Government appointed Speakers are always contentious, but Mallard…

…is the one currently in the gun for being tough on National MPs, and particularly struggling to tolerate Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges. And National are getting more vocal (reckless) in criticising Mallard’s protection on Government MPs, particularly Jacinda Ardern.

Bridges and Gerry Brownlee were turfed out of Parliament by Mallard yesterday – see Bridges, Brownlee ordered out of Parliament – which shows that the intolerance and antagonism is unlikely to diminish.

Why would Ardern need paternalistic protection of the Speaker? From what I’ve seen she is capable of standing up for herself quite adequately in Parliament.

Audrey Young (NZH): Bridges punishment was fair but Mallard’s intolerance is an ongoing problem

Parliament’s Speaker, Trevor Mallard, has an inbuilt bias against National Party leader Simon Bridges and a soft spot for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

That much has been clear since Mallard took the chair just over a year ago. Bridges gets under his skin.

But what is also clear is that Bridges crossed a line in the House today and cannot credibly object to having been thrown out by Mallard.

No one is complaining that Bridges and Brownlee got turfed out yesterday – least of all Bridges. He has used the additional publicity to voice his accusation that Mallard protects Ardern.

It was during questions to the Government about the Karel Sroubek case that Bridges accused Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of “ducking and diving”.

Such a description is not unusual in the cut and thrust of politics, and barely raised anybody’s eyebrow – except Mallard’s.

Mallard stood up to object – we don’t know whether he was about to make Bridges withdraw and apologise and put him on a final warning.

But before he could mete out punishment, Bridges said: “Here comes the protection.”

That was the offending phrase and that got him ejected from the House – and for that there can be no objection.

It crossed a line. It can be easily argued that Mallard was too quick to leap to the defence of Ardern after she was accused of ducking and diving – not that she requires any help from Mallard in the chamber.

Mallard crossed a line the day before.

Mallard’s intolerance was on display yesterday when he referred to Bridges’ questions as “smart-arse” which is also an appalling lapse by a Speaker to the Leader of the Opposition.

Mallard did apologise for that remark.

And during an exchange with Brownlee, he basically agreed that tighter standards apply to Opposition questions than to answers by Government Ministers.

He can’t stand a bit of cross-house banter and he seemed personally offended when MPs interject in the second person.

The sadness of Mallard’s speakership is that he had hopes of inserting himself less into Question Time than other Speakers, but he is doing the exact opposite.

On Newshub this week, Winston Peters tried to suggest that Mallard was not behaving like a Labour MP, but that is not true. It is impossible to take the politics out of the politician.

It would be difficult for Mallard – a Labour Party member since 1972, a Labour MP since 1984 (with a one term break when he lost his seat in 1990), a member of the Labour-led Cabinet from 1999 to 2008, and a parliamentary colleague t of Ardern’s in Pa – to  become totally impartial.

On a good day, when he is in a good mood and does not expect perfection, when he is in a mood to help the Opposition hold the Government to account, Mallard is the best of Speakers.

His stewardship of the House as the Opposition sought answers from the Government over its decision to exempt Te Arai Development from the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill was exemplary.

The stakes were high. He bent over backwards to be fair to all. It was the House at its best because Mallard was at his best.

Unfortunately, the good days don’t come often enough.

The last couple of days were not good for Mallard.

Today may be different – neither Ardern nor Bridges will be in Parliament today. But Brownlee may be.

 

Bridges, Brownlee ordered out of Parliament

Simon Bridges and Gerry Brownlee were turfed out of Parliament today by the Speaker, Trevor Mallard, in another sign of an ongoing battle between them.

Bridges was not getting the answers he wanted from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and when Mallard rose Bridges said “Oh, here comes the protection.”

An overreaction from Mallard?

An attention seeking stunt?

Whatever, it is unlikely to change much.

This is how it panned out.

Question No. 2—Prime Minister

2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements and actions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why did she assert last week that Mr Sroubek’s estranged wife, quote, “changed her tune”, and that she is, quote, “the National Party’s informant”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I assume the member is referring to responses made on my behalf. To answer the question, the Deputy Prime Minister, at the time, was making reference to information that I believe at that time was already raised in the public domain. Certainly, the first I knew of that information was when it was raised with me by the media.

Hon Simon Bridges: What does she say to the claim by Mr Sroubek’s estranged wife and family that her Government’s statements have been beyond appalling, and have caused immense stress and feelings of utter hopelessness in the estranged wife?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, the first I knew of some of those issues was when they were raised with me by the media, and I have seen some reports since then. My expectation would be that if we had information brought to us that raised concerns around her safety, we act appropriately on that. When that issue was first raised with me, I told the Minister directly about that issue, and I understood he followed that up. My understanding is that is what has happened in each case that concerns have been raised with us directly.

Hon Simon Bridges: Can we be clear that she’s rightly distancing herself from statements made on her behalf that this woman was the National Party’s informant?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: What I’m pointing out is that—

Hon Simon Bridges: Oh, so you’re not?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —my first knowledge of some of these issues was when they were already brought into the public domain, and that whenever we’ve had issues—

Hon Simon Bridges: What’s that got to do with anything? Do you stand by the statements or not?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —of concern raised, we acted appropriately—

SPEAKER: I don’t know how many times I have to tell the Leader of the Opposition: when he interjects, he is not to do it in the second person.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she think that tarnishing a victim’s reputation by inferring they were politically motivated, and pushing her to feel utterly hopeless, aligns with her kinder, more compassionate style of Government?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The first time I heard any such connection was actually in a media report—I think, my recollection is, on Radio New Zealand. That was the first time I heard that statement. I’d have to say, if there’s genuine concern about protecting that individual’s privacy, we would not be having this question in the House right now.

