Green Party announces significant change to Question Time

James Shaw has announced an interesting change to how they are going to deal with the Green Party questions in Question:


Green Party announces significant change to Question Time

The Green Party has today announced that, from this week, most of its allocation of questions for Question Time will be handed over to the Leader of the Opposition to use, in order to limit the prevalence of “patsy questions” in Parliament and to strengthen the ability of Parliament to hold the Government of the day to account.

The only exception is if the Green Party wishes to use a question to hold the Government to account on a particular issue, consistent with the party’s Confidence and Supply agreement with Labour, which acknowledges the ability for the parties to agree to disagree on certain issues.

“The Green Party has long advocated the importance of Parliament having the powers to hold the Government of the day to account. Question Time is a key avenue for the opposition to interrogate the Government, so this move is a small step we can take to live up to the values we stated in opposition now that we are part of the Government,” said Green Party Co-leader James Shaw.

“Using Question Time to ask ourselves scripted, set-piece patsy questions does nothing to advance the principles of democracy and accountability that are very important to us as a party. We expect the opposition to use our questions to hold us to account as much as any other party in Government.

“We think patsy questions are a waste of time, and New Zealanders have not put us in Parliament to do that; we’re there to make positive change for our people and our environment.

“We don’t expect any other party to follow suit – this is about us leading the kind of change we want to see in Parliament.

“The Greens are committed to doing Government differently and doing Government better and this change, along with our voluntary release of Green Ministers diaries to increase transparency, will hopefully spark more of a debate about how we can bring Parliament’s processes and systems into the modern age.

“We will also make a submission to the Standing Orders Review, which kicks off next year, to advocate for further changes to Question Time. This review is where all parties in Parliament make decisions about how future parliaments will operate and is the best place for all politicians to discuss any long term permanent changes to Question Time.

“The Canadian Government has recently trialled changes to Question Time after Justin Trudeau campaigned to do so. This shows parliament systems are not set in stone and should be open to regular review and change to ensure our democracy is healthy and well-functioning.

“We have reserved the right to use our questions when we have a point of difference with our colleagues in government. Our Confidence and Supply Agreement with Labour allows us to agree to disagree on issues, and the occasional respectful questioning of the Government from within is also an important part of democracy.

“That we can occasionally disagree with each other highlights the strength and flexibility of this Government,” said Mr Shaw.


It will be interesting to see whether National changes their approach to Question Time in response.


UPDATE – James Shaw has responded to media claims that Greens had done a deal with National on this.

No deal, just a principled stand

Do you know what frustrates me about Parliament? Sometimes, it’s nothing but a hollow ritual.

As Greens, we’ve always stood for modernising our democracy, making MPs more accountable and giving the public better access to the levers of power.

So from this week, the Green Party will hand over its allocation of questions for Question Time to the Leader of the Opposition. That means, we will no longer waste Parliament’s time or yours asking scripted, set-piece “patsy” questions directed to ourselves.

It doesn’t mean we’ve given up pursuing issues we care about. When those issues arise, our arrangement allows Green MPs still to ask questions where we wish to hold the Government to account.

So why the change? The questions we’re giving up do nothing to advance democratic participation. Question Time should be about holding the Government to account, the Opposition can better use some of our questions to do that.

This is another example of us leading the type of change we want to see in Parliament. We’re walking our walk.

Learn more about Question Time here.

40 Comments

  1. Ray

     /  March 18, 2018

    Any clues on what other changes the Greens would like to make to Question Time?

  2. David

     /  March 18, 2018

    Hat tip James Shaw that is innovative thinking now lets see if Mallard actually gets his team to answer those generously gifted questions.

  3. very unexpected, and innovative, I hate watching patsy questions, they are all on 6 figures and its a gross waste of resources. Though the greens could ask the hard questions themselves more often to ensure they get cut through as an alternative left wing voice in Govt.

    • Gezza

       /  March 18, 2018

      This way they can set things up for National to attack Labour over things they don’t want to publicly disagree with. Vipers in the nest.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  March 18, 2018

        (disgusted eyeroll at my not having been able to see this for myself)

      • PDB

         /  March 18, 2018

        Pretty much on the money – simply a way to voice their dismay over some stuff Winston/Labour have been implementing without putting the govt at risk of falling over.

  4. Trevors_elbow

     /  March 18, 2018

    Hmmmm…. wont go down well with Labour…

    I expected some interesting discussions between Chippie and Shaw to ensue…

    • Corky

       /  March 18, 2018

      It’s not going down well with me. I can’t see anything wrong with this move. It’s common sense. It goes some way to fixing what the public continually whine about… Yet my left eye is twitching. That usually means something is not good for National. Maybe a dose of magnesium will stop the twitching and my inner doubts.

  5. artcroft

     /  March 18, 2018

    Unexpected and very generous offer by the Greens. I’ll have to reappraise them in light of this.

