Bridges versus Ardern in Question Time

Some interesting exchanges between Simon Bridges and Jacinda Ardern in parliament today.

3. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s policies, statements, and actions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is it the policy of this Labour-led Government to increase the refugee quota to 1,500 a year in this term of Government, as previously announced by her Minister, and if not, what is the Government’s policy?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I have said many times before, when we’ve made a decision as a Cabinet, that policy will be released. I know that the member is hotly anticipating the decision.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is it the policy of this Labour-led Government to repeal the three-strikes law, as previously announced by her Minister; if not, what is her Government’s policy on this law?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: This Government’s policy is to have an effective justice system, which, unfortunately, we lost under that last Government. We have an increasing prison population and a static crime rate, and that’s why Minister Andrew Little is doing excellent work alongside Minister Kelvin Davis to improve rehabilitation, get the prison population down—which they are already doing—and make our communities safer.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is it the policy of this Labour-led Government to pass the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, as approved by all of Cabinet and reported back to select committee; if not, what changes are being made to the bill?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As the Deputy Prime Minister himself has said in this House, the bill will pass. When it does, we look forward to bringing balance back to the workplace, and making sure that we have a fair go for workers and acknowledge the good work employers are doing to try and lift wages at the same time.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree with her Deputy Prime Minister’s insistence yesterday that this Government was not Labour-led?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: While that member’s caught up on semantics, this Government is proud that a recent survey said that the people of New Zealand had greater confidence in us than in that last Government, and I don’t think they particularly care about descriptors and what was on a website. We have the support of New Zealand. That’s why we’re here and you’re over there.

SPEAKER: Order! Order! I’m going to point out to the right honourable Prime Minister—when she’s finished the other conversation—that I’m here, and she doesn’t refer to me.

Hon Simon Bridges: Speaking of semantics, why are there over 50 references by her Ministers in this Parliament to it being a Labour-led Government?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Because we’re in Government and you’re not.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Prime Minister, as evidence to the cooperative nature of this coalition, if she is aware of it being a fact that since the election—in less than 11 months—1,055 decisions have been made of unity and, since Monday’s Cabinet, more since?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, I understand that to be the case, which is an incredible list of achievements that far outstrips anything that last Government achieved, I would say, in an entire nine years.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why did she say yesterday, in respect of the phrase “Labour-led Government”, “I’ve never used that phrase,”, when Hansard records her using it more than a dozen times as Prime Minister, right in that seat?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I am the leader of the Labour Party. I don’t think anyone on this side of the House has lost sight of that. I am also the Prime Minister of a Government that has a coalition partner and a confidence and supply partner, and I am proud of all of them.

Hon Simon Bridges: When the Prime Minister commented on GDP on Hosking’s show this morning, was the reason she made the mistake that she did because she was distracted by managing coalition differences in her Labour-led Government?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No. It’s not the first time that Mike Hosking and I have not listened to each other.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she know the difference between GDP and Crown financial statements?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: Did she know at 8 a.m. this morning?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes. Next question.

Hon Simon Bridges: How will her Budget responsibility rules (BRRs) impact on GDP?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: In our minds, of course, it will support them. We need to make sure that we’re delivering responsible governance, and our BRRs were delivered on in the last Budget and continue to show that we’re able to deliver surpluses whilst maintaining Crown spending at around 30 percent and debt to a level of 20 percent.

Also:

2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Have she and her Ministers lived up to the commitment to “be the most open, most transparent Government that New Zealand has ever had” in respect of the process for appointing the Government’s Chief Technology Officer?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): No. As has been stated at the time, Clare Curran’s failure to accurately answer parliamentary questions about her meeting with Mr Handley did not meet my or the former Minister’s expectation. That is why I accepted her resignation from her open Government responsibilities.

Hon Simon Bridges: What were the communications between herself and Clare Curran on the matter of the Government’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) appointment, which were confirmed to have taken place by the State Services minister, Chris Hipkins, in Parliament last Thursday?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I would need to go back and check directly, but my recollection is—because, of course, the CTO role was designed to report directly to the Minister but also to have some reporting lines to myself as Prime Minister—that the Minister kept me up to date generally with the process, but only as is would have been appropriate.

Hon Simon Bridges: Were the communications between herself and Clare Curran about the Chief Technology Officer role in the form of emails, texts, conversations, or were they across multiple platforms, and if so, which?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: In order to answer that with accuracy I would need to go back and check across all those platforms.

Hon Simon Bridges: What was the content of the communication between herself and Clare Curran on the appointment of Chief Technology Officer?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I referred to in my second answer, the Minister kept me abreast generally with the process she was undertaking, because of the anticipated reporting lines, but it was only as appropriate and as Ministers do, from time to time, on significant appointments.

Hon Simon Bridges: Was there an email between the Prime Minister and Clare Curran by way of private Gmail account?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I would need to go back and check any of these questions. I believe that there are Official Information Act requests that have gone into the Minister. Minister Curran has made sure that all of her Gmails have been handed over to the Chief Archivist, which means that they will be subject to the Public Records Act and the Official Information Act. And of course, the Official Information Act covers all my correspondence as well.

Hon Simon Bridges: Given I’m asking the Prime Minister about direct communications by private Gmail between her and her former Minister, does she really expect us to take it that she can’t tell us today?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: What I’m saying to the House is I am happy to answer those questions in detail if the member gives me notice so that I can make sure that I answer them with accuracy. That, I think, is probably fair enough, given that as Prime Minister I will receive hundreds of emails, a number of text messages, and the member’s asking me to recall with some specificity about both.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has the Prime Minister used private Gmail with Clare Curran?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, primarily I conduct my business across my parliamentary accounts, but I want to ensure that I answer the member with accuracy, so if he wishes to put them down in detail, then I will do so.

Hon Grant Robertson: Does the Prime Minister recall the following quote: “I have quite a number of emails but because I have my electorate office and others I tend to use a private email address.”—made by John Key, the former National Party Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, I have seen that statement, and that is why I have consistently told the House the most important piece of information here is that all of those forms of communication—be they LinkedIn, Facebook, WhatsApp, text message—are covered by the Official Information Act, because it is mode-neutral, to ensure that we can document to this House where all of that work takes place. That’s exactly what the former leader of the National Party said himself.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has she had any conversations, emails, or texts with Derek Handley since she’s been Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, to answer with some accuracy, I would want to go back. [Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order!

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: My best recollection is that I received, some months ago, a text from Mr Handley mentioning the Chief Technology Officer role, which I do not recall directly engaging with, as that would not have been appropriate.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Prime Minister contemplated putting the leader of the National Party out of his misery by leaking the email?

SPEAKER: Further supplementary?

Hon Simon Bridges: Were the conversations, emails, or texts with Mr Handley about the role of the Government’s Chief Technology Officer, and if so, what was discussed?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I can rule out any direct verbal communication. I haven’t spoken with Mr Handley in at least a year, maybe two. As I say, my best recollection is I received a text message that I didn’t directly engage in. For all other platforms, I would want to go back and check, but I don’t recall directly communicating in regards to that role.

Hon Simon Bridges: Did she agree to Derek Handley being offered the job of the Government’s Chief Technology Officer last month, noting that the Cabinet minute of last December states that the appointment would be made by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Government Digital Services?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The appointment went to the Cabinet appointments and honours committee (APH), where all members of APH make a collective decision. I, of course, am a member of APH where that decision was made. I declared at that meeting my knowledge of Mr Handley.


In a later question Chris Hipkins advised of additional communications Between Curran and Handley. The Speaker advised Hipkins to bring all of Clare Curran’s emails to parliament tomorrow:

11. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of State Services: What was the date of all communications between Ministers and Derek Handley regarding the appointment of the Government’s Chief Technology Officer in addition to those publically released by the previous Minister for Government Digital Services and up to the time Mr Handley accepted the role?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of State Services): I communicated with Derek Handley on Monday, 10 September. Megan Woods has had no communication with Derek Handley. Clare Curran has advised me that she had communications with Derek Handley in addition to those publicly released between the final meeting of the interview panel on 30 July and 24 August. It’s worth noting that because discussion about Mr Handley’s interests was ongoing, the process was never completed.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I will repeat, as a supplementary, my primary question from last Thursday and see if I can get an answer. How many undisclosed emails through former Minister Clare Curran’s private Gmail account are there that relate to the appointment of the Government’s Chief Technology Officer, and what is the content of those emails?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I have not seen the individual emails in question. They have been handed to the Chief Archivist. Clare Curran has explained to me that the contents of those emails are predominantly post her conversation with Derek Handley where he was offered the job, and related to the scope of the positon. That’s the information that I have to date.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The House is still none the wiser of the number of Gmails—

SPEAKER: Yes, and the member will resume his seat. What I have indicated to the member is that if he asks his question properly tomorrow or at some stage in the future, with sufficient detail, I will expect a proper answer. In fact, I think it would be a good thing for transparency if in answering a specific and detailed and well-worded question, the Minister brought the emails to the House and made them available in that way.

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18 Comments

  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  September 18, 2018

    Jacinda’s gettng rattled and resorting to childish yah boo behaviour. I keep expecting her to say ‘Nyah, nyah’ or ‘So there !’ or to start crying…or all three.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  September 18, 2018

      And she MUST remember saying ‘Labour-led government.’ It was obvious that SB knew the answer when he asked the question and wanted to see if she would admit to it.

      She has scored a few own goals here.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  September 18, 2018

        She definitely had the sulks a few times today.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  September 18, 2018

          Pouty and whiney; not what a PM should be like.

          She said L-LG so many times that it’s not credible that she doesn’t remember it.

          Reply
  2. Blazer

     /  September 18, 2018

    1 on 1 Mr Bridges has no chance against Ardern.

    Reply
    • PDB

       /  September 18, 2018

      He may be generally hopeless but this particular format actually suits Bridges – the liar being questioned by the lawyer.

      Reply
  3. patupaiarehe

     /  September 18, 2018

    Hon Simon Bridges: Why did she say yesterday, in respect of the phrase “Labour-led Government”, “I’ve never used that phrase,”, when Hansard records her using it more than a dozen times as Prime Minister, right in that seat?

    I wonder how long it took them to research this? Great to know that my tax dollars are being put to good use.

    Reply
    • Nookin

       /  September 18, 2018

      Sometimes, it is helpful to know that one cannot always depend on the PM ‘s veracity ( or lack of it ).

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  September 18, 2018

        This is the target that has been hit a few times lately. Open and transparent has gone down the toilet.

        Reply
  4. Zedd

     /  September 18, 2018

    seriously… does anyone think Bridges (Mr10% support) even approaches credible as a real challenge to Jacinda ?
    He should just ‘bite the bullet’ & move over, IF Natl are serious about looking like ‘the opposition’ not just a total JOKE !

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  September 18, 2018

      seriously… does anyone think Bridges (Mr10% support) even approaches credible as a real challenge to Jacinda ?

      He’s not the best choice, no – but man she’s put a big target on herself when it comes to honesty and that’s hard to recover from when it was your mantra.

      Reply
  5. Trevors_Elbow

     /  September 19, 2018

    A net has been set, the fish have swam in and out, nibbling at the bait…..they think its safe… but the net is about to be drawn closed. What additional information does National have which will reveal J Ardern as not telling the truth? Bridges seems to be setting a trap…

    Reply
  1. Question Time today | Your NZ

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