How Jami-Lee Ross stands in Parliament now

On Tuesday Jami-Lee Ross stated that he intended resigning from the National Party and from Parliament (he said ‘on Friday’). He has since reneged on that commitment. What is his current position in Parliament?

Sitting date: 16 Oct 2018

SPEAKER’S RULINGS

Jami-Lee Ross

SPEAKER: Under Standing Order 35(1)(c), I have been advised by the senior Opposition whip that the National Party’s parliamentary membership has changed and that Jami-Lee Ross is no longer a member of the National Party for parliamentary purposes. Accordingly, under Standing Order 34(5), Jami-Lee Ross is, from 16 October 2018, regarded as an Independent member for parliamentary purposes.

Another seating plan: https://www.parliament.nz/media/5252/house-seating-plan-as-at-17-october-2018.pdf

While that is at the far back of the Opposition side Ross may sit uneasily beside and behind his ex-colleagues. He must be just about the least trusted MP ever.

Officially he still seems to be on two select committees. He lost most of his responsibilities when he went on leave at the start of the month.

Ross has been removed the National Party ‘team’ website page.

Presumably he is still theoretically operating as an electorate MP, but he may be isolated there too.

I don’t know how Ross will be able to function in Parliament or as an electorate MP.

Added:

Newsroom:  National mulls party-hopping action as Ross clings on

National says it is considering its options – including whether to use the controversial “party-hopping” law – following rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross’s decision to cling on to his seat in Parliament.

Earlier in the week, Ross had said he would resign from Parliament on Friday and contest a by-election in his Botany seat as an independent.

However, in an interview with Newstalk ZB and subsequent remarks on Twitter, he said National had “changed the rules”, alleging the party’s involvement in a Newsroom investigation into his conduct towards women, and said he would stay on as an MP and “continue speaking out about the internal operations of the National Party”.

Ross’s decision has now raised the spectre of whether National and its leader Simon Bridges will use the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Act, legislation it has opposed bitterly, to force their MP out before he does further damage.

Electoral law expert Graeme Edgeler said under the legislation it was up to Bridges and the National caucus, not Speaker Trevor Mallard, to determine whether Ross had distorted and would continue to distort the proportionality of Parliament.

If the caucus voted by at least a two-thirds majority in support of using the party-hopping legislation, after Ross was given the required 21 working days’ notice to respond to his potential expulsion, Bridges could then deliver a letter to Mallard which would trigger Ross’s removal from Parliament and a by-election in his Botany seat.

There will no doubt be more said about what Ross may be allowed to do.

 

MP mother wants more free travel for partners

MP Kiri Allen had a baby at about the same time she got into parliament via Labour’s list. She is trying to get more free travel for MPs with young children so they can have more time with their family together.

Every parent who works has to compromise on family time, it just goes with the job.

MPs already have fairly generous pay and travel allowances.

Stuff:  Mum MP calls for travel cap change to help politicians with babies

One of Parliament’s new parents, Kiri Allen, has argued for a cap on taxpayer-funded travel for MPs’ partners to be lifted for those with young babies.

While MPs’ partners used to be allowed unlimited travel to be with the MP, the so-called “perk” was cut back in 2014 after excessive use by some.

…the partners of ordinary MPs get 20 trips a year maximum while ministers’ partners get 30 trips a year. The caps are set by the Remuneration Authority and can only be used to accompany MPs on work-related travel.

Twenty free trips a year doesn’t sound too bad to me.

Allen said the cap was difficult when her baby was less than six months old as it restricted her partner and baby to visiting Wellington only once every six weeks at a time the family wanted to spend as much time together as possible.

Speaking to the Herald afterwards, she said she knew calls to widen the entitlements could be “politically unpalatable”.

“But that would be an amendment I would advocate for if we were striving to make Parliament more family-friendly. I would advocate for an amendment for people for those first six months of a baby’s life.”

She said the entitlement should also be extended to caregivers rather than just partners.

So parents with babies can have anyone they like travelling with them to help them?

Parliament sits for 30 weeks per year between Tuesday and Thursday, and MPs living out of Wellington get to fly home at the end of short weeks in Parliament so it is hardly a long amount of time apart from both parents.

And being a list MP Allen doesn’t have the weekend commitments that electorate MPs have. It really isn’t a very onerous job for a fback bench list MP.

Allen knew what sort of job she was putting herself forward for, and will have known she was pregnant when campaigning to become an MP. But she wants more perks laid on.

I think she is trying to push her working conditions too far.

 

 

Fuel tax law passes, more price rises

Parliament has passed the regional fuel tax legislation, just in time for 1 July implementation in Auckland. TYhisn will bump petrol prices up 11.5 cents a litre, but there are claims the real increase in the near future will be double that.

RNZ: Regional fuel tax becomes law

The government’s regional fuel tax changes have become law this evening, ahead of its planned introduction in Auckland on Sunday.

The bill passed 63-57 last night with Labour, NZ First, and Greens in voting in favour, and National and ACT opposed.