Hon Simon Bridges: How did Immigration New Zealand get the home address of Mr Sroubek’s estranged wife, given there was a police safety plan in place—facts known only to the police?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I obviously have absolutely no involvement with Immigration New Zealand’s following up on issues or concerns or, indeed, interviews or questioning. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to have that knowledge or that level of involvement.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree with her police Minister on this, who did have a view, that, quote, “There are some people who just need to be kept safe, and there is no way that anyone apart from police should know where that is.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I think there’s appropriateness to the statements the police Minister was making. In fact, my understanding is that when he’s been informed of issues, he’s dealt with that entirely appropriately.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is it OK that two police detectives and Immigration New Zealand turned up at the estranged wife’s home address, unannounced, to obtain a changed statement from her, leaving her feeling “extremely vulnerable, exposed, and under threat.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Obviously, I wouldn’t have knowledge of some of the level of detail that the Leader of the Opposition is raising. My advice would be that if these are issues that have indeed occurred, it would be appropriate, I think, for the Minister of Police to put them to the police and have them follow up independently of him. It is an operational issue; it is appropriate for them to respond. There’s also an independent police complaints process if there has been anything that’s occurred that has been questionable or should be followed up on.

Hon Simon Bridges: Will she answer whether it’s OK that two police detectives and Immigration New Zealand turned up at the estranged woman’s home address, unannounced, to obtain a changed statement from her, leaving her feeling “extremely vulnerable, exposed, and under threat.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve said, I simply cannot know exactly what’s happened in this scenario. What I am laying out are all of the appropriate channels that are available for the member to ensure that this is looked into appropriately, because that is not something I will have detail on. I also want to point out that if this individual is feeling vulnerable, they should be supported, and canvassing these issues openly, here in this House, I don’t think is one way of doing that.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has the system let down the estranged wife of Sroubek?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I would have to be intimately involved in every level of detail in order to know that. What we do need to make sure is that if there are complaints there that need to be made, they are followed up on appropriately, and I’m sure Ministers will ensure that that is the case if the member brings those complaints directly to them.

Hon Simon Bridges: When will the Opposition get the representations made to the Government on Sroubek’s behalf?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Obviously, this is a case that is still potentially subject to legal challenge. The Minister of Immigration has put out the information that is available at this point, but at the same time there is a process still to be gone through.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she know personally any of the people who have made these representations?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I am not privy to the representations in the case that have been made, and nor would it be appropriate for me to be privy to the representations or the process that immigration independently conducts in these situations.

Hon Simon Bridges: When will career criminal Karel Sroubek leave this country?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: When this process is complete. Obviously, the Minister of Immigration has made public his decision.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she anticipate it will now take years, given the court case that will ensue?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I am not going to answer a hypothetical on this case. The Minister has issued his decision; now there’s a process to be run.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has she entirely washed her hands of anything to do with the Sroubek fiasco, and is she ducking and diving to get out of its way? [Speaker stands] Oh, here comes the protection.

SPEAKER: No—the Leader of the Opposition will leave the House.

Hon Simon Bridges withdrew from the Chamber.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Struck a raw nerve.

SPEAKER: He will be followed by the shadow Leader of the House.

Hon Gerry Brownlee withdrew from the Chamber.

This was followed by National MPs walk out of debating chamber (RNZ):

A large number of National Party MPs have walked out of Parliament this afternoon during question time.

And Parliament continued without them.

Stuff: National leader Simon Bridges kicked out of the House after questioning PM on Sroubek

Fronting media after his expulsion, Bridges doubled down on his accusation the Speaker was protecting the Prime Minister from scrutiny.

“I was trying to ask the Prime Minister serious questions about the Sroubek fiasco. She wouldn’t answer and the speaker leaped to protect her – I called him on it. I said ‘here comes the protection,’ ” Bridges admitted.

Criticising the Speaker in such a way is a fairly serious breach of the parliamentary rule-book. But Bridges said it was in the public interest to break the rules in this instance.

“What I’ve seen is a Prime Minister who hasn’t answered serious questions. Here, we’re talking about a victim, we’re talking about very serious matters there should be answers to that she knows about or should know about as Prime Minister.”

Bridges said the walkout was not planned or coordinated.

“No, certainly none of this was my intention. My intention today has been to ask serious questions about Sroubek, about the estranged wife who feels like she has been targeted, that she is a victim of being called by Winston Peters effectively a National Party informant.”

Mallard said he had been reflecting on the supplementary question when he rose and it was out of order on at least two counts.

“As I rose, he questioned my impartiality.”

 

 

Bridges versus Peters – a surprise conclusion

Simon Bridges kicked off Question Time in Parliament today asking Winston Peters about the alarming turnaround in business confidence.

At a glance Bridges may have seemed to be wimping along getting savaged by Peters, but if you watch through this I think it becomes apparent that Bridges quietly making some serious points, while Peters noisily tried to make a joke of it all.

On that performance thank goodness Peters is soon to retire from his stint as acting Prime Minister, because today he made a disgrace of the responsibility.

There was a very serious twist at the end when Gerry Brownlee made a pointed non-point of order:

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If it’s parliamentary to refer to a member as being a joke, would it not equally be parliamentary to refer to a member as being drunk?

Question No. 1—Prime Minister

1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his Government’s policies and actions?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Acting Prime Minister): The answer to that question is “Most definitely”.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is he aware that New Zealand has fallen from the second-highest level of business confidence in all of the OECD in 2016 to having the second-lowest under his Government?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: What I am aware of, and so are my colleagues, is that there are half a million enterprises in this country, and 490,000 were not asked their opinion; 1,000 were. That’s the quality of that survey.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has he seen the latest ANZ business confidence numbers, released today, which show that business confidence has declined by a further five points?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It is not surprising that the ANZ, despite having record profits at the moment, has a chairman who’s been talking down the economy nevertheless.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does he accept that at the moment we have the worst business confidence in our country since the global financial crisis a decade ago, and if so, what will he do to revise his Government’s disastrous policies?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Before the member answers, I am going—

Hon Simon Bridges: I’m allowed to have an “if so”.

Mr SPEAKER: Sorry, I will stand up to deal with it if the Leader of the Opposition is going to interject when I’m ruling. I’m going to let the question go, but warn the Leader of the Opposition. I think he knows exactly what for.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: As they say in one of the home countries, those comments are balderdash. And more importantly, the IMF has refuted them in their very confident prediction as to where this Government is taking the growth of our economy.

