better not be—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is always that temptation, but what I am simply saying is that I asked the question whether the Prime Minister has received any reports.

Mr SPEAKER: It is a matter of prime ministerial responsibility. It asked about any reports but then you went on, Mr Brownlee, about other parties’ innovative means of fund-raising, or words to that effect. I ruled instantly that I did not consider that was prime ministerial responsibility.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order. It will be heard in silence.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! My patience is fast running out with members on the right-hand side of this House. If the source is the Labour Party website, then that is freely available to all members and I will not be putting—[Interruption] Order!Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: Again, can you just clarify whether this is a fresh point of order?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is a fresh one—yes. I seek leave to table a document that shows people had paid $500 to attend a lunch—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again, I want the source of the document.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I am not sure of the source but I am sure I can get it for you—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order. [Interruption] Order! The noise is coming relatively equally from both sides. On this occasion I will not be ejecting any member. But I have points of orders raised. I call for silence; I expect silence.

Dr Russel Norman: Mr Brownlee asked a supplementary question and you ruled it out of order. Then you said to Mr Brownlee that if he disputes your ruling, you will be tempted to throw him out. He did dispute your ruling and you, in—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. What I took from the second point he raised was that he sought clarification rather than to dispute. That is the way I ruled it.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: From the source Scoop, I seek to table—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. Scoop is available to all members, and if this sort of nonsense continues from the Prime Minister, to restore order, again, I will have no choice but to ask the Prime Minister to leave the Chamber.

And so it went on, with antagonism and acrimony from both sides. The previous day Trevor Mallard was ordered from the chamber for making an accusatory interjection he refused to withdraw. Both Mallard and Chris Hipkins were ordered from the chamber on Thursday . That’s an indication of the degree of difficulty the Speaker had maintaining order.

The media are complicit in this. They report the worst of Parliament, that’s their job. But I don’t see much holding to account of Members of Parliament for a lot of their bad behaviour.

Thomas Carlyle in his book On Heroes and Hero Worship:

“Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”

I haven’t seen any holding to account from  media this week of poor Parliamentary behaviour.

It’s election year and political stakes are high. That should not be an excuse for the worst of dirty politics. In any sane situation it would encourage people to present their best behaviour and abilities.

In general people, voters, hate the negative obnoxious, abusive and destructive side of politics. They look at politicians with derision. Increasing numbers show their displeasure through their non-participation at the ballot box.

And many of those who vote are left choosing what they see as the least worst option.

There should be an opportunity for a perceptive leader and a perceptive party to recognise the problem and address it. That would take real leadership because it would mean having to confront entrenched negative behaviours.

John Key? David Cunliffe? The first to act on this – not just poliwaffle but act and continue to act on it – could gain a considerable advantage in the run up to the election.

Appealing to politicians to improve their poor behaviour is quite a sad situation. Pointing out the bleeding obvious shouldn’t be necessary.

Leaders should rise above some of the worst sorts of human behaviour, not promote and practice it. Anarchy in the streets would not be acceptable so why should virtual anarchy in Parliament be allowed to continue?

Parliament has been a disgrace this week. Our leaders are letting us down badly. They keep tearing the Emperor’s credibility to shreds, and seem blind to the tatters, or think that crap behaviour is acceptable. They keep shitting in our highest House.

Parliament – opening speeches

Parliament resumed sitting on Tuesday, 28 January at 2 p.m. Business began with a statement from the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister’s Statement to Parliament

The Government is continuing to implement its plan to build a faster-growing economy with more jobs and rising incomes, and to support New Zealanders and their families.

Video: Prime Minister’s Statement – 28th January, 2014

Video: Debate on Prime Minister’s Statement – 28th January, 2014 – Part 1

David Cunliffe video: Debate on Prime Minister’s Statement – 28th January, 2014 – Part 2

“The result of this election will either be a forward-looking, progressive, reforming government in the tradition of Seddon, Savage and Kirk; or a hard-right throwback government, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Ruth Richardson.”

Russel Norman: Opening of Parliament Speech

The 2014 election offers New Zealanders the opportunity to make history by electing the first genuinely progressive government in more than a generation. The 2014 election offers New Zealanders the opportunity to make history by voting for a strong Green …

Video: Debate on Prime Minister’s Statement – 28th January, 2014 – Part 3

Winston Peters Replies

The Prime Minister wants the House to express its confidence in the National Government – well we don’t! That plan outlined by the Prime Minister for 2014 brought to mind the word Hoover. Not the great water dam, not the first FBI boss – but the …

Video: Debate on Prime Minister’s Statement – 28th January, 2014 – Part 4

Tariana Turia

Hone Harawira

Video: Debate on Prime Minister’s Statement – 28th January, 2014 – Part 6

John Banks

This is the first ever time I have seen emotion from John Banks

Video: Debate on Prime Minister’s Statement – 28th January, 2014 – Part 7

Peter Dunne

Video: Debate on Prime Minister’s Statement – 28th January, 2014 – Part 8

Brendan Horan: A Pathway to Prosperity

Brendan Horan MP says John Key has presented New Zealand with an election year message that is a triumph of corporate spin. “Where is there any hope for the people? Where is there any vision for prosperity, openness or transparency? All National is offering …

Harawira – we pay $495 per day expenses

Hone Harawira is ranking nearly twice as much as David Shearer – in spending on expenses. Reported by NZ Herald – Harawira still top spender

Te Tai Tokerau’s representative spent more than any other non-ministerial MP for the second quarter running, according to expense details published by Internal Affairs.

Mr Harawira racked up $45,124 in accommodation and travel bills in the past three months, including $23,881 on flights – nearly twice as much as the Leader of the Opposition, David Shearer.

Remarkable. This is:

  • $45,124 for three months
  • $15,000 per month
  • $3,470 per week
  • $495 per day

And this isn’t due to his workload in Parliament.

He has made only intermittent appearances in the House, asking just two primary questions at Question Time this year, and making seven speeches in seven months.

This is up nearly 50% from the previous quarter, when he spent $31,800. This may reflect how much time (and money) Harawira spent campaigning in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election.

A difference of $13,800 – is that around what the taxpayers spent on Harawira campaigning for for the Mana Party?

Harawira stands to be seen here as a troughing hypocrite, as one of the main things he has been campaigning on is giving money to hungry kids as poor families.

Dunne being vindicated after Henry travesty

A comprehensive article that helps understand the situation and implications of the David Henry inquiry and the using of phone and email data – from Scoop editor Alastair Thompson:

The Privileges Of Parliament & Peter Dunne

It is hard not to conclude – in the wake of more than a year of half answers, miss-truths and outright lies around key aspects of the GCSB debacle – that we are now dealing with a rogue Government.

Now the latest monumental balls-up/gross abuse of power (you pick your description) has dragged the Speaker into the net and that has really opened pandora’s box.

On Dunne:

On the face of it Peter Dunne faced a trial by meta-data.

And he was convicted on that meta-data alone when he refused to give up what remained of his rights to privacy.

This of course puts the GCSB Bill which seeks to legalise the wholesale gathering, warehousing and mining of meta-data (which is not defined in the Bill) by the Government without warrant.

What happened to both Peter Dunne and Andrea Vance is deeply disturbing in a way that is not that easy to convey to the public.

And his summary:

Now the “Powerful” Parliament Privileges Committee will consider all of this and my guess is that it will come down very strongly on the side of Parliament.

This will hopefully restore the balance.

But the amount of damage that has been done here should not be underestimated and it will not go away quickly. The Press Gallery will remember this.

Coming on top of the months of obfuscation and outright lying and evasiveness over every aspect of this story from the Kim Dotcom raids and who knew about them when, to the illegal GCSB spying, to the appointment of a child-hood friend of the PM’s as GCSB Director and now the Andrea Vance and Peter Dunne affair – we will remember.

The damage will continue until this is dealt with properly, until the whole truth comes out, and until proper controls and protocols are put in place.

On the other hand Peter Dunne is gradually being vindicated after a travesty of justice and an attempted political hit job that is backfiring.

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