It means Aucklanders will be paying another 11.5 cents at the pump, in order to pay for major transport projects.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford told the House he was excited about the possibilities for transport infrastructure, and coming solutions to congestion, once the tax is implemented in New Zealand’s biggest and most congested city.

Mr Twyford told the House that Auckland Council would be accountable for how it uses the money.

But wait, there’s more (increases). NZH: Auckland motorists face two new petrol taxes hiking pump prices by up to 15.5c a litre

The council’s regional fuel tax of 11.5 cents a litre is due to come into effect on July 1.

Weeks later, the Government looks set to increase the fuel excise tax nationwide by between 3c a litre and 4c.

Papers released to the Herald under the Official Information Act show the Government intends to increase the fuel excise tax on September 1.

A spokesman for Twyford today said the tax is part of a draft 10-year transport plan due to finalised shortly.

Raising the excise tax happens often. Over nine years the National government raised excise tax six times, once by 2 cents and five times by 3 cents (that’s a total of 17 cents).

Petrol prices rose to near record highs recently before settling back a little.

Auckland prices look set to rise by 14.5 to 15.5 cents soon, plus GST – this will be on top of normal fluctuations.

Other local bodies are lining up to also get their regional fuel tax, but areas outside Auckland may be hit regardless as petrol suppliers often shift price increases around. Regions with less price competition tend to get whacked with higher prices.

 

Parliament disarray continued

On Wednesday Paula Bennett walked out of Parliament in frustration at Speaker’s rulings. Yesterday Trevor Mallard ejected Bennett from the House in frustration at an ongoing and escalating stoush between the Opposition and the Speaker.

Question 4 was the big blow up but it was far from the only confrontation yesterday.

Question No. 4—Transport

4. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Transport: Does he remain committed to his proposals for new and increased fuel taxes in light of recent reports of petrol prices reaching record highs; if so, what consideration, if any, will he give to the increased cost of living his fuel tax proposals will have on New Zealand families?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): I am committed to striking—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! Can I ask—Ms Bennett, can you just wait at least until the Minister’s started answering before you start your interjections.

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I am committed to striking a balance between affordability and taking urgent action on the transport infrastructure deficit that we inherited. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates that the changes to fuel taxes will see an average family in Auckland pay an extra $5 per week. By contrast, our Government’s Families Package will put $75 a week into the pockets of 384,000 low to middle income families. In terms of considering the impact of taxes on fuel prices, I intend to follow the same process as the Hon Simon Bridges did in 2015.

Jami-Lee Ross: If petrol prices continue to increase, will he revisit his proposals to increase fuel taxes, which will raise petrol prices even higher?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: International oil price fluctuations have a far greater influence on petrol prices than the policy of the previous Government and this Government of regular, small excise increases. As successive Governments have shown, it makes no sense to make major infrastructure investment decisions based on highly volatile oil price fluctuations. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I’m just going to ask Mr Hudson and Mr Stuart Smith just to turn their volume down a little bit.

Marja Lubeck: What reports has he seen of past Governments varying the amount of fuel tax levied to match variations in the global oil prices?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: None.

Jami-Lee Ross: Is he concerned that the rising cost of petrol will increase even further if he is successful in increasing fuel taxes by up to 25c a litre?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, as I’ve tried to make abundantly clear to the member, the increase in fuel excise is a very, very small increase compared to oil price fluctuations. And I would point out to the member that instead of paying $400 million to the wealthiest 10 percent, this Government’s putting—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!

Jami-Lee Ross: Is he saying that his proposal to increase fuel taxes in Auckland by up to 25c a litre—as he’s announced—is small?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, what I would point out is that 25c is the maximum rate that was consulted on in the draft Government policy statement. It’s not necessarily the rate that we’re going to settle on. It applies only in Auckland, where the regional fuel tax is in place, not to the rest of the country. The reason that we are investing in our transport system is because we’ve inherited a legacy of an infrastructure deficit after nine years of totally unbalanced transport policies. We’re committed to doing the right thing for this country and the right thing for the economy.

Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question earlier was ruled out because we were referring to 2017, yet the Minister seems to be able to make comment about the last nine years as he wishes to, and I’m just asking for some clarification.

Mr SPEAKER: I have a feeling the member’s trying to relitigate a ruling I made quite some time ago. I think I will ignore it.

Hon David Bennett: Oh, you can’t do that. You just ignore things.

Marja Lubeck: What lessons will the Minister take from past increases of fuel excise while international petrol prices were high?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: In 2015, the fuel excise was increased after petrol prices increased by 40c per litre. Prices later stabilised and returned to $1.70 per litre by the end of that year, 2015. I’ve learnt from that experience that you cannot make infrastructure investment decisions based on international oil price fluctuations. They’re simply too volatile. I learnt also from the former transport Minister that those fluctuations dwarf the changes in the fuel excise.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! David Bennett will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon David Bennett: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member knows absolutely that he interjected an unparliamentary remark in my direction during the asking of the supplementary question.

Hon David Bennett: And what for? Why do I withdraw and apologise?