Hon Simon Bridges: Isn’t the only credible explanation for the worst business confidence numbers since the global financial crisis directly the Government’s policies and actions?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: As much as that member would like to predicate his future on turning down and arguing down the economy, that is most definitely not going to happen—either the economy going down or him having a future.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why, then, is it the case that business confidence in New Zealand is at a 10-year low and business confidence in Australia is at a 30-year high?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The record of these confidence surveys has this to reflect upon: when the economy was running at 3.2 percent over a period of nine years, the confidence indicators were all down from those elite business people, and when the economy was running under National, at an average of 1.9 percent over nine years, the confidence rate was up. In short, you’ve got 1,000 of half a million enterprises being surveyed, and that is not the kind of elitism we promote in this country.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the best the Prime Minister can do to explain away the variety of business confidence surveys and give no real answers to this House or New Zealanders about what is happening at the moment in New Zealand?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I have to be frank to that member and say, no, I can do much better, but I don’t have to get out of first gear facing him.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is he aware that GDP growth per capita has fallen behind Australia for the first time in several years, and what are the Government’s policies and actions in relation to turning that around?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The Government has a tranche of explosive policies that we intend to put into place, or are already having in place, and we can see a rapid turn-around in our country’s economy because we’re based, in terms of this Government’s plan, on production and exports and real wealth, not mass immigration and consumption.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is he aware that net migration to Australia’s gone from net 32,000 leaving for Australia in 2008 to a net inflow to New Zealand in 2017, and if so, will he consider a failure if net migration to Australia does not continue in this positive direction under his Government’s watch?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Again, those stats are false. The net—[Interruption] Well, they can all laugh, and maybe fly a white flag later, but the reality is the net trend began in mid-2015 and that party over there is responsible for it. We’re going to turn it around.

Hon Simon Bridges: What is his Government doing to keep ambitious young New Zealanders in New Zealand given that yesterday in Australia a new job in the mining sector was advertised every six minutes, while here in New Zealand his Government has banned oil and gas exploration as well as mining on conservation land?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: This Government has not banned oil and gas exploration, and whatever that industry called “moining” is—I’m having difficulty trying to understand it—we’ve not banned that either.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the reality that when New Zealand has the worst business confidence—which has a flow-on effect to investment and jobs—in a decade since the global financial crisis, all he can do is come down to the House and make jokes about it?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Look, I can’t win the jokes stakes; I’m looking at one, in terms of his ambition. But I want to tell that member that they can be as mealy-mouthed and as doomsday as they like, but they are not going to succeed in getting up the polls or getting back at the next election. If they want to help, we’d be grateful for whatever help they might give, but given their last nine years of abysmal performance, I don’t think so.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If it’s parliamentary to refer to a member as being a joke, would it not equally be parliamentary to refer to a member as being drunk?

Mr SPEAKER: My view is that one is a matter of fact and the other is a matter of opinion. If the member is seriously suggesting the latter in the House and he is inaccurate, he is making a gross breach of privilege.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Speaking to the point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: No, there is no point of order. The member will resume his seat.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, I’m entitled to an explanation, surely.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat.

Brownlee’s letter to the Speaker

Gerry Brownlee, Shadow Leader of the House, has written this letter to the Speaker (Trevor Mallard) expressing “serious concerns’ about Mallards chairing of Parliament.

He details his concerns and says” As a result our confidence in you as Speaker has been significantly shaken. This is not an acceptable position for you to be in.”

His main concerns are about a “silly little girl” story being circulated to media.

We expect a full explanation from you about your role in pushing this story in the media before the House resumes at 2 pm tomorrow.

I don’t know how an ultimatum will go down with Mallard.


Dysfunction in Parliament

Question Time (oral questions) has often been contentious in Parliament, in large part because it is the best chance for MPs, especially Opposition MPs, to get media attention.

Either tensions, frustration or deliberate attention seeking has simmering for some time, and flared up yesterday. Paula Bennett walked out in a huff over decisions made by the Speaker Trevor Mallard, and shadow leader of the house Gerry Brownlee followed up with a letter to the Speaker saying National’s confidence in the Speaker had been ‘badly shaken’.

Who’s to blame for this? Largely the party leaders Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges (and Winston Peters to an extent) have to take responsibility for the behaviour of themselves and their MPs in Parliament.

The Speaker should also reflect on whether his approach is as effective and fair as it could be.

The exchange yesterday that boiled over (or stirred the pot):

Question No. 1—Prime Minister

1. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all of her Government’s policies and actions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Can she confirm that as a result of her delay to the implementation of the winter energy payment, superannuitants will be around $300 worse off this year than they would have been following National’s proposed tax cuts?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, the member will be aware we very deliberately cancelled those tax cuts so that we could invest in the low and middle income New Zealanders who needed that investment more than the top 10 percent of income earners, who would get $400 million worth. We have, however, identified that superannuitants experience things like winter poverty. We would have very much liked our payment to have come in earlier. It starts on 1 July and then it runs through till September. When it’s fully implemented, those superannuitants can expect to receive $700 as a couple—$450—but, again, this year it is less than that, unfortunately.

Hon Paula Bennett: How can she justify waiting till 1 July for the winter energy payment because, as she said previously, it was difficult to implement earlier, and yet she could bring in a fees-free policy on 1 January worth $2.8 billion?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As the member would well know, having been the Minister for Social Development, making the largest changes to the welfare system in over a decade can be a complex exercise. We deliberately created a mini-Budget in December in order to expedite bringing in the winter energy payment, the Best Start payment, and Working for Families changes, and managed to do it in a time that I think even that side of the House would have found challenging, given their tax cut changes didn’t come in till the following year.

