Dr Heckle and Mr Clark

Parliament yesterday was very volatile after the Speaker’s ruling on the temporary status of Peter Dunne. After the main theatrics and walkouts the tension continued, leading to the ejection of Defence Minister Jonathon Coleman after he refused to apologise for calling Labour MP David Clark a coward.

Clark publicly comes across as a reasonable, thoughtful, mild mannered person. In Parliament he sometimes transforms into a humongous heckler.

Questions that Phil Goff asked of Coleman led to a heated exchange. During the course of this exchange there was a lot of noisy cross-house heckling.

At one stage Coleman responded to something Clark said by calling him a coward, and this led to Coleman being ordered from the house.

Clark’s comment isn’t in the transcript and can’t be heard on audio but it has been reported that he called Coleman a wanker, and then he left the house.

Hon John Banks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. During the narrative, the member over there the Very Reverend Dr Clark made a disgraceful across-the-House abuse at my bench mate, which was insulting and demeaning to the whole of Parliament. Could you drag him back in and get him to withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: I am looking for the member. He is not here so I cannot drag him back in.

That happened just after 3 pm during Question 2. About an hour later Clark returned to the house, raised a point of order and apologised for his earlier comment:

Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. During the heat of the debate earlier I made a comment that was unparliamentary and inappropriate. I withdraw and apologise.

He looked appropriately sheepish and contrite.

Clark apologyThe apology is at the start of Budget Debate – 6th June, 2013 – Part 2

The transcript surrounding the Clark comment and subsequent exchanges is as follows, his comment was during Coleman’s withdrawal and apology.

Hon Phil Goff: I take offence at the comment made by the Minister, which is quite untrue. I never leaked the details relating to the privacy of any dead soldier. I take offence at that, and I ask him to withdraw and apologise for making it.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member has taken offence, then would the Minister please stand, withdraw, and apologise because the member has taken offence.

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member will please—

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: Thank you.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, you invited Mr Goff to make his point of order, and throughout that point of order Mr Banks constantly interjected, and again you did nothing.

Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear the interjection. [Interruption] Order!

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could I suggest maybe the technicians need to look at the sound system because, with respect, it appears quite genuinely that there is a sound problem. You appear to be able to hear everything on this side of the House, but nothing on that side.

Mr SPEAKER: If the member continues to make that sort of point of order, he will be leaving the Chamber.

Hon John Banks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. During the narrative, the member over there the Very Reverend Dr Clark made a disgraceful across-the-House abuse at my bench mate, which was insulting and demeaning to the whole of Parliament. Could you drag him back in and get him to withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: I am looking for the member. He is not here so I cannot drag him back in.

Iain Lees-Galloway: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is getting to the stage where we are having points of order that are now frivolous. If it is a serious point of order, I will hear it. But if I conclude it is a frivolous one, then I will be asking any member who raises a frivolous point of order to leave the Chamber. Does the member wish to continue?

Iain Lees-Galloway: The Minister Jonathan Coleman quite clearly called a member on this side of the House a coward. That is well outside of Standing Orders and I expect him to withdraw and apologise for that comment.

Mr SPEAKER: Again, I did not hear it, but if the Hon Jonathan Coleman did do that—

Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the Minister did yell across the House calling someone a coward, he will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: I am not going to apologise if you are not going to give me the chance to explain what went on. I am sorry. I will leave the Chamber.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will leave the Chamber.

  • Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman withdrew from the Chamber.