Mr SPEAKER: Sorry?

Hon David Bennett: Why do I withdraw and apologise, Mr Speaker?

Mr SPEAKER: Why?

Hon David Bennett: Yes.

Mr SPEAKER: Because the member made an unparliamentary remark and it was exacerbated by the fact that it was done during the asking of a supplementary question.

Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What was the unparliamentary remark?

Mr SPEAKER: I’m not going to repeat what the member said about me. Withdraw and apologise.

Hon David Bennett: Mr Speaker, I need an explanation—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will withdraw and apologise now or I will take more serious action than has happened in the House for quite some time. Is the member going to withdraw and apologise?

Hon Paula Bennett: Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I’m not having a point of order. I am waiting for Mr Bennett to decide whether he will comply with my instruction to withdraw and apologise for reflecting on the Chair while a supplementary question was being asked. Is the member going to withdraw and apologise?

Hon David Bennett: Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I’m not having a point of order, Mr Bennett. You’re either going to withdraw and apologise or I will name you. [Interruption] Order!

Hon David Bennett: I withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: Thank you.

Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Sorry, sir, but it is in reflection to me yesterday having to withdraw and apologise. I genuinely do not know what it was for. I did not make a comment as I left, and this is leading to this kind of disorder, when we don’t know what the actual line is as to what you find offensive and what you don’t. I’ve looked at Hansard. I know what I said as I left. I made no disparaging remarks about you last night, and this leads to my colleagues in a position now where—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. The member will resume her seat. If she wants an explanation for how she breached Standing Orders yesterday, I suggest she watches the TV, either on Parliament TV or on at least one of the news channels to see herself interjecting on her feet as she left.

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

Mr SPEAKER: Is it a new point of order, Mr Brownlee—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yes.

Mr SPEAKER: —or is it a relitigation?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, it’s a new point of order. People might like to look at the TVNZ clip that’s currently running, of a member challenging the Speaker on frequent occasions and ultimately being required to leave the House, and being quite messy all the way through. On none of those occasions was the member named. My question simply is: why do we go suddenly from a position where the Speaker does not want to, apparently, make people leave the House, does not explain what an offence might be, but then simply requires people to accept the arbitrary decision of the Chair or be named, which everyone knows is quite an extreme step for anyone in this House? It seems the step that—we’ve gone from a very, very simple straightforward position of how you deal with these things to one that is quite Draconian. And I think that is the problem we’ve got with the inconsistency of the way the Chair’s operating at the present time.

Mr SPEAKER: I note the member’s comments but, as the member knows well, naming is—I think Standing Order 90—the punishment for being grossly disorderly. And refusing to withdraw and apologise for quite an extended period of time is grossly disorderly.

Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: If it’s the same matter, Ms Bennett, you’re running a serious risk of losing a number of supplementary questions from your team from the first Tuesday back.

Hon Paula Bennett: So, to be clear, Mr Speaker, what I wish to be is actually not unruly in this House. So I need clarification that it was yesterday when I said “It’s a waste of time” that you took such offence to that I had to come back and—well, when I come back you insisted that I withdraw—

Mr SPEAKER: That’s exactly right. If the member had not said that she was leaving the House, I would have required her to withdraw and apologise then. But seeing as she was self-banishing herself, I thought that that was the best way of dealing with it and we could get on with business. I did reflect to the member later on that on a previous occasion, when I had done exactly the same thing—made a comment as I was self-banishing—the Speaker sent for me and made me come back and apologise, and then booted me out again. The member was treated pretty leniently.

Hon David Bennett: Yeah, didn’t get named though.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, the member will resume her seat. Mr Bennett will withdraw and apologise again.

Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No. The member will withdraw and apologise.

Hon David Bennett: I just want to table a withdrawal, because I might as well be using it all the time, the way the House is going at the moment.

Mr SPEAKER: So the member’s declining to withdraw and apologise?

Hon David Bennett: No, I’m seeking your guidance—

Mr SPEAKER: No, you’re not seeking my guidance; you’re going to withdraw and apologise.

Hon David Bennett: Mr Speaker, what for? I just—I need to know what I did wrong.

Mr SPEAKER: Mr Bennett, you reflected on the Chair, on my ruling—again. I mean, the member understands what he does. He is not an unintelligent member. It’s not something that happens accidentally. But the member should be able to remember sort of 30 seconds after he made a comment that he did. The member will withdraw and apologise.

Hon David Bennett: [Member pauses] I withdraw and apologise, sir.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is the Chair immune from the provisions of Standing Order 120?

Mr SPEAKER: Sorry, can the member say that a little bit more loudly?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yes—is the Chair immune from the provisions of Standing Order 120?

Mr SPEAKER: No.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Then isn’t simply requiring members to withdraw and apologise, without some explanation of the reason for that, impugning improper motives against a member?

Mr SPEAKER: For goodness’ sake! Mr Brownlee, this has got to the point of being ridiculous, the member is—[Interruption] Paula Bennett will leave the Chamber. [Interruption] The member will leave the Chamber.