Hon Paula Bennett: Is the Prime Minister really leading us to believe that it would have been harder to universally give a one-off payment to all superannuitants on 1 May than it is to actually do the difficulties of different courses, 294,000 students, on 1 January for mixed payments?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with education Minister Chris Hipkins that the fees-free policy will drive a 15 percent increase in student numbers?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Taking into account that we have to reverse a trend under that last Government of declining enrolment in post-secondary education, which we are trying to reverse. Of course, the members on the other side of the House have taken an unfortunate and narrow view of the need for us to have a greater proportion of our population in post-secondary education that includes those who have never studied before, who might be factory floor works or, indeed, McDonald’s workers, to go to wānanga or polytech to retrain, boost our productivity, and transform our economy.

Hon Paula Bennett: Let me rephrase: does she agree with the education Minister that the fees-free policy will drive a 15 percent increase in student numbers, particularly as she just said and accused us of not—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! The member finished her question some time ago.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The point that I was making is that we had declining enrolment numbers. In fact, we did point out that, actually, for the last year our expectations were lower than that. We know that we have to make up ground, because, as I’ve said, there was a tendency for post-secondary education to start declining, and we’re trying to reverse that trend. I would have thought the other side of the House would be a bit more ambitious about the options for New Zealanders to retrain and educate themselves.

Hon Paula Bennett: Is she concerned about the effectiveness of her flagship $2.8 billion fees-free tertiary policy given Treasury is now forecasting that there will not be a 15 percent increase, not a 5 percent—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The member’s finished. She’s had two legs already.

Hon Paula Bennett: No I haven’t. Not even no increase but, instead, 900 fewer students. Actually, that is the relevant point, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, the two points I’d like to make—

Hon Gerry Brownlee:I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —is that this side of—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Gerry, I’ve got this. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, that was clearly an interruption of a point of order, so, clearly, you’ll want to rule on that.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I hadn’t yet called the member.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, you had, actually. The Hansard will show you had.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, if that is correct, I apologise to the member. The member now has the call. Would he like to make his point of order?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yes. Your suggestion that the question is now over seems to me to fly in the face of there needing to be some verification for questions. If you want us to start writing novels before the actual question ends, we can do that, but some flexibility in being able to make a point with the question is not unreasonable given that everyone knows question time is a time when the Government defends itself and has a much greater opportunity to do that. That should be couched in terms of the information given or provided by the question, and that’s the point of verification.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I thank the member for his advice. I will listen carefully in the future. It would probably be easier to judge and less complicated if there weren’t addendums before the question started as well as unnecessary information for the purpose of the question during it.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The point I was making was actually that the member is reinforcing the issue that we had. We had a declining number of people engaging in post-secondary education, regardless of whether they were school leavers or those already on the factory floor. The OECD said we needed to do something about it; the IMF said we needed to do something about it—this Government is. It may take time, but it will be worth it.

Hon Paula Bennett: In November, when her education Minister made his statement that it would increase by 15 percent, did he know it was declining, or is she just using that as an excuse now to break her promise?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We all knew it was declining, we all knew we had to do something about it, and we all know that we’ve got a productivity challenge in New Zealand. This side of the House is willing to take that challenge on; that side would rather see barriers to education continue.

Hon Paula Bennett: So why was a $2.8 billion bribe for tertiary students more important than her promises around health, education, and police that she’s promised?

Mr SPEAKER: No, no, no. I’m going to require the deputy leader of the National Party to rephrase that question in a way that she knows is within Standing Orders, and she’s not getting an extra question for doing it; this will be a new supplementary.

Hon Paula Bennett: Why was a $2.8 billion payment for tertiary students more important than her promises around health, education, and police?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, a narrow view of the policy given this will have a greater potential impact for those workers who have never ever engaged in post-secondary education. But my second question: if it’s a bribe, will you reverse it?

Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You ruled out a word that I wasn’t to use, and yet then the Prime Minister is free to use it in her answer.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the Prime Minister could well have been reflecting the inappropriate comment of the member. [Interruption] Order! Order! If members can’t see a description of someone’s own policy as being different from a description of another person’s policy—picking up the words inappropriately used I think is not out of order. What I thought the member was going to object to was the Prime Minister’s reference to the second person, and I want to remind her that she should keep me out of the debate and out of the questions.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Well, all things considered, then, do we get that question back?

Mr SPEAKER: No.

Hon Paula Bennett: Why was $900 million—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The Opposition just lost five questions. Gerry Brownlee will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, your job is to keep order in this House, not to prevent the Opposition from challenging the Government on their programmes. Your repeated recall of questions from us does that, and I think that is most inappropriate and bad for our democracy.

Mr SPEAKER: I want to thank the member for his advice, but I will not have senior members referring to me in the way that he did by way of interjection. I do regard what he has just done as grossly disorderly, and I will contemplate what will happen. I think members know that, in the past, anyone who made that comment would’ve been tossed out of the House, and I don’t want it to be my practice to do that—especially to a senior member of the House—but the member should know better, and I will contemplate what I will do as question time goes on.

Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the point I do want to pick up is that I think the use of taking away and gaining supplementary questions does question our ability as the Opposition to actually put the Government on notice, to actually ask the questions that we have a right to do as part of our democracy. My colleague may not have made that point as clearly as he wanted to, but that’s certainly how this side of the House feels.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I now regard that member as being grossly disorderly. She has again relitigated the point that I’ve been ruling on. The member knows well that supplementary questions are at my discretion. Any supplementary questions are at my discretion. I’ve chosen to use this approach. As a result of it, to date, the National Party have had 22 more supplementaries than they would’ve had according to the numbers given by the Clerk. They have done very well out of the process, mainly as a result of disorderly behaviour by Mr Jones and a couple of his colleagues. But the National Party is ahead on it, and I absolutely reject any suggestion that the National Party have not been able to ask the number of questions over this Parliament that they would’ve been able to otherwise. That’s just not true.

Hon Paula Bennett: Speaking to the point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: No, there’s no point of order. If the member wants a further supplementary, she can take it. If not, we’ll move on.

Hon Paula Bennett: No, I’m leaving. What a waste of time.

Mr SPEAKER: For how long?

Hon Paula Bennett: Oh, just for today.

Mr SPEAKER: Thank you.

 

Controversial members of Intelligence and Security reference group

There’s been a bit of consternation expressed over the members who have been named as members of the Intelligence and Security reference group panel. I’m not sure there is real cause for concern.

