11. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does he stand by his answers to all supplementary questions to Oral Questions in the House this year; if so, why?
Hon PETER DUNNE (Minister of Internal Affairs) :Yes , because they accord with my ministerial responsibility.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Does he accept he has responsibility in this House for the security of Government information; if so, will he now make it clear that he is a suitable person for holding that role by stating that he did not make the draft Kitteridge report on the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) available to a Fairfax journalist?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Peter Dunne—the first part of that question is acceptable.
Hon PETER DUNNE: I have answered that question—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you attempted to edit my question.
Mr SPEAKER: I have.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Can you—and, Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: I have. I can help the member. There were two parts to that supplementary question. The second part of the supplementary question is out of order. The first part of the supplementary question is in order, and that one can be answered.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Does the member wish to proceed?
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to refer you to Speaker’s Ruling 155/3, which relates to the Prime Minister’s requirements for the suitability of Ministers to hold roles. I am not asking the member whether he leaked the document; what I am asking him is to demonstrate—as is allowed under Speaker’s Ruling 155/3—that he is a suitable person for holding a role as a Minister in this House. The question was very—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I can help the member. If the member now rephrases both parts of his question, it will be over to the Minister which one he will address. But if the member rephrases the second part of his supplementary question in line with the words he just used, that will be in order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is he prepared to demonstrate to the House today that he is a suitable person for holding the role of security of Government information by directly denying that he made the draft Kitteridge report on the GCSB available to a Fairfax journalist?
Mr SPEAKER: The difficulty we have now got to is that the member is not repeating the first part of the question he raised.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Interestingly, I think that the first part of the question that the Hon Trevor Mallard asked could stand, but then he deviated and was in contravention of Standing Order 377(1)(b). There is clearly a breach of that particular Standing Order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: The question was very clear, and was whether he is prepared to demonstrate that he is a suitable person by doing X. I have not asked him whether or not he leaked the report on the GCSB to a Fairfax reporter; I am asking him to demonstrate his suitability by denying that in the House. Clearly, any person who was a Minister and leaked that report would not be suitable.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: If he had put a full stop after “demonstrate” or “demonstrate to the House”, that would be fine, but to go on and make a requirement that is by any reasonable assessment an imputation, an inference, or even an argument, and quite possibly a discreditable reference, it then falls outside the Standing Orders.
Hon David Parker: If that was the concern of the Minister in response to a question, he would just deny the allegation. It is very proper for the Opposition to try to highlight matters that are disreputable on the part of Ministers. This is an example where we are trying to do that, and that is quite within the Standing Orders.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: If that were the case, then any old question could be asked any old time. There would be no need to have Standing Order 377, “Content of questions”.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to allow the member an opportunity to repeat his question as he first asked it, because the question has changed quite substantially. The member has every right to ask the current Minister of Internal Affairs something for which he has been responsible since he was appointed as Minister of Internal Affairs, and if the question is along those lines, I will rule it in order. If the member then tries to tease it back to occurrences that occurred some time before the Minister was appointed as the Minister of Internal Affairs, I will be inclined to rule it out of order, and that will be the end of the matter.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is he prepared in the House today to demonstrate today that he is a suitable person to have custody of public information, by denying that he made that document available to a Fairfax reporter?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! To progress the matter, the Minister can answer the question up until the final addition of that information.
Hon PETER DUNNE: That question has been asked in a couple of forms on 30 January and 11 February. I stand by the answers given on both of those occasions.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a matter that has been well traversed by a select committee and by inquiries inside and outside this House. With respect, if the Minister is being asked to demonstrate a present action that is required of him now—a certain fact that relates to his qualifications for the job—that is still a present matter that the House would like to be assured of. It is not, therefore, a past matter, which is the qualification that Mr Brownlee tried to put on it. Frankly, if we cannot hear the truth behind this, then this is no longer a House of Parliament that gets to the bottom of the matter.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: What Mr Peters is saying is that—the question implicitly makes an allegation. Otherwise there would be no need for the use of the word “deny”. That is not within the Standing Orders.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the point that the member Mr Peters is raising. My job is to adhere to the Standing Orders. Therefore, this is question time, where Ministers can be asked questions where they have ministerial responsibility. What the member is attempting to do is devise a system whereby he asks the Minister to deny an action that occurred prior to him being a Minister. The Standing Orders do not allow that to happen in this House.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The issue that I want to raise with you goes to the issues around the character of Ministers and whether or not actions prior to their becoming Ministers can be questioned in relation to their character and suitability to hold the roles. I can recall examples—for example, Ms Collins questioned previous Ministers in the Labour Government over actions that they took even prior to their being members of Parliament and the implication that that had for their current ministerial roles. What Mr Dunne is being questioned on is something that related to his conduct prior to his holding the current ministerial role, but that is no different to Ms Collins’ questions to someone who was not even a member of Parliament when they did the things that she was questioning them on.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I would like to draw your attention back to a question earlier today, where you allowed Mr Williams to ask a question of the Hon Mr Woodhouse that related to his experience prior to being a member of Parliament, and you allowed Mr Woodhouse to answer it. What I am asking for is some consistency.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, but I do recall the answer from Mr Woodhouse was that he replied to the effect that that was not relevant to the answer, and then proceeded to answer the question. The Minister has now answered the question. If the member still has a further supplementary question, I will listen to it. But—
Hon David Parker: You wouldn’t let him answer the second part.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I appreciate the assistance from the Hon David Parker, but the Minister has answered that question. Does the member have a further supplementary question?
Hon Trevor Mallard: I certainly do. In light of his answers last week, has he given any assurance to the Prime Minister on the question of his suitability to hold his current role, with regard to the security of Government information, other than through the media in June last year?
Hon PETER DUNNE: Prior to taking up this appointment, which actually pre-dates the period of ministerial responsibility, the Prime Minister and I discussed the role and what it entailed, and the outcome of that was that he offered me the job.
Rt Hon John Key: Can the Minister confirm that the actual test of whether someone serves as a Minister is whether they enjoy the confidence of the Prime Minister of the day, and can the member confirm whether he believes he has the full confidence of the Prime Minister of the day, and can the Minister confirm that—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We have now had—[Interruption] I will hear from the right honourable—[Interruption] Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The first question is of the Prime Minister, not the Minister—[Interruption] No, even though he sought to put it to Mr Dunne, it is only the Prime Minister that has the confidence, and the second question should have been ruled out because it was a second question.
Mr SPEAKER: If anybody wants to ask a supplementary question, they should ask a single supplementary question. In my opinion, the first supplementary question asked by the Prime Minister was completely in order and the Minister can answer it.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In order to help the Prime Minister, I seek leave of the House for the full supplementary question of the Prime Minister to be answered by Mr Dunne.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Members must still abide by the Standing Orders.
Hon PETER DUNNE: I can only assume that, because the Prime Minister offered to appoint me as the Minister of Internal Affairs, he has full confidence in my ability to do the job, and I intend to reflect that confidence in the way that I carry out this role.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Further to the supplementary question asked by the Prime Minister and the Minister’s answer, did the Prime Minister then ask him whether he leaked the report?
Hon PETER DUNNE: That question was put to the Prime Minister last week, and I refer the member to the answer he gave, which I am not going to disagree with.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary—[Interruption] Order! Order! I need to hear the supplementary question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Further to the Prime Minister’s question and the supplementary answer, did the Minister give the Prime Minister any information relating to the making available of the Kitteridge report to a reporter, other than through the media?
Mr SPEAKER: I do not accept that that question has any ministerial responsibility in respect of the current Minister of Internal Affairs.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That question has more ministerial responsibility in it than the one that you allowed from the Prime Minister, which went to the Prime Minister’s responsibilities.
Mr SPEAKER: I will allow the member, rather than forfeiting a question, to have an attempt at asking a question in line with the current ministerial responsibility of the Minister.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am confused—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is a point of order.
Hon David Parker: I am confused as to how a Speaker can find it in order for the Prime Minister to ask a Minister whether he has his confidence but then an Opposition member is not able to ask a question of whether the Prime Minister checked whether the Minister leaked a report before he said he was confident in him.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need assistance. I am here to help the member’s confusion. My duty is to instantly judge how appropriate the question is to the Minister’s current responsibility. I have invited—[Interruption] Order! I have invited the member to attempt to rephrase his question. Otherwise we will simply move on in this matter.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Further to the Prime Minister’s question, which indicated that he has confidence in Mr Dunne, was one of the factors in building that confidence his making clear to the Prime Minister that he did not leak the Kitteridge report to a Fairfax reporter?
Hon PETER DUNNE: The discussion we had was wide ranging and dealt with matters relating to the internal affairs portfolio to which the Prime Minister subsequently appointed me.