Hon Paula Bennett withdrew from the Chamber.

Mr SPEAKER: Now, I’ve lost where we were at.

Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think I’m next up, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question—David Bennett.

Hon David Bennett: No, primary question.

Historical homosexual convictions able to be wiped

Last night the Criminal Records (expungement of convictions for historical homosexual offences) Bill passed its third reading with Parliament voting unanimously for a Bill that will allow men convicted of homosexual ‘crimes’ up until the offences were scrapped in 1986 to have their convictions wiped from their records.

This bill was started by the previous National-led Government and continued by the current Labour-NZ First-Green Government.

RNZ: MPs vote for historical homosexual convictions to be wiped

Parliament has voted unanimously to support legislation allowing men convicted of historical homosexual offences to have them wiped from their records.

Consensual sex between men aged 16 and over was decriminalised in 1986, but convictions for offences before that time remained on record and can appear in criminal history checks.

The scheme will allow people to apply to the Secretary of Justice to have their convictions expunged, without formal court hearings or needing to appear in person.

 

It was terrible law that was scrapped in more enlightened times, but sadly failed to address the damage done for a further thirty two years. At least sorting things out belatedly has the full support of all parties and MPs.

Last July Men convicted for homosexual activity receive apology from govt

The Justice Minister has formally apologised to New Zealand men who were convicted in the past for consensual homosexual activity.

Parliament decriminalised consensual sex between men aged 16 and over in 1986, but convictions for offences before that time remained on record and can appear in criminal history checks.

Advocates for the men say the stigma of the convictions has been devastating for many, but the apology is a step in the right direction.

Amy Adams delivered the apology in Parliament this afternoon, during the first reading of a bill that expunges those historic convictions.

“Today we are putting on the record that this house deeply regrets the hurt and stigma suffered by the many hundreds of New Zealand men who were turned into criminals by a law that was profoundly wrong, and for that, we are sorry.”

Ms Adams said it was unimaginable today that New Zealand would criminalise consensual sexual activity between adults.

“Almost four years ago, this Parliament passed [the marriage equality law] to allow same-sex couples to legally marry, and I was proud to vote in favour of it.

“Today is another historic day for the New Zealand gay community and their families, as Parliament formally apologises for the hurt cause by the convictions and takes the first reading of a bill to expunge those convictions.”

During the debate of the bill, Labour’s Grant Robertson told the house that the imprisonments, the arrests and the fear did not just ruin lives, it killed people.

“Hundreds, possibly thousands of lives have been lost because men could not bear the shame, the stigma and the hurt caused by this Parliament and the way that society viewed them as criminals.

“It is for all of that, that we must apologise.”

So now the apology has been followed by legislation that allows men to set their records straight. It won’t undo all the damage done to people’s lives – some of which have been lost – but it will help those who have been burdened by convictions.

Te reo Māori in Parliament

An interesting post by William Asiata on the use of te reo Māori in the New Zealand Parliament (also with some interesting history of Hansard, not covered here).

Te Pūnaha Matatini: Te Reo Māori in New Zealand Parliament, as recorded in the Hansard Reports

As one of two summer 2017-18 student interns for the Kōrero Māori project with Dragonfly Data ScienceTe Hiku Media and Te Pūnaha Matatini, we were assigned to help collect corpus of te reo Māori text that would be used to train the written language model component of a te reo Māori computer natural language processing engine. When ready, the natural language processor will be used as the base for making software like Apple’s artificially intelligent ‘Siri’, that will be capable of understanding te reo Māori.

One text source in particular was identified that is publicly available online and known to contain te reo Māori – that is the New Zealand Parliamentary Debates as recorded in the Hansard reports.

The written record of Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) make up over 700 volumes of text that span from 1854 to the present day, and daily reports continue to be published onlinewithin a fews hours of each new thing spoken in Parliament.

Across the 700+ volumes, the programme has sorted through over 420 million words to detect about 7400 speech segments that are at least 50% te reo and have a combined total of about 390,000 Māori words.

History of Te Reo in Parliament

Several interesting discoveries were made after examining the result and making a graph (see figure below):

  • Up until the 1980s the proportion of te reo Māori speech in Parliament was barely anything – less than 0.1% for more than 130 years. However over the last 2-3 decades the growth trend in the percentage of te reo spoken in Parliament is very remarkable, even reaching as high as 2% in a year.
  • We found that Māori words make up about 0.2-0.4% of what people say in Parliament on average if they aren’t speaking in te reo Māori – most probably common words like names.
  • A cluster of te reo speeches around the 1940s.
  • Several MP speeches that include other polynesian languages are counted to contain about 50% – 70% “Māori” words – this is due to similarity between languages and alphabets.

Interpretation of the growth trend

The growth in te reo Māori used in Parliament appears to parallel the time period from when Te Kohanga Reo and Te Reo Māori revitalisation movement began, as well as from the time when the process of settling Tiriti grievances began.

That’s not surprising.