The members:

  • Professor Rouben Azizian – Director, Centre for Defence and Security Studies, Massey University
  • Thomas Beagle – Chairperson, NZ Council for Civil Liberties
  • Dr Paul Buchanan – Director, 36th Parallel Assessments
  • Ben Creet – Issues Manager, Internet NZ
  • Treasa Dunworth – Associate Professor, Public International Law, University of Auckland
  • David Fisher – Journalist, New Zealand Herald
  • Nicky Hager – Journalist, Author
  • John Ip – Senior Lecturer, Assistant Dean (Academic), Faculty of Law, University of Auckland
  • Deborah Manning – Barrister
  • Dr Nicole Moreham – Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington
  • Suzanne Snively – Chair, Transparency International

The inclusion of Hager and Manning seem to have raised the most eyebrows – both are well known to strongly oppose secret information gathering and storage.

But shouldn’t a reference group have a wide range of people opinions contributing to represent a good cross section of public sentiment?

Andrew Little, the Minister responsible for Intelligence and Security, has expressed surprise that a journalist is included: Minister surprised journalist included in reference group

The Minister responsible for New Zealand’s spy agencies is surprised that a journalist has been included on a new reference group established by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

Andrew Little said the 11 member group will act as a ‘sounding board’ for the Inspector-General Cheryl Gwyn, but won’t be privy to classified information, or operational details of the SIS or GCSB.

Mr Little said he thought there were some “interesting” choices when shown the list last week.

“I was shown the list, I thought some of the choices were interesting but then I think what is important is that we are bold enough and brave enough to know that it is alright to have critics of organisations and of the government involved in this sort of exercise.

“It is a healthy thing in our democracy.”

New Zealand Herald reporter David Fisher is also in the group.

Mr Little was surprised a New Zealand Herald journalist was on the refence panel.

“I would have thought there is a question about a journalist complying with their ethics in doing so, but that’s a judgement call in the end that they have to make.”

Journalist are an important part of holding power and spying to account, and Fisher is well qualified to be involved.

Gerry Brownlee has been vocal in criticising the line up.

National’s spy spokesperson Gerry Brownlee said the creation of the reference group raised a number of serious questions – particularly around the inclusion of the investigative journalist Nicky Hager.

“The Inspector-General has said this group has been brought together to help her stand ‘in the shoes of the public.”

“But several members of her group are far from objective in their view of our intelligence relationships, or in some cases the existence of intelligence services at all,” Mr Brownlee said.

He said Mr Hager had repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of the country’s spy agencies.

“Will this group have top secret clearance? If so, how can we be sure the information they will have access to will be secure?

“Will the Inspector-General be sharing intelligence with them? Where will the line be drawn?”

I would expect security of secret information will be handled competently.

Perhaps they are important questions to ask, but perhaps the best way to keep our spy agency honest is to have critics closely involved in monitoring them.

I’m not sure what sort of people critics expect to be on the reference group panel.

Pointless points of order

The Opposition risks losing credibility and effectiveness in Question Time by raising far too many pointless Points of Order. Not just barking at every car, but also barking at cars that don’t exists, are making a mess of the best opportunity for the Opposition to hold the Government to account in Parliament.

In Thursday’s Question Time Michael Woodhouse was first in Q1. Then in Q3:

Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just on behalf of the Opposition, we just understand that they’ve had a bad week and they need to encourage themselves today with a bit of a handclap.

Mr SPEAKER: And Paula Bennett, that was not a point of order, and seeing we’re in question time, the National Party will lose two supplementary questions.

It didn’t end there:

Hon Steven Joyce: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the answer to the previous supplementary question, the Minister himself raised these matters and—

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and the fact that one member breaches the Standing Orders and I didn’t intervene is not a reason for someone else.

Hon Steven Joyce: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: The member’s not going to—especially after the ruling that I’ve just given—dispute what I’m going to say.

Hon Steven Joyce: I just want to clarify if I could—

Mr SPEAKER: No, no.

Hon Steven Joyce: —in a general sense, if I could, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member can’t. I want to make absolutely clear that there is no such thing and no ability in our Standing Orders to have a point of clarification, or to do the sort of interrogation that I believe the member was going to start, as to what the Standing Orders are. When I have ruled, that is the end of the matter.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you now ruling that if a Minister introduces some new material into an answer, that cannot be used in a subsequent supplementary?

Mr SPEAKER: I want to apologise to the House for not stopping the Minister earlier and ruling it out. I should’ve; I didn’t, and I am ruling that irrelevant material introduced in either a supplementary question or in an answer does not give licence for further extension of things that are outside the relevance question for that question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it his view and position that the coalition Government came to the view that an expanded, visionary, forward-looking economic programme was far more likely to deliver justice to the people of this country, rather than voting for something because there’s nothing else on offer?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Yes, I do. I mean—

Hon Steven Joyce: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Peters has just raised the election campaign and voting again, which is the very thing you ruled out in my supplementary question.

Mr SPEAKER: No, no, he actually referred to the, the substance of his question was around the policy of the coalition Government.

This all detracted from a question originally aimed at making an important point about the scrapping of tax cuts.

Q5 – point of order from Judith Collins.

Q6 – two from Simon Bridges, one from Nathan Guy. Plus:

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We’ve only got a limited time for questions in this House. [Interruption] Sir, can I be heard in silence. It’s a point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: Absolutely, because all points of order are to be heard in silence.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. We’ve only got a limited time for questions in this House, and affording someone in this time to think up what he wants to ask next is not part of the procedure of this House.

Mr SPEAKER: My view is that there are a number of members who take a little time either preparing in their minds or getting the questions out. Frankly, I’d rather have thought-out questions than many of them that we get.

Q8 Points of Order:

  • Carmel Sepuloni – 1
  • Simon Bridges – 3
  • Gerry Brownlee – 3
  • Winston Peters – 1

Q9 Points of Order:

  • Brett Hudson – 2
  • Gerry Brownlee – 2
  • Nikki Kaye – 1
  • Chris Hipkins – 1

Q11 Points of Order:

  • Nick Smith – 4
  • Simon Bridges – 1
  • Gerry Brownlee – 1

Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to raise the point of order—it’s highly unusual. The member’s calling for it, so we haven’t moved on. I’m just—I’m clearly seeking to understand what’s gone on here.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and to make it absolutely clear, the number of supplementary questions are entirely at my discretion. I have decided, because of the interjection from Dr Smith, I will not allow any further Government or Opposition supplementaries on this question. I’m not taking away—if the members want to use them on the next question, they can, but not on this one, because of Dr Smith’s behaviour.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think there are some very important questions that should be asked in this. I’m sorry that you’ve taken this. One of the new pieces of information that the Minister managed to give the House was the new collaborative way that the Government wants to work with all sectors, to see if they can meet the target, and I think it would have been appropriate if there had been an opportunity to ask him if he’ll put out a list of suitable species for home gardeners to put on their list of tree plantings to help the Government with their target.

Mr SPEAKER: Sorry; as a result of that frivolous point of order, another one of the supplementary questions for the National Party has been lost.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It’s a very reasonable request. When the Government’s most important flagship programme is around these billion trees—

Mr SPEAKER: No, Dr Nick Smith will resume his seat. He will resume his seat now. I have ruled that we are moving on to question 12 because of an inappropriate interjection by Dr Nick Smith when he had been called for a supplementary. If Dr Nick Smith intervenes again, on that question, it will result in further loss of supplementary questions to the National Party.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What was the comment that I made, that, as a consequence, has—

Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat.

Q12 Points of Order:

  • Steven Joyce – 3
  • Simon Bridges – 6
  • Parmjeet Parmar – 1

Some of the Points of Order were reasonable, but many were frivolous or seemed pointless – in other words, a waste of time and an unnecessary and counter productive diversion.

Question Time concluded with:

Hon Steven Joyce: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, I was listening very carefully to that answer—before the gratuitous bit—and I’m sorry, but in a previous supplementary the Minister has been asked, “What proportion will be the Government—

Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. I’ve ruled that it’s been addressed. In fact, I’ve stopped her for over-addressing it.

Hon Member: Supplementary question?

Mr SPEAKER: No, the National Party has run out of supplementary questions.

Trevor Mallard is making a real effort to allow an effective Question Time. The Opposition are running a real risk of blowing it.

Politics 101 – pick your battles wisely, and make sure they are battles you have a good chance of winning.

National’s adjournment speech

For some reason Prime Minister didn’t lead the adjournment speeches in the final day of the term in Parliament yesterday. Neither did his deputy Paula Bennett. Instead it was the lower ranked Gerry Brownlee who spoke on behalf of National.


ADJOURNMENT

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Foreign Affairs): I move, That the House do now adjourn until Tuesday, 29 August 2017. Before I go too much further, I would like to take a few moments to thank the many people who need to be thanked as this Parliament draws to its conclusion. There is of course the Speaker himself, yourself as Assistant Speaker, and the Hon Trevor Mallard also assisting in that regard. I want to thank also, particularly, Chester Borrows for his contribution in that regard. The many presiding officers—and I want to congratulate the Clerk for his successful transition into that role during this particular parliamentary term and wish him all the best for future Parliaments. I would like to thank those who clean and cater the precinct, those who keep it secure, the drivers, and a range of other attendants who do work to make this Parliament work.

Then there are the teams of people who help us in our electorates, in our ministerial offices, and in our parliamentary offices in order that we are able to do that work that we are required to do on behalf New Zealanders. I want to say to all involved that your efforts are very much appreciated.

What a fascinating 3 weeks we have seen in New Zealand politics—plenty of downs, plenty of downs, and one or two ups, but overall a big question about the confidence and the capability of Opposition parties to be anywhere near Government in this country. There is no doubt, though, we have got to acknowledge, we are seeing the rise of a political star in the new Leader of the Opposition—a star in the sense of being right. I understand that Jacinda Ardern is intelligent, that she is competent, and that by all accounts she is a pleasant person to be around. She is a likable person, but a likable person does not necessary translate into a strong political leader.

As she said yesterday, herself, she has been caught between a rock and hard place. She was talking about being caught between Ayers Rock and New Zealand. But let me make it very clear that the rock she is caught between is in fact her own caucus, her own political colleagues, because apart from the new smiley face, nothing has changed at all—nothing has changed at all.

And then, of course, it is very obvious that the hard place is the great record of the National Government over the last terms of Parliament. Without question, that record has been exceptional, in my opinion, and in the opinion of a large number of people, as this Parliament will learn later this evening. A sustainably growing economy and a low-inflation, low-interest environment, with strong employment and rising wages, is important to all New Zealanders.

The Leader of the Opposition and her party lack the depth that is capable of ensuring that that economic direction continues in the best interests of New Zealand. It is the one area where they do not want to have a discussion. The product of a strong, stable, confident Government is that it is able to serve the communities it represents. So there is the hard place for Labour. It is the place where you get the opportunity to show that you care for New Zealanders by doing things. It is where they get their financial security, where they get their welfare security, where they get their safety security, where they get their health security and their education security, and their general prosperity and opportunity in life. It is from the economy, and that is what Labour does not want to talk about.

I will tell you what. We are going to get a speech shortly, and I will bet the economy does not feature, other than to have a look at it with a bit of a squinted eye, from a bit of a distance, and to simply say: “We could do it better.” It is hard work—it is hard work. Never mind that New Zealand now is the envy of the world when it comes to both social and economic matters. Never mind that, according to Labour, it is of no account that Moody’s advice is that New Zealand will be one of the fastest-growing economies, with a triple A rating in the years ahead.

And then, of course, let us not pay any attention to the fact that we have a service sector responsible for two-thirds of the New Zealand economy that is growing and continuing to provide opportunities and jobs for New Zealanders. The average annual wage, apparently, is not a matter to the Labour Party. It is now around $60,000 and projected to be $65,000 in the next few years. But apparently it is just not true that jobs are growing at a remarkable rate. Apparently the 180,000 New Zealanders who are now in work, who would not have been in work had it not been for these policies, do not matter.

