The Mallard Rule – a non answer can be an answer

As Speaker Trevor Mallard has started well, genuinely trying to improve the standard of debate in Parliament. He has a long history of jousting with various Speakers so knows just about all the tricks.

Mallard has introduced some innovations, and he tries to keep debate moving rather than getting bogged down.

One thing he has introduced is the ‘no answer is effectively an answer’ ruling, when there is a point of order claiming a straightforward question was not answered.

An example from yesterday in Question No. 9—Justice:

Hon Amy Adams: Does he agree with constitutional scholar Andrew Geddis, who said “using the law to try and quash internal party disagreement and ensure the governing arrangement lasts the full distance comes at a cost to our wider system of parliamentary democracy.”, and if not, why not?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Sometimes I agree with Andrew Geddis, and sometimes I don’t. But what I do agree with is that the basic MMP principle of the proportionality of parties in Parliament is sacrosanct and must be protected, and it will be enshrined in this bill.

Hon Amy Adams: So what specific issues have arisen in recent months that in his view make this legislation necessary, given that none of the parties in Government campaigned on implementing the law and some are on record actively opposing such a law?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: We have had legislation like this in our country before and it had a sunset clause, and it is a matter of the sacrosanct nature of MMP politics and the proportionality of Parliament. I think it is very good that that member should show a very close interest in the right of parties and their leaders to exercise their powers under this legislation, because I think she secretly harbours a wish to be in the position to exercise those powers one day.

Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order, sir, is, very simply, that I asked him a very straight and direct question about what events have happened to make it necessary, given that no one campaigned on it. He didn’t come near to that in his answer. He just had a swipe at me.

Mr SPEAKER: Oh, I think he approached it. [Interruption] Well, I mean, the fact that the member didn’t confirm a negative should make it clear.

So when a Minister avoids answering a straight question it is fair to assume an answer.

I have seen Mallard allowing non-answers before, making the point that a clear answer can be assumed.

Ministers answer questions when it suits, and avoid answering when it suits, but meaning can be fairly inferred from non-answers.

 

 

 

32 Comments

  1. robertguyton

     /  December 20, 2017

    David Carter.

    • I really have no idea why anyone thought Mallard was a suitable candidate for Speaker. There literally is not a man in Labour more tribal, more intemperate and who lacks every single characteristic deemed desirable to wield such power.

      He’s a disgrace.

  2. PDB

     /  December 20, 2017

    The point of demanding an answer in such a setting is to get the person committing to a particular position on record – a ‘non-answer’ does not do this, meaning is open to conjecture, and clearly this is poor ruling by the speaker.

  3. robertguyton

     /  December 20, 2017

    I always admired the way John Key gave straight answers in the House – never prevaricating, dodging or weaving, weaseling or slithering, never taking every opportunity to demean the questioner, never show-boating, never swaggering – what a guy he was!

    • PDB

       /  December 20, 2017

      With such a poor opposition during his years no doubt it was like a walk in the park for him.

      • robertguyton

         /  December 20, 2017

        Well, you’re right about one thing, PDB, he walked.

        • PDB

           /  December 20, 2017

          Regardless of what may have happened in parliament in the past Mallard has said he will be improving the standard of debate under his watch – this sort of ruling does nothing of the sort & in fact encourages less debate.

    • Blazer

       /  December 20, 2017

      Key was a real SEAL. ..slippery eel and liar. That’s worth a knighthood.

    • Gezza

       /  December 20, 2017

      This is incorrect Robert. I watched John Key in Question Time & he often prevaricated, dodged or weaved, weaseled or slithered, demeaned the questioner, show-boated, and was smarmy as well. You are correct that he didn’t swagger.

      Grant Robertson, Phil Twyford, & Shane Jones & have all adopted his style since he left.

      • I’ll not argue the slipperiness of Key, but will say this; not a one of the blokes you mentioned can even dream of achieving his dizzying heights in any respect, including said slipperiness.

        #loveJK

        • Blazer

           /  December 20, 2017

          If you think people envy him. .think again. .he dedicated his life to making money at any cost. .the worst example of a venal. ..sock tucker.

          • High Flying Duck

             /  December 20, 2017

            He wouldn’t have given up a multi million dollar a year job to enter politics if he was all about the money.
            You are projecting.

            • The left simply cannot grasp the fact that to centrists politics is not just a Civil Service, job for life TOP OF THE PAY GRADE.

            • Blazer

               /  December 20, 2017

              Just made more in the last 9 years than the previous 30..RE..shares ..more than doubled his fortune. .I call it. .insider trading.

    • Mefrostate

       /  December 21, 2017

      Robert, I’m a self-identified lefty, so am psychologically wired to tend to agree with your comments.

      But this kind of rhetoric & tu quoque deflection has got to stop. John Key isn’t the prime minister any more, so his actions are irrelevant. Labour should be judged for their actions on their own merits.

      Plus sarcasm translates poorly over text and is a lazy form of critique since you invite the reader to project their own meaning onto your statement.

      • Gezza

         /  December 21, 2017

        I’m just working with whatever he says & taking it at face value. If it seems totally out of sync with his usual views, too bad. It’s not up to me to work out whether he’s lost the plot.

      • Gezza

         /  December 21, 2017

        I had to look tu quoque up.

        Tu quoque (/tjuːˈkwoʊkwiː/, also /tuːˈkwoʊkweɪ/;[1] Latin for, “you also”) or the appeal to hypocrisy is an informal logical fallacy that intends to discredit the opponent’s argument by asserting the opponent’s failure to act consistently in accordance with its conclusion(s).

        Tu quoque “argument” follows the pattern:

        Person A makes claim X.
        Person B asserts that A’s actions or past claims are inconsistent with the truth of claim X.
        Therefore X is false.[2]
        An example would be

        Peter: “Based on the arguments I have presented, it is evident that it is morally wrong to use animals for food or clothing.”
        Bill: “But you are wearing a leather jacket and you have a roast beef sandwich in your hand! How can you say that using animals for food and clothing is wrong?”[2]
        It is a fallacy because the moral character or past actions of the opponent are generally irrelevant to the logic of the argument.[3] It is often used as a red herring tactic and is a special case of the ad hominem fallacy, which is a category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of facts about the person presenting or supporting the claim or argument.[4]

        In the trial of Nazi criminal Klaus Barbie, the controversial lawyer Jacques Vergès tried to present what was defined as a Tu Quoque Defence—i.e., that during the Algerian War, French officers such as General Jacques Massu had committed war crimes similar to those with which Barbie was being charged, and therefore the French state had no moral right to try Barbie. This defense was rejected by the court, which convicted Barbie. [5]
        – Wikipedia

      • Metro – good luck with your entreaties but the level of pure hatred in this instance is so great as to enter unhinged territory.

        Key’s children were hounded relentlessly and maligned by many in media. In particular the virtual slut shaming of his teenage artist daughter’ body of work was stomach churningingly grotesque. No attempt was made to review at it as art, just to project a teenager’s work as porn and then make it stick to Key. Same with Max, a kid with undeveloped frontal cortex using Social Media to up his brand, no different than many of his generation, but written off as of no value other than as an extension of a man they hated as PM and a spoiled 1% brat. Most of their media mates projected images, cornered segments, manufactured memes to establish themselves ( hello Clarke Gayford – now famous and inveterate celebrity skirt chaser, Guy Williams, Jesse Mulligan, Etc, Etc. Ok with them apparently.

        Anyone whoever asks or condemns him for “walking” needs to ask whether they’d like to see their kids treated as such, see the free passes afforded others. I only wonder why he didn’t walk years before.

        • Blazer

           /  December 21, 2017

          Publicity hounds encouraged by Key. He has the Hawaii option. .disappointed he didn’t take it. Has little loyalty to NZ AFAIK.

  4. robertguyton

     /  December 20, 2017

    He already has improved the standard of debate. Mind you, Key’s doing a runner helped; his infantile, nasty behaviour in the House is no longer something any of us have to bear; the throat-slitting was a low point in our parliamentary history.

    • PDB

       /  December 20, 2017

      The ‘throat-slitting’ gesture wasn’t even made – Labour MPs saw what they wanted to see.

      Some real nutters on the internet Robert – don’t believe everything you read. Take this for example;

      “The TV3 video was doctored after being up for a while Armchair Critic. Most telling, in the link I have in my post, is the reactions of disgust from the Labour MPs, women especially, immediately following Key’s gesture. They are guttural and genuine, in my opinion.”

      http://robertguyton.blogspot.co.nz/2011/10/key-slashes-throat.html

    • I’m seeing infantile but it isn’t Key

      • robertguyton

         /  December 20, 2017

        “This is very upsetting. The incident in Parliament today, where a man tried to leap from the pubic gallery into the debating chamber has revealed what looks to be very disturbing behaviour from the Prime Minister. The video here shows John Key apparently performing a throat-slitting action directed at the Labour MPs on the other side of the House. Their reaction, as you will hear if you watch the video, is one of shock and horror, it seems to me. Phil Goff’s measured comment about the attempted jump and the Prime Minister’s subsequent actions, the throat-slitting action and the comments he made, blaming the Labour MPs for what happened, is noteworthy. Key’s eye-rolling reaction is something that people will have to interpret for themselves. I would be very interested to hear your comments on the whole incident.”
        Seem very reasonable observations to me 🙂

        • Gezza

           /  December 20, 2017

          “Shunda barunda said…
          I think one has to have quite an imagination to see a “throat cutting gesture” in this at all.

          Labour in in a total shambles, trying to make out that Key is the devil is hardly going to work with anyone but die hard supporters, which, quite frankly, would make them as crazy as the twit jumping over the edge.
          What I did get from this video is a tirade of “scumbag” from Labour MPs, which is what most NZers will remember from this incident.

          Labour loose, yet again.
          OCTOBER 6, 2011 AT 6:52 PM

          robertguyton said…
          Jeeze, Shunda.
          Tell me, what do you attribute the clearly disgusted reaction from those Labour MPs to?
          If you can, leave you anti-Labour bias aside for a moment and see if you can look dispassionately at their reactions.
          What might they have seen or heard?
          Something minor? The usual kind of thing from across the floor? Or something else?
          OCTOBER 6, 2011 AT 7:50 PM
          Shunda barunda said…
          Robert,the video has been selectively edited and you can’t hear Key saying anything at all, the footage I saw on 3 news of the alleged throat cut could have just as easily been a collar adjustment. What would the supposed gesture have been in reference too??

          Are you seriously convinced there is something more sinister going on??

          There is just not conclusive proof of the story Labour is trying to tell, and quite frankly, they are not exactly the most honest bunch of people in the first place.
          OCTOBER 6, 2011 AT 8:21 PM

          robertguyton said…
          Shunda – your determination to blame labour and absolve Key over this issue astounds me! I wonder if you’ve done any background reading on this? I also urge to you look at the video, focusing on the moment the Labour MPs burst into their ‘scum-bag’ condemnation of Key and ask yourself, what could have happened moments before, to provoke that reaction.
          OCTOBER 6, 2011 AT 9:42 PM

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          Possibly Anonymous made the least biased comment. It’s hard to say what actually happened without seeing the whole video. Can you post a link to the full video clip Robert?

          • Gezza

             /  December 20, 2017

            PS: Just FYI, the “video here” link just produces this:

            “Oops, sorry! It looks like we’ve stuffed up…

            Page not found – Error Code 404

            http://www.stuff.co.nz

            so that’s no use at all.

  5. David

     /  December 20, 2017

    I tried question time today and Mallard is plain awful and partisan, he started off quite well but is no Lockwood. Ardern would literally not answer a straight question, Robertson and Twyford have an absolute staggering arrogance, Labour need to remember they didnt exactly win the election and the polls have barely budged since and that sort of an attitude is hard to take from the 2nd placed team.

    • Gezza

       /  December 20, 2017

      Must have a look at the replay at 6pm.

      I went looking for the Parliamentary Video of John Key doing the throat-slitting gesture that Robert’s all gung ho about today as none of my google query results had any working links to it. Found a newshub article that said it happened during Question Time on 5 October 2011 so I viewed all the Questions. The article was wrong, it actually happened during the first clip of the General Debate – but surprisingly the footage of the incident & gesture had been cut from it & all you can hear is the Labour females yelling “scumbag” & Phil Goff referring to it.

      But it was certainly an education watching the mayhem the Carter allowed to go on during Question Time. Trevor manages QT heaps better.

      • Gezza

         /  December 20, 2017

        Whoops, beg pardon, Lockwood Smith, not Carter. I always thought he was quite a good speaker, but he actually allowed a lot more riotous behaviour & barracking than Trevor does.