Closing thoughts

The sudden upswing in te reo in Parliament in the last 20 – 30 years is astounding. From practically 0 to 1-2% in a couple of decades, imagine what it could look like in years to come:

  • When the percentage of Te Reo spoken in Parliament begins to match the size of the Māori population (~15%).
  • When the percentage of Te Reo spoken in Parliament approaches 50%, and the nation is almost 100% Māori bilingual.

I don’t think it’s astounding. It part it parallels a change of attitude generally to the use of te reo in schools and elsewhere in New Zealand society. In Parliament it has been impacted by MMP, more Māori MPS, even a Māori party has been in Parliament for most of this century, from 2004 (when Tariana Turia won a by-election to retain her Te Tao Hauauru seat after she split from Labour) to 2017 when they dropped out of Parliament.

Will the percentage of Te Reo spoken in Parliament ever reach the approximate size of the population that identifies as Māori? There is some justification for some use of te reo, but if MPs want to reach the widest possible audience then they have to use English.

It’s hard to see the percentage of Te Reo spoken in Parliament approaching anything like 50%, in the foreseeable future at least.

And it’s hard to see the nation becoming anywhere near 100% Māori/English bilingual. Everyone in New Zealand knows some te reo through numerous Māori place names, and most of us know some common terms and phrases.

Being able to understand conversational te reo (or te reo speeches in Parliament) is far less common.

It would be good to see te reo Māori not just survive but also to thrive, but is it necessary for it to become anywhere near as widely used and understood as English?

As well as being the common language of New Zealand, nearly everyone can use some English, it is also the most widely used language around the world, so it is likely to continue to dominate in general use and in Parliament here.

Te reo Māori in Parliament is good for some purposes, but mostly symbolic.Those who want to communicate with the most people will use English most of the time, as happens now.

Petty Parliament

Noted in Open Forum yesterday:

Gezza:

What a complete waste of taxpayers’ money by Labour members in the General Debate.
Instead of debating an issue of governance or legislative importance the tossers spent nearly all their time one after the spouting lame insulting jokes & putdowns with ludicrous speculations on who would be the next leader of the National Party.

Mefrostate:

I agree with you entirely. Far too much parliament time is wasted on cheap shots and distractions, and any Labour MP who has engaged in soapboxing about the National leadership race will lose respect in my eyes.

As an example I just watched Chris Hipkins and he spent an annoying two minutes grandstanding.

Hipkins is Leader of the House, so this is very poor from him, although to his credit he began by acknowledging Bill English:

I want to begin today by acknowledging the Rt Hon Bill English in his decision to stand down from Parliament after close to 28 years of service to this House and to the people of New Zealand. He deserves to be acknowledged. I haven’t always agreed with Bill English—in fact, I have probably disagreed with him more than I have agree with him—but I think he does deserve to be recognised for the service he has given to the people of New Zealand and for the determination that he has shown over that period of time through a number of ups and downs that he’s experienced in this House.

He then went on to shower praise on his Government, not mentioning the awkward situation of Partnership Schools that he is primarily responsible for.

Then he took shots and Nation MPs.

I do believe one of the things that was stated today by one of those contenders, Simon Bridges, when he said “I’m focused on Simon Bridges”. Everybody in the House will believe that Simon Bridges is focused on Simon Bridges. He clearly appears to be appealing to the young fogey contingent within the National Party; that’s his key demographic. A barbecue at Simon’s place has already had the desired effect: the vacancy has been created and he’s off.

It’s the same with Judith Collins. Now it will be interesting to see how Judith Collins fares. It’s a little bit like giving the wicketkeeper a bowl when you’re playing cricket. It means you’ve given up on winning the game. That would be what would happen if Judith Collins was to become the leader of the National Party. It would be like an admission of defeat and they just needed somebody to fill in the shoes.

There is, of course, Amy Adams. She is the ultimate compromise candidate: the worst of everything. She is the worst of everything: no values, no profile, and absolutely nothing that would be attractive to the voters. By the time Amy Adams is done preparing for her race, the race will be over, but she’s certainly in the running.

Then, of course, we’ve got Jonathan Coleman. I have been told on good authority that Jonathan Coleman has secured his first vote to be the leader of the National Party. It is his own, but he has at least determined that he is going to be voting for himself.

Then, of course, we’ve got Steven Joyce. He’s mulling it over. He’s just trying to figure out whether he’s got a ladder tall enough to get himself out of his $11 billion hole so that he can make a run for the top job of the National Party.

But then there is the mystery candidate out the back there: Mark Mitchell, who’s throwing his name into the ring. Mark Mitchell used to be dog handler. Now that could come in handy if he does succeed in becoming the next leader of the New Zealand National Party.

I feel like I’ve watched this movie before, as the National Party tears itself limb from limb as they decide who the next leader of their party is going to be. And it is nice to be part of a strong, cohesive, and unified Government that’s focused on delivering for New Zealanders. We have seen real results in the first three or four months that we have been in Government and we are barely getting warmed up.

This is quite ironic, given the amount of limb tearing Labour went through over their leadership for nearly nine years, and how weak and un-cohesive Labour was during much of that time.