The economy in New Zealand is diversified. We now have tourism bigger than the dairy industry. We have a wine industry that is growing at a massive rate. We have high-tech manufacturing growing at a huge rate, and of course we have so many other areas of the economy that are beginning to emerge as strong performers for New Zealanders.

That is the stuff that is important to New Zealanders. That is what really matters. You can go around all you like, taking as many selfies as you like, as many smiley moments as you like, until it is made clear to New Zealanders that this stuff matters, then it is just “I like that position, but can’t vote for them.”

I do not think Labour can avoid talking about the economy for a lot longer.

Phil Twyford: Don’t they ask you for selfies?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, actually they do.

Phil Twyford: Do they?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yeah, and I always tell them to put on the wide angle lens and then we will both be in it. There is no doubt—[Interruption] I will tell you what. If I turned up to one of your meetings, everyone would think you had a crowd. It would be a novel experience. It would be quite a novel experience for Grant Robertson.

It is without doubt that it was “the rock”—the then finance Minister, and now Prime Minister Bill English—who steadied us through the financial crisis that this Government inherited from the previous Government. People have got short memories, but we will remind them. We were facing decades of deficits when Michael Cullen and his crew left.

We have done a lot, by requiring better value for Government services, by ensuring that we get the best value from the dollars that New Zealanders commit to education, to health, to policing, and to all the range of Government services. We would have done it a lot sooner had we not been having to provide for the catastrophic earthquakes in Christchurch that took some $15 billion out of our economy at that time.

The Labour Party will try to pretend that that sort of economic management is easy. It just happens. Do not worry about how it happens; it just happens. Well, that is not going to be an easy conversation. When Labour members have to explain that their $18.8 billion worth of promises, so far, will be paid for from higher taxes, from higher mortgage rates, and from higher costs on all New Zealand families, simply saying “We can do it better, so just do it with us.”, is not going to work.

The other point I would like to make is the pride with which all National candidates go into this election. They are proud to stand on a record that has very much delivered for New Zealanders. In the Budget earlier this year we were able to announce a $2 billion package for New Zealanders from April of next year—1.3 million New Zealand families will be able to keep more of the money that they earn, or through family support, or through the accommodation supplement. Labour members voted against it and the question is why.

Well, apparently it is because they are going to put together some handpicked bunch of cloth-capped economists who are going to give the Government advice on how to tax all New Zealanders more. What a tax—just one. And now you see them out there saying “Don’t worry about it. We’re going to put more costs on farmers, but it won’t have any effect on food whatsoever.” Well, that is the sort of economics that they are trying to sell to New Zealanders that just will not work.

Then there is the vexed issue of capital gains. I think—

Hon Members: Ha, ha!

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Oh, they laugh. They laugh—right? Hard-working New Zealanders who have made a few quid are going to have to pay more under them and they laugh. That is very, very, very sad. I would suggest to Jacinda Ardern that she should today tell the House the terms of reference that she will give to that bunch of left-wing economists to work out the tax system. [Interruption] I do not mind saying that. It is absolutely true.

There should be a great deal more clarity around water tax—a huge amount of more clarity around the water tax. To suddenly say “Oh, when we are in Government we’ll have better information so we’ll know how much we can charge them.” flies in the face of a party in Government who says it will not work. I think that as we go towards the election day, the great call that says “Just do it” will be beaten by a Government—a Government that is delivering and will deliver for New Zealanders.

Tillerson in New Zealand

There was nothing dramatic about US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to New Zealand yesterday. There were some protests against him and the US but Tillerson is not Trump, and regardless of who is in power in the US New Zealand has to maintain relations with them..

NZ Herald:  US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: US not giving up on NZ, Pacific

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has dismissed New Zealand’s concerns about its future role in the Asia-Pacific and the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, saying it reflected the will of the American people.

Prime Minister Bill English raised New Zealand’s disagreement about the decision to withdraw from the climate change accord in a meeting with Tillerson on Tuesday.

Tillerson was in New Zealand as an add-on to his trip to Australia, meeting with English and Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee at Premier House before jetting out again five hours after he landed.

He is the first senior member of the US Administration to visit New Zealand and US media travelling with him reported people in Wellington gave the one-finger salute at his motorcade in an apparent show of disgust over the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

He said there was no suggestion the US was stepping away from such issues, trying to isolate itself or giving up on the Asia-Pacific, pointing to recent visits to the region by US Vice-President Mike Pence and Defence Secretary Mattis.

“One of the reasons I’m in the region … is to reaffirm to everyone that the United States views this region of the world as extremely important to both our national security interest and our own economic and prosperity interests.

“I think you can expect to see an elevated level of engagement to that you saw over the past eight years.”

NZ Herald:  Top US diplomat reassures English that engagement will increase

Tillerson defended Trump from a New Zealand reporter’s description of him as “unpredictable” in relation to the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal and from the Paris Accord on climate change.

But Tillerson did not defend the indefensible: Trump’s tweet criticising London mayor Sadiq Khan for warning citizens there would be extra police on the streets because of the terrorist threat and not to be alarmed.

I think that it was a bit silly asking Tillerson about controlling Trump’s tweeting. But Trump’s very public interactions mist be a headache for the Secretary of State.

It was an illustration of the impossible mission for Trump’s foreign-focused Cabinet members, Tillerson and Defence Secretary James Mattis – for every step forward they make in reassuring friends and allies that the US has not gone gaga, it is two tweets back.

But there was serious business to discuss as well.

English welcomed the Tillerson visit and his reassurances as though he had ridden in on a white charger.

With only five visits to New Zealand in the past 20 years, more often than not Secretaries of State have taken the short-cut home after a visit to Australia.

The fact that Tillerson made the visit to New Zealand so early in his term is evidence of what he said at his press conference – that the US intends to elevate its presence in the region.

NZ Herald:  Fact or fiction: Tillerson on the United States’ ‘unparalleled’ climate change record

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended his country’s record on climate change during a whistle-stop visit to Wellington today.

“The United States has an extraordinary record of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, possibly unparalleled by anyone else.

“Our greenhouse gas emissions are at levels that were last seen in the 1990s.

“That’s been done with 50 million more energy consumers that we had in the 1990s, with an economy that’s twice as large.”

Fact or fiction?

Environmental Protection Agency records show that US greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 were 3.5 per cent higher than in 1990.

They were 6.7 per cent lower in 2015 than the highest point in the 1990s, in 1999.

The US population actually grew by closer to 76 million people over this period, going from 249 million in 1990 to 325 million in 2017 – an increase of 30.5 per cent. Its GDP nearly doubled from $8.9 trillion to $16.8 trillion.

So Tillerson’s statement that US emissions were now at “1990 levels” despite large demographic and economic growth stacks up.

However, his claim that the US record on reducing emissions is “unparalleled” is not as accurate.

English and Brownlee played things straight and diplomatic with Tillerson, as they must.

 

 

Futile protest against US climate stance

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary James Mattis are visiting New Zealand briefly on Tuesday following their visit to Australia.

Stuff: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to New Zealand next week ‘a big deal’

United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Wellington next week, in what’s being called a major show of American interest in the Asia-Pacific region and “big deal” for New Zealand.

Tillerson will meet Prime Minister Bill English and Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee in Wellington on Tuesday.

Brownlee said meetings would be held to discuss “some of the world’s most pressing issues and to further promote our economic ties”.

Observers said regional stability, counter-terrorism, and military commitments in Iraq and possibly Afghanistan would be discussed, as would trade issues including the afflicted Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

This is the first major visit from the US since Donald Trump became president in January. The meeting will apparently be for about three hours so there isn’t much time to cover a lot of things.

Brownlee was interviewed on The Nation on Saturday and was asked what would be dealt with:

Well, given you’ve got a short window of opportunity, what’s going to be your number one priority for that meeting?

Well, look, a lot of that discussion will be organised over the next couple of days as we head towards that meeting, but we’ll obviously want to canvass trading relations. We’ll reaffirm the various commitments that we have internationally toward the defeat of terrorism. And I’d also expect that, given the current, or most recent, decision from the US, that there will be some discussion about relative positions on climate change. But in the end, it is the trading relationship but also the people-to-people relationship with the United States, including our involvement in the Antarctic, for example, that are pretty important to us.

Okay, well, on that note, the Prime Minister has expressed some concern that Washington might be a little bit distracted by Trump’s unpredictability and that the nature of that president may be distracting them from things like economic stability and trade and economic growth in the region. Are you going to raise that with Rex Tillerson?

I don’t think we’ll be raising the issues of US political stability. That’s something for the US, not for New Zealand, to comment on.

That was a silly question.

Well, Donald Trump said that he was keeping the faith with the people that had elected him when he pulled out of the Paris Accord this week. Was that the right decision – for him to pull the pin on that?

Well, I can’t comment on what was right or wrong for Mr Trump. What I can say is that the door has been left a little bit open about, perhaps, their rejoining. And I think when you consider that the Paris Agreement’s signed up to by 194 countries, 147 countries have ratified that agreement, and then, of course, the G7 most recently reaffirmed their position as far as climate change is concerned.

But the thing is the US pulling out of it—

So I think the door’s not totally closed.

But do you really think he’s going to come back into the fold on this?

Well, I’m not going to comment on that, because I think the situation domestically in the US is something for Mr Trump to deal with.

That’s correct, it is something for the US to deal with, they know we remain in the Paris Accord along with just about all the rest of the world but there’s just about nothing we can say that would impact on Trump’s decisions.

Both Tillerson and Mattis are on record as acknowledging the problems and risks associated with climate change so there’s not much we can say to them about it, and especially there’s unlikely to be anything we can say that would affect anything.

But the Greens want us to do more. James Shaw: PM must confront US with impact of climate decision

The Green Party is calling on the Prime Minister to invite Pacific Island ambassadors to meet with the US Secretary of State next week so they can explain first-hand the consequences of the US decision to withdraw from the Climate Agreement.

The call comes ahead of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to New Zealand on Tuesday, and following the decision by US President Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Confronting Tillerson will be futile regarding the US withdrawal from the Paris Accord, and it would be likely to be counter productive to building a good relationship with Tillerson, Mattis and the US.

Andrew Little: English must give strong message to US Secretary of State on climate change

Prime Minister Bill English must voice New Zealand’s concerns in the strongest possible terms when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits Wellington next week following President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.

“This decision is a huge setback for the international efforts to turn back global warming. After years of negotiation, the Paris Accord marked a more hopeful approach to the whole issue of climate change with 195 nations signing up.

“Bill English must take a strong stand next week and ensure Rex Tillerson knows the damage that’s been caused to the international campaign by the USA’s withdrawal.

“We can’t now let the USA water down the Paris Accord. Mr Tillerson must be reminded that the world can only combat climate change together and that New Zealand stands shoulder-to-shoulder with other nations which have embraced the challenge.

We can’t ‘let’ the US do anything, they make their own decisions and we don’t get a say. We can’t stop the US from choosing to withdraw, that is their decision.

“Bill English must take a strong stand next week and ensure Rex Tillerson knows the damage that’s been caused to the international campaign by the USA’s withdrawal.

I’m sure Tillerson is already well aware of the potential consequences of Trump’s intention to withdraw the US. There’s nothing we can do apart from stress our continued commitment to the Paris Accord. There’s no stand we can take.

Anthony Robins takes Labour’s ‘stand’ thing further in Once upon a time:

Once upon a time this country stood up to America and said no to nuclear weapons. Now we dare not say yes to saving the planet.

There’s hardly anything similar about New Zealand’s popular anti-nuclear stand against the US. The US withdrawal from the Paris Accord is their decision and has virtually nothing to do with New Zealand.

We can disagree with Trump’s climate stance, but there’s little else we can do about their Paris Accord decision.

It is New Zealand’s choice whether to remain in the Paris Accord or not, and there is no indication our position on that will change – and the US doesn’t appear to be doing anything to try to make us change either.