    • Corky

       /  March 18, 2018

      Time to hang the Colts and Chaps up, Arty. When did a slinger ever reappraise something halfway through the draw? Them Greens are trying to beat the small coalition party curse.
      Like pulling back on the draw, it can’t be done.

  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  March 18, 2018

    Good move, Greens. Best thing you’ve done in recent memory.

  7. Zedd

     /  March 18, 2018

    Methinks its the Greens just trying to reassert themselves in a Govt. dominated by Lab/NZF coalition deal.. with them being sidelined as a ‘confidence & supply partner’ only ?

    Its unlikely that these ‘transferred patsy questions’ will bite the Greens.. are they perhaps trying to ‘bridge the gulf’ between Natl & Greens.. ‘Blue Greens’ for a possible future coalition deal ? (as has been often suggested) well we shall just have to wait & see, but; I seriously doubt it.
    Its more likely that the Natl party may break up; with a ‘Blue Green party’ to challenge TOP in 2020 ? 😀

  8. Gezza

     /  March 18, 2018

    I wonder if this can just be done under Standing Orders or whether it also needs Speaker’s approval. Patsy Questions as he calls them have been being used quite well sometimes by Labour to inform watchers/listeners about things of some relevance that they are doing. They’re not all wastes of time like they were under National.

    • High Flying Duck

       /  March 18, 2018

      You mean they have used to them to announce which piece of National Party legislation they have passed this week?
      Other than setting up committees they haven’t done anything other than put out fires and hide non-performing ministers.

      • Gezza

         /  March 18, 2018

        No they’ve used them to inform sometimes on what Ministers have been doing somewhere up or down country, biosecurity measures being taken somwhere. Just little tidbits that weren’t intended for political point-scoring.

        • High Flying Duck

           /  March 18, 2018

          Oh, time fillers to fill the gaps where legislation should be.
          Question time isn’t about tidbits. It’s the forum given for the government to have its legislative program debated, critiqued and defended.
          Even the Greens know that…

          • Gezza

             /  March 18, 2018

            I gave ya a downtick for bloody whining.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  March 18, 2018

              You’re giving Labour credit for wasting parliamentary time, so I’ll take it as a compliment. 🙂
              Your DT isn’t from me by the way.

            • Gezza

               /  March 18, 2018

              The only one from me for you is for the one ending even the Greens know that. But I’m giving you another one for the above for still bloody whining.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  March 18, 2018

              I wan’t whining. I was accepting the complement.

            • Gezza

               /  March 18, 2018

              That one’s for arguing.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  March 18, 2018

              I gave you an uptick for persistence.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  March 18, 2018

          That’s what press releases are for. And the army of Govt PR lackeys.

          • Gezza

             /  March 18, 2018

            Nobody reads ’em. They wait until Katie interviews someone for 3 seconds on tv.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  March 18, 2018

              If they are important to local communities like ours they do get reported in local media. If they are not important there is no point in wasting QT on them.

  9. artcroft

     /  March 18, 2018

    Stuff has an article out on this. The author states that the Greens have done this to raise their profile in the govt. Hard to see how the Greens will achieve this when they have handed the floor to National. Sure this one off Sunday announcement will get them some favourable coverage but from here on in its all National. I think National gets the best deal. Looks to me like the Greens didn’t want to ask patsy questions of Labour and look like lap dogs. Which they are, but nor did they want to rock the boat and ask hard questions.

    • PDB

       /  March 18, 2018

      Yes – one could see this as the Greens being too gutless to raise issues themselves that they may have with some of the stuff Winston/Labour are implementing.

  10. Kitty Catkin

     /  March 18, 2018

    Why don’t people say ‘give’ rather than ‘gift’ ? Would anyone ever say ‘He gifted me a gift.’

    • Gezza

       /  March 18, 2018

      It’s quite common – also used in a formal or legal setting
      verb
      1.
      give (something) as a gift, especially formally or as a donation or bequest.
      “the company gifted 2,999 shares to a charity”

      We’ll say no more about this. 😐

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  March 18, 2018

        It’s pointless, and has no real legal standing although people think that it has.

        • Gezza

           /  March 18, 2018

          We’re saying no more about this. Remember? 😐

  11. “We think patsy questions are a waste of time…” I agree. So why don’t they grow a spine and ask some decent questions about subjects or issues closest to their own heart, thus representing their constituency who voted for them. It’s not as if Labour treated them with much respect in the coalition talks. A wasted opportunity.

  12. “We don’t expect any other party to follow suit – this is about us leading the kind of change we want to see in Parliament.” Um, seriously confused thinking right there.

    • Gezza

       /  March 18, 2018

      1st Meitria misreads the echo chamber as what most people think & makes a bad call. Now James has a similar brain explosion that will bite him in the buttocks.

  13. Patzcuaro

     /  March 19, 2018