Next up for Labour was Meka Whatiri (Associate Minister of Agriculture):

The first question, though, is what kind of track is this? Hard and fast? Soft and slow? A bit of bounce? That might let someone keen and unexpected charge through the field, like the old show pony “Craving Coleman”, bloodline out of “Naked Opportunity” and “Desperation”. He may still come out of nowhere to surprise, but he will break a leg and will then have to be put down, like the last time he ran.

Then we have “Crusher Collins” in the blue silks, who may also be guilty of interference when that two-year-old “Brylcreem Bridges” tries to pass her on the inside. Look for the illegal use of the whip.

Very silly stuff from the Minister of Customs and Associate Minister of Agriculture, Local Government and Crown/Māori Relations.

Gezza again:

True Mefro. Same. An illustration of the difference today. How have we ended up putting up with this sort of crap (from all parties at times) and paying them to waste time just playing silly buggers & spouting rubbish.

An illustration
Speech 7 – Labour – Jackson

Unbecoming of the Minister for Employment.

Speech 8 – National – Stanford

 I find it so interesting that the only thing the last three Labour MPs could speak about was the National Party leadership race. Do you know why that is? I’ll tell you why that is. That is because they are deflecting, because the issue of the day is charter schools and they don’t want to talk about it. They will do anything in their power not to talk about charter schools.

Stanford looked quite capable -and she showed the preceding Labour Ministers up.

She is a first term MP, taking over the safe East Coast Bays electorate when Murray McCully retired – she had previously worked for McCully in his electorate office, and before that has worked in export sales and producing local television shows. Too soon for her to stand for the leadership, and too soon to judge her capabilities, but she looks promising, especially in contrast to the Labour speakers before her.

The next Labour speaker, Willow-Jean Prime:

What I find interesting is that, in this general debate, I would have thought that the other side would have used this as an opportunity to do their speeches for the leadership campaign. I’m surprised, actually, that they didn’t. They are trying to find somebody who can match the very popular Jacinda Ardern, our current Prime Minister. They are trying to find somebody with youth. They are trying to find somebody who can appeal to a different generation. We’ve seen these tweets and these reports and these updates coming through.

What I challenge the other side to do is to find a leader who has as much heart as our Prime Minister has. We are a Government with heart, versus the Opposition.

Very ironic given the content of her fellow Labour MP’s speeches that did focus on the National leadership, that would hardly appeal to a different generation with heart.

Also guilty of dirty politics are several co-authors at The Standard who posted Who will be National’s next leader?

Mickysavage has built up some credibility with generally thoughtful and reasonable posts over the past year or two, but this drags him back down to trash talk level.

There are times in politics, like when another party is going through a process, that fools should not open their mouths to prove their pettiness.

It is a real shame to see Parliament’s General Debate wasted on petty, pathetic politics. It’s sadly no surprise to see The Standard stoop.

Visual history of New Zealand parliament

Last year, just prior to the election, Chris McDowall put together a fascinating visual history of the New Zealand Parliament from 1853 to 2017 (prior to the election).

Here is the most recent years, since just before MMP started in 1996:

– excludes 2017 election result

An interesting explanation:

In parliament’s early years, political parties were local organisations rather than national bodies. Until the late 19th century, there were no political parties as we would recognise today. Members formed factions, but arrangements were loose.

The establishment of the Liberal Party in 1891 signalled the start of party politics. Over several decades parties formed, evolved, merged and disappeared. The oppositional conservative factions became the Reform Party. Labour and Social Democrat parties were founded, then merged into the modern Labour Party. The Liberal became the United Party. United formed a governing coalition in 1931 with Reform, before merging into the modern National Party in 1936.

Like today, it was complicated.

Then things stabilised. For over half a century the National and Labour parties dominated the nation’s politics. Social Credit got an MP elected in the late 1960s and another two in the late 1970s. Otherwise it was a two-horse race. This started to change when Jim Anderton split from Labour in 1989, creating NewLabour. In 1993 the Alliance and New Zealand First each got two members elected to parliament.

New Zealand switched from first-past-the-post voting to a mixed-member proportional system in 1996. The political landscape became far more fluid. Eight small political parties gained parliamentary representation alongside the two major players. As the smaller parties got members into parliament, Labour and National could no longer hold enough seats to govern alone. This is an age of coalitions, diverse voices and shifting sands.

A full graphic is at A visual history of the New Zealand parliament

 

Parliamentary question spat

Labour Ministers are effectively refusing to answer written questions submitted by the National Opposition.

National MPs are submitting many more questions in response, and Labour are crying foul.

Last Friday:

Other media picked up on this.

NZH: National denies questions are ‘Parliamentary spam mail’

Labour has called it the Parliamentary equivalent of spam mail but National is unrepentant about lodging more than 6000 written questions to ministers in the past month.

Opposition MPs can lodge written questions to ministers, with the answers then published online. Since Labour came to power National has lodged thousands, with many asking what meetings a minister held on a specific date.

National’s Leader of the House, Simon Bridges…

…acknowledged a “side effect” of that approach would be to test the new Government and its staff.

“Is part of this around testing the Government more broadly and is that a side effect of what we are doing? Okay, maybe. But the primary reason for doing this is to get substantive answers on what they are doing at this stage of their Government so we can understand their priorities.

“We are not getting answers inside or outside of Parliament. That necessitates us asking more detailed and specific questions. If we were getting answers to what we feel are reasonable questions, we wouldn’t have to ask so many.”

Labour Leader of the House, Chris Hipkins…

…said the tactic was the parliamentary equivalent of spam mail, and would not lead to much useful information.

“All New Zealanders, regardless of whether they voted for us or not, want the Government to be effective. I don’t think they want a Government that’s bogged down with trivialities and time-wasting. If the Opposition want to focus their energies on that, we’ll just get on with the job of delivering for New Zealanders,” Hipkins told Newshub.

“At the end of the day, questions like this don’t really serve the public interest. They simply soak up huge amounts of time, and that’s time and money and energy that could be put into serving the public.”

Bridges…

…said his party would continue to ask questions, but numbers would drop if “good, basic” answers were provided.

New Zealand Parliament (August 2016): Hundreds of written questions asked every week, even when Parliament isn’t meeting

Written questions, and especially their answers, provide a huge amount of information of interest to New Zealanders. Even during the recent month-long recess, the questions kept flowing in and being answered.

Written questions are a key tool to help Parliament hold the Government to account. During the July recess, 1159 written questions were asked.

MPs can direct a written question to any Minister about a subject that the Minister is responsible for. There is no limit to how many questions an MP may ask. The total number asked in 2015 was 16,180.

Ministers have six working days to provide a written answer to each question. Each answer is first sent to the MP who asked the question. Three days later, the answers are published on Parliament’s website.

What is the aim of Parliamentary questions?

Both written and oral questions are used by MPs to get information from Ministers.

Written questions usually seek information that may be used in an upcoming debate or question time in the House, or through the news media.

Oral questions are asked and answered on days that Parliament is sitting. An answer is required from the Minister during that day’s question time. That answer can be tested during question time with supplementary questions.

This process keeps Ministers and the organisations for which they are responsible on notice that their activities can always be under scrutiny.

So it’s an important part of our Parliamentary process. Asking written questions is an important job for an Opposition.

Graeme Edgeler gives some examples of non-answers at Public Address: Questions, but no answers

To NZ First Minister Ron Mark:

8560 (2017). Hon Mark Mitchell to the Defence (Minister – Ron Mark) (16 Nov 2017): What meetings, if any, has the Minister attended between 26 October 2017 and 15 November 2017, including subject, attendees, and agenda items?

Hon Ron Mark (Defence (Minister – Ron Mark)) replied: I meet regularly, formally and informally, with officials and various stakeholders. A range of issues are discussed. If the Member would like to be more specific I will endeavour to answer the question.

To Labour Associate Minister Kris Faafoi:

8449 (2017). Hon Simon Bridges to the Immigration (Associate Minister – Kris Faafoi) (16 Nov 2017): What meetings, if any, did the Minister attend between 26 October and 29 October inclusive, including subject, attendees and agenda items?

8448 (2017). Hon Simon Bridges to the Immigration (Associate Minister – Kris Faafoi) (16 Nov 2017): What meetings, if any, did the Minister attend between 30 October and 05 November inclusive, including subject, attendees and agenda items?

(to 8449) Hon Kris Faafoi (Immigration (Associate Minister – Kris Faafoi)) replied: I meet regularly, formally and informally, with officials and various stakeholders. A range of issues are discussed. If the Member would like to be more specific I will endeavour to answer the question.

(to 8448) Hon Kris Faafoi (Immigration (Associate Minister – Kris Faafoi)) replied: I meet regularly, formally and informally, with officials and various stakeholders. A range of issues are discussed. If the Member would like to be more specific I will endeavour to answer the question.

A narrower question to Labour Minister Stuart Nash:

8393 (2017). Chris Bishop to the Police (Minister – Stuart Nash) (16 Nov 2017): Did the Minister have any meetings in his capacity as Minister of Police on October 27, if so, what people and organisations did he meet with on that day, where were the meetings held and what were the main items of business?

Hon Stuart Nash (Police (Minister – Stuart Nash)) replied: I meet regularly, formally and informally, with officials and various stakeholders. A range of issues are discussed. If the Member would like to be more specific I will endeavour to answer the question.

Same fobbing off response. That both Labour and NZ First Ministers are using the same non-reply suggests a coordinated tactic from the Government.

Bishop has followed up:

11778 (2017). Chris Bishop to the Minister of Police (22 Nov 2017): Did the Minister have any meetings in his capacity as Minister of Police on October 27 between 8 and 9am, if so, what people and organisations did he meet with at that time; where were the meetings held and what were the main items of business?

11779 (2017). Chris Bishop to the Minister of Police (22 Nov 2017): Did the Minister have any meetings in his capacity as Minister of Police on October 27 between 9 and 10am, if so, what people and organisations did he meet with at that time; where were the meetings held and what were the main items of business?

That’s why the number of questions is so high.

Edgeler, a stickler for proper Parliamentary process, commented:

The replies are due by Thursday. Hopefully Bishop, and the other MPs (all of whom seem to have been specifically invited by Ministers to ask more granular question) will have the answers to which they are entitled.

So far, Bishop’s hour-by-hour requests only cover the first two days the Minister of Police was in office, although the essentially rejected day-by-day requests covered several weeks. The Minister should consider himself lucky. Far from being aghast that National MPs have asked “a whopping 6254 written questions”, I am instead surprised by their forbearance. They are being denied information they ought to have. By rights, they should have asked more.

Ministers seem indifferent (at best) to their responsibilities.

National has escalated things and has now got some publicity. This will put pressure on the Government and it’s Ministers to comply sensibly.

Select committee membership

Select committees

Much of the work of the House of Representatives takes place in committees made up of a small group of MPs.  These committees examine issues in detail, from government policy and proposed new laws, to wider topics like the economy.

There are 12 subject select committees and 5 specialist committees.  Select committee business items that were reinstated by the new Parliament have been published in the business list for the relevant committee.  Reinstated business resumes at the legislative stage it had reached at the close of the 51st Parliament.  Please note each committee may choose to reinstate inquiries and briefings from the 51st Parliament

Determinations of the Business Committee for 15 November 2017

Agreed, That the members of each select committee be as follows:

1. Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee: business development, tourism, Crown minerals, commerce, consumer protection and trading standards, research, science, innovation, intellectual property, broadcasting, communications, information technology

  • Tamati Coffey, Labour Party
  • Hon Jacqui Dean, National Party
  • Paul Eagle, Labour Party
  • Hon Christopher Finlayson
  • Gareth Hughes, Green Party
  • Melissa Lee, National Party
  • Clayton Mitchell, New Zealand First
  • Parmjeet Parmar, National Party
  • Hon Aupito William Sio, Labour Party
  • Jonathan Young, National Party

2. Education and Workforce Committee: education, training, employment, immigration, industrial relations, health and safety, accident compensation

  • Sarah Dowie, National Party
  • Hon Paul Goldsmith, National Party
  • Hon Nikki Kaye, National Party
  • Marja Lubeck, Labour Party
  • Denise Lee, National Party
  • Jo Luxton, Labour Party
  • Hon Tim Macindoe, National Party
  • Mark Patterson, New Zealand First
  • Jamie Strange, Labour Party
  • Chlöe Swarbrick, Green Party
  • Jan Tinetti, Labour Party

3. Environment Committee: conservation, environment, climate change

  • Hon Maggie Barry, National Party
  • Marama Davidson, Green Party
  • Jenny Marcroft, New Zealand First
  • Deborah Russell, Labour Party
  • Hon Scott Simpson, National Party
  • Hon Dr Nick Smith, National Party
  • Erica Stanford, National Party
  • Angie Warren-Clark, Labour Party
  • Poto Williams, Labour Party

4. Finance and Expenditure Committee: economic and fiscal policy, taxation, revenue, banking and finance, superannuation, insurance, Government expenditure and financial performance, public audit

  • Kiritapu Allan, Labour Party
  • Andrew Bayly, National Party
  • Rt Hon David Carter, National Party
  • Tamati Coffey, Labour Party
  • Hon Steven Joyce, National Party
  • Barbara Kuriger, National Party
  • Willow-Jean Prime, Labour Party
  • Deborah Russell, Labour Party
  • David Seymour, ACT Party
  • Fletcher Tabuteau, New Zealand First
  • Duncan Webb, Labour Party
  • Michael Wood, Labour Party
  • Lawrence Yule, National Party

5. Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee: customs, defence, disarmament and arms control, foreign affairs, trade, veterans’ affairs

  • Hon Gerry Brownlee, National Party
  • Golriz Ghahraman, Green Party
  • Hon Willie Jackson, Labour Party
  • Hon Todd McClay, National Party
  • Hon Mark Mitchell, National Party
  • Simon O’Connor, National Party
  • Louisa Wall, Labour Party
  • Duncan Webb, Labour Party

6. Governance and Administration Committee: parliamentary and legislative services, Prime Minister and Cabinet, State services, statistics, internal affairs, civil defence and emergency management, local government

 

  • Virginia Andersen, Labour Party
  • Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, National Party
  • Paul Eagle, Labour Party
  • Hon Peeni Henare, Labour Party
  • Brett Hudson, National Party
  • Raymond Huo, Labour Party
  • Stuart Smith, National Party
  • Jian Yang, National Party

7. Health Committee: health

  • Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman, National Party
  • Liz Craig, Labour Party
  • Matt Doocey, National Party
  • Anahila Kanongata’a Suisuiki, Labour Party
  • Shane Reti, National Party
  • Hon Nicky Wagner, National Party
  • Louisa Wall, Labