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.

NZ First’s Stewart clear on Psychoactive Substances Bill support

NZ First spokesperson on health Barbara Stewart has made the NZ First position clear regarding the Psychoactive Substances Bill – they prefer a full ban but accept that the Bill is a practical step so support it.

The Bill passed in Parliament yesterday with support from all seven NZ First MPs. The final vote was 119 for, 1 (John Banks) against.

In the first and second readings of the bill Stewart was consistent with this NZ First position. Things were confused by a column by NZ First leader Winston Peters last week, where he appeared to be highly critical of the bil – The problem with politics. That highlighted the problem with trying to follow what Winston Peters means.

On my first reading of the column I thought he was signalling that NZ First would oppose the bill, but on further more careful readings he didn’t actually say that. It was typical of Winston, full of bluster but vague on what he was actually meaning to say.

In the final debate on the bill in Parliament yesterday Stewart repeated her previous positions – that NZ First preferred a drug ban but accepted that the bill a good step and that the party would support it.

PSYCHOACTIVE SUBSTANCES BILL

Third Reading

BARBARA STEWART (NZ First):

I stand to take a call on behalf of New Zealand First on the Psychoactive Substances Bill. New Zealand First believes that ideally these products should have been banned. We are realistic and we know that this cannot and will not occur at this particular point.

However, this bill is a very positive step forward from the situation that actually exists at this point in time.

We want this bill passed today.

We are sick of seeing the damage and the harm that is created among our young people from these particular drugs. It is ironic that the manufacturers, the importers, and the dairies are getting wealthier and wealthier at the expense of young people’s health right here in New Zealand.

We have to congratulate those dairies who acted before this bill actually came into the House and stopped the sale of these substances. Of course, we have to recognise the Waikato of Pūtāruru that has actually banned synthetic highs from its town—so well done, Pūtāruru.

There is a whole range of regulations that will stop the manufacturers from their merry trip around with these particular drugs.

We want the bill passed.

It will provide greater transparency. It will improve the health of our New Zealanders, once the substances are proven to be safe. We want young people to be safe. We care for our young people.

These substances have basically been an outrageous assault on our young people, which we in this House have let it happen here, so this is an important step forward with this particular bill.

New Zealand First supports it.

At the end of that an exclamation was heard – “Excellent speech!”

I agree, it was clear, concise and in my opinion correct. And it signalled appropriate support of the bill from NZ First.

InTheHouse video of Stewart’s speech:

Female MPs excluded from Question Time

It has been noticed that after all the Man Ban debate Labour did not have any female MPs asking questions in Parliament today. And only one Minister – Judith Collins – was asked a question.

@janlogie 

Out of 25 speakers in question time today 3 were women. All asking questions. 2 of them Greens.

The question list (with females in bold):

  1. METIRIA TUREI to the Minister for Economic Development:
  2. JAMI-LEE ROSS to the Minister of Finance:
  3. DAVID SHEARER to the Prime Minister:
  4. CLAUDETTE HAUITI to the Minister for Economic Development:
  5. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE to the Prime Minister:
  6. KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI to the Minister of State Services:
  7. Hon DAVID PARKER to the Minister of Finance:
  8. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Prime Minister:
  9. EUGENIE SAGE to the Minister of Conservation:
  10. MIKE SABIN to the Minister of Justice:
  11. Hon TREVOR MALLARD to the Minister of Internal Affairs:
  12. CHRIS AUCHINVOLE to the Minister of Internal Affairs:

Four male Labour MPs asked primary questions, no female.

This is partly because the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance are male and the most comon targets for questions, and the Minister for Economic Development, also male, is involved in the very topical Sky City issue.

But it’s also indicative of party whips (presumably) leaning more towards males, today at least.

Gender equity in politics

Our political system and most of our political parties have been created by males, so it’s not surprising that our Parliament and our political culture favours men and is still dominated by men.

The recent Labour “man ban” sideshow has raised the issue of gender equity in our politics. I will collate posts on this here, and this post can be accessed from the Your NZ menu.

On the “man ban” and gender balance

Parliament needs to be seen as a decent workplace for women (and men).

Personal attacks and abuse and unfounded accusations aim at damaging characters, careers, parties and Government are far too common and prominent. More women (and men) will be attracted to putting themselves if politics was a decent respectful workplace. Robust debate is essential, but it needs to be reasonable and reasoned debate.

Standing for Parliament? One woman’s view

There are many reasons the main one being I want to live in peace and quiet out of the public’s eye.  Politics, especially in parliament often seems like a kindergarten not a place where mature adults our representatives find the best way to help govern our country.

Women are being doubly judged, once for their looks and secondly for their ability.

Gender equity in Parliament – Metiria Turei

I think the barriers to women’s political participation are systemic and are based in the social and cultural pressures that women face everyday, all their lives. We still live in a deeply patriarchal society and as a result it can be very difficult for women to value their own skills and expertise because others don’t.

Parliament is particularly aggressive place and many women quite sensibly decide to engage in politics that is more constructive and less hostile.

On Metiria on gender equity

Our political system was originally designed by men and is still dominated (numerically at least) by men, so it will be slanted towards male preferences and practices.

Every party will have it’s own preferences and pressures but the Green model of gender equity is an ideal that others would do well to aspire to.

Gender equity in Parliament – Metiria Turei

Metiria Turei’s response to a request for opinions from female MPs on the “man ban” issue and on gender inequality in politics and in Parliament.

The Greens are the only caucus to have a majority of women MPs and to have a woman in place 1 on the party list in 2011. We have a gender equity rule for our list (no more than 60% of any gender from place 6), coleadership at every level (national, provincial, branch, electorate) and a strong culture of gender equity.

I think the barriers to women’s political participation are systemic and are based in the social and cultural pressures that women face everyday, all their lives. We still live in a deeply patriarchal society and as a result it can be very difficult for women to value their own skills and expertise because others don’t. Women are less likely to push themselves forwards as a result. This is why we need to have structure, rules and systems to encourage women into leadership roles in politics and elsewhere. We see this play out in parliament, in boardrooms, partners of law firms etc.

Parliament is particularly aggressive place and many women quite sensibly decide to engage in politics that is more constructive and less hostile.

The nature of parliamentary work is very anti family and the latest issue for Nanaia Mahuta shows this. A woman MP’s appearance is under greater scrutiny and recent media about me also shows this, although I have seen worse treatment of women MPs in the past.

It’s also my experience that male Speakers treat women MPs with less respect than they do male MPs. I talked about this to Speaker Smith very directly and challenged his treatment of women MPs. It is often difficult for men to understand their own prejudicial behaviour and is frankly tiresome having to explain it to them on a regular basis just to get equitable treatment.

It has been the case that women have been less likely to be selected for safe seats. But other MPs who come from electorate seat based seats will have more information about this.

I favour rules and structures to promote a cultural change. I am very pleased with the Greens approach of rules, systems and expectations to gender equity.

On the “man ban” and gender balance

There’s been much debate on this. There’s several points I’d like to make on it.

Parliament needs to be seen as a decent workplace for women (and men).

Personal attacks and abuse and unfounded accusations aim at damaging characters, careers, parties and Government are far too common and prominent. More women (and men) will be attracted to putting themselves if politics was a decent respectful workplace. Robust debate is essential, but it needs to be reasonable and reasoned debate.

See: Standing for Parliament? One woman’s view

Labour’s policy process has been shown up on this issue.

The female quota and “man ban” proposals emerged from Labour’s conference last November (I heard about the quote proposal then). It has just been presented to membership, and is scheduled to be debated and decided on at the next conference this November. For relatively minor changes to candidate selection procedures this is a long time to deal with it. In the modern communication age surely this type of policy should be dealt with far more efficiently and quickly.

Target ranges with some flexibility are better than fixed quotas.

A quota setting a minimum percentage of one gender is unbalanced and inflexible. Almost everyone would like to see a better balance of gender in Parliament. As mentioned above creating a more attractive workplace should be a major aim. After that I suggest a target range of 40-60%. That allows for variations in quality and quantity of one gender or another in a given election.

And allowances would have to be made when there are very low numbers of MPs, having some range flexibility is especially important for smaller parties (and uneven numbers). Take the current NZ First caucus of seven – four men and three women (43%). Or the Maori Party – two men and one woman (33%).

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