Mallard “best and worst of Speakers”

Some of what Trevor Mallard has done as Speaker is innovative and relatively effective, but he remains dogged by his political bias and his personal baggage with some MPs, which seem unlikely to change.

Audrey Young: Is it time for fresh challenges for Speaker Trevor Mallard?

Mallard’s performance as Speaker this week has not done the Government any favours.

He is seen as simply part of the Government and the Government is seen to be throwing out National MPs – leader Simon Bridges and Nick Smith – from Parliament.

It has been so bad, that if Ardern is casting around for a capable minister to add to her ranks for the June reshuffle, maybe she should consider bringing Mllard back into the ministry.

Mallard was one of the most highly valued and competent ministers in the Helen Clark.

Mallard is a problem for the Government as Speaker, and he would add something that labour lacks in the current Cabinet – experience. I wonder how he would do as Minister of Housing, or Health. The current ministers are struggling to perform adequately.

While Mallard also has ample experience for his role as Speaker he also has a history of animosities that he seems unable to separate from the job.

I have covered Parliament under seven Speakers and Mallard is both the best and the worst, rolled into one.

When he’s good, he’s brilliant, but on a bad day he’s a House-wrecker.

The good:

On a good day (and there have been two in the past six sitting days) question time can be brilliant.

Because of the rules Mallard instituted, the flow of questions and answers is seamless and his intervention is evident only when he insists on a fuller answer.

He listens to questions and answers very carefully. he does not give diatribes when explaining why he has made a decision.

With oversight over written parliamentary questions, he has also demanded a better standard from ministers and twice this year has awarded National an extra 12 questions because of sloppy written answers from Shane Jones and David Clark.

The bad:

Mallard at his worst is when he abuses the inherent power of the chair by punishing Opposition MPs and then punishes them for reacting under extreme provocation.

That is how Simon Bridges came to being kicked out.

Bridges was kicked out for calling Mallard “unprofessional”. Under Parliament’s rules it was not an unfair punishment. But Bridges was right: Mallard had been unprofessional.

What is happening is that Mallard is giving himself licence to insult MPs but as soon as they bite back they are punished.

Mallard insulted Bridges several times on Tuesday, demanding he knew show “leadership” at a time he knew Bridges was facing leadership pressure. The apparent intention was to humiliate Bridges.

The absolute worst:

However Mallard was at his absolute worst when he refused to put leave on behalf of Nick Smith to give priority to a Bill next members’ day that provided roadside drug testing of drivers.

Smith wanted to know why and Mallard said that he himself had objected. That is unprecedented for the so-called umpire.

When objected, not unfairly, Mallard ordered him to leave the house.

As Speaker, Mallard has power, and he doesn’t want that challenged even when he misuses it.

When Smith abused Mallard on the way out Mallard ordered him back in and named him, suspending him from all proceedings for a day.

The abuse hurled at Mallard by Smith warranted serious punishment, but Mallard’s refusal to put leave was extreme provocation and an abuse of his position.

In contrast, Mallard is quite lenient with government MPs, like Winston Peters.

At times he also appears to protect the Prime Minister and other Ministers.

Mallard has the experience to be a good speaker, and has made worthwhile improvements to how things are done, but he has always had a problem with his temperament, and that is not easily resolved.

Would Ardern consider moving him from the Speaker’s chair to a ministerial responsibility? Would Mallard want to?

“We live in the best country on earth”

Duncam Garner’s summer holiday has led him to claim:

The experiment results are in – we live in the lucky country

Based on my summer adventures I’m totally convinced we live in the best country on earth, we’re the lucky buggers not our mates suffering the heat wave across the Tasman.

I don’t think anyone can claim ‘the best country’, many people with have different criteria for judging countries, but I rate New Zealand as one of the best countries in the world (if you don’t mind our remoteness) and I wouldn’t choose anywhere else.

So here’s my findings from my three-week social experiment, the highs and lows, the good the bad and ugly in New Zealand.

Despite claims the country was fully booked out you could still get a motel or hotel room at a pinch, depending on where you stopped.

I’ll just include the country-specific points.

The drivers I witnessed over the country largely stuck to the road rules and were sensible. Sure, I did see two total idiots, but that’s not bad in three weeks. Perhaps the 4kmh tolerance message is getting through.

The liquor licensing laws appear to be working, too.

The Department of Conservation does a fantastic job managing so much wild, remote and isolated public land in New Zealand. The walkways, tracks and campsites are world class on pristine beaches and in beautiful forests.

And it’ll cost you next to nothing.

A visit to Tane Mahuta in the Waipoua Forest in Northland will blow your mind.

I’ve been there a couple of times and it’s certainly worth a visit, as is the Kauri Museum on the way up there, at Matakohe.

The best drive in the country has to be taking the car up 90 Mile Beach. I took my wife and kids and we drove 82km in a straight line.

We saw penguins and a dead whale and people hauling in snapper from their surfcasters.

Cape Reinga is world class. The roads were crap.

This experience was amazing, the beach is superb, the road was brilliant, DoC has spent some cash there and it’s a genuine tourist experience – well done.

He seems to contradict himself on roads.

I did it by bus from Kaitaia, up the road to Cape Reinga and then back via the beach with sand dune sliding on the way.

On the uglier/sadder side of life for some in New Zealand:

The further north you go the poorer it seems to get. Jobs and industry in the north are scarce. “Rural broadband” is an oxymoron – the locals say their internet services are a joke.

Farming and tourism is good and the north relies on forestry, but there is little else. This region needs to get into a serious dialogue with the Government about its future.

After one meal in a Kaitaia cafe a woman entered the place and ate what was left on our plates and other plates.

Beggars and homeless people are on the streets in Kaitaia and Kaikohe. A number of locals told me mental health services are seriously stretched.

We certainly have some major issues that aren’t being dealt with adequately.

We are genuinely remote and thousands of miles from anywhere and we don’t have international wars and crises seriously threatening our doorstep and let’s hope it stays that way.

Yet, we must lead and play our part knowing how lucky we truly are to be so far from trouble and in the centre of paradise.

Our remoteness gives us a huge advantage in that we don’t have neighbours causing us problems, exporting their pollution or threatening our existence. If major strife erupted, especially if nuclear, we could be close to being the luckiest country on Earth.

But we still have many problems to contend with. Especially the poorest and least healthy amongst us.

Some of us, perhaps many, see New Zealand as one of the best places to be in the world. We have to try and share our luck more with those who find life here crappy.

 

Trans Tasman: best and worst of Labour

Stuff reports on Trans Tasman’s annual assessment of political performances in Trans-Tasman roll call – the best and worst of the 2015 political year.

Here are Labour MP assessments and ratings.

Labour fares little better, with transTasman saying it is still reeling from electoral defeat and Andrew Little’s ascension to the top job.

“He is battling to get his caucus behind him and to an extent has succeeded, but there are still many in the party’s ranks who should be looking to their futures – Clayton Cosgrove, David Cunliffe, David Parker and Trevor Mallard should all be looking for new jobs.”

Top five – Labour

Annette King – 6.5/10

Struggles to shake off the mantle of the 90s but is still a dominant force in the party. Labour will need her experience heading into a tough election in 2017.

Andrew Little – 6/10

Making a good first of the leadership, getting his MPs on side and on message. Still not using all his MPs strengths to full advantage. Polls need to move quickly and needs better advice.

Kelvin Davis – 6/10

Gets up the PM’s nose and has a social conscience…..is ready to be thrown into the attack and relishing it.

Chris Hipkins – 6/10

If Labour ever gets back into power, he will be at the top table.

Phil Twyford 6/10

Another of the young Labour stars who has worked his heart out on housing and transport issues. Deserves a big role in the next Labour Government.

Bottom five – Labour

Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene – 2/10

Another MP going nowhere fast. No prospect of advancement.

Port Hills MP Ruth Dyson – 2/10

Another Labour MP on her last legs. Needs to move on.

Mangere MP Su’a William Sio -2.5/10

His role is to deliver the Pacific Island vote and as long as he is there he probably will

List MP Clayton Cosgrove, Mana MP Kris Faafoi, Tamaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare, List MP Sue Moroney, Manukau East MP Jenny Salesa, Ikaroa Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri  – 3/10

Cosgrove is “a shadow of his old self” and on the outer – probably time to go, says trans-Tasman. Of the others, it says Faafoi had promise, but is yet to deliver, Moroney has worked hard but “it’s not enough”, Salesa has talent but hasn’t shown it and Henare has had no memorable moments so far.

As for National their deputy ranks ahead of Labour’s leader, showing how important a capable deputy leader is.

No sign of Jacinda Ardern in the top five (nor the bottom ranks). She is rated 5/10:

Has done a good job of corralling the Auckland youth vote. Too close to Grant Robertson to have Deputy Leader aspirations. Didn’t deserve “pretty little thing” comment, but hasn’t exactly mastered her shadow portfolios. Still polled as 4th best preferred PM.

Grant Robertson should be worried about his rating, down from 6.5 to 4.

Floundering in the finance role, with generalised comments exposing his lack of knowledge. Isn’t making the traction he should and is relying on his cronies like David Clark too much to fill in the gaps. Not doing his party any favours.

It’s notable that for a party that puts some importance on gender balance apart from King who seems to be there for her long experience and ability to keep the caucus out of mishief the rest of the top performers are all male.

There’s more gender equality in the bottom perfomers.

It should be a major concern for Labour that their are 9 MPs rated 2-3 out of 10. That’s nearly a third of their caucus. The rest just about all have to make the shadow Cabinet being announced today.

Only 7 Labour MPs rate 5 or better. That’s also a major concern.

Trans-Tasman 2015 MP roll call

http://publications.themainreport.nz/transtasman/downloads/Roll%20Call%202015.pdf

http://publications.themainreport.nz/transtasman/downloads/Roll%20Call%202015.pdf

Trans Tasman: best and worst of National

Stuff reports on Trans Tasman’s annual assessment of political performances in Trans-Tasman roll call – the best and worst of the 2015 political year.

Here are National MP ratings.

National is starting to suffer third termitis, and some of its minister’s are burnt out. That’s the view of transTasman, which has just released its annual roll call, the publication MPs look forward to with equal parts excitement and dread.

National is showing signs of third-termitis and senior ministers like Gerry Brownlee and Murray McCully are looking tired, out of sorts, or burnt out.

“Some are looking to the future – [Speaker] David Carter looks as though he will be pleased to relinquish the Speaker’s chair for a Knighthood and a cushy foreign posting, where he will no longer have to be selectively deaf, while Tim Groser will also be looking forward to an ambassadorial posting”.

Top Five – National

Finance Minister Bill English –  8/10

“A foundation for the Government’s ongoing success. Dependable and canny as always, finally getting the books back into the black, even if only for a short time, has been a big deal for him. The power behind the throne.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully 8/10

“He has been a virtual blur this year, rushing through so many countries and doing so much. Failed to secure Middle East peace though. A strong year for the man, which has ended in a hospital bed. He made a massive effort.”

Prime Minister John Key – 7.5/10

Takes a tumble from last year’s rating of 9.5. His popularity is undented, despite ponytail gate and other controversies…..The flag debate may deflate his ego but he is still far and away New Zealand’s most popular leader.”

Justice Minister Amy Adams – 7.5/10

“We said she would be one to watch and she has added to that impression with strong performances across all her portfolios.”

Trade Minister Tim Groser – 7.5/10

“Another minister who has had a huge year and weathered some storms. He is expected to leave soon for a less pressured environment.”

Bottom five – National

List MP Paul Foster-Bell – 2/10

“Last year we suggested he sharpen up his act. He hasn’t.”

Taranaki MP Barbara Kuriger – 2/10

Says she wants ot help promote regional growth. Her own area is doing well but it’s clear she hasn’t had much impact anywhere else.”

List MP Melissa Lee- 2/10
“Probably should be considering another career. Her bus has well and truly pulled out.”

Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith – 2/10

Replaced an MP who was a waste of space, but proving he’s better is tough as well, says transTasman.

Coromandel MP Scott Simpson, Rodney MP Mark Mitchell, List MP Brett Hudson and List MP Nuk Korako – all on 2.5/10

On Simpson, transTasman says: “Can’t seem to get anyone’s attention outside the committee he chairs”. On Mitchell, they say:  “Another holder of a safe seat. A good example of why we should consider fixed terms for MPs.” Hudson: “We said he would have to prove he is anything more than a lightweight. So far still punching at his expected level.” Korako: A man considered genial by most, who has done nothing to change anyone’s opinion.

I think Bill England has been National’s most consistent and probably most valuable performer.

I don’t know about Murray McCully, he is out of sight most of the time, apart from the Saudi Farm debacle which should have marked him down substantially. He was lucky to survive in his job.

It will be hard for new National back benchers to make an impression amongst such a large caucus.

Trans-Tasman 2015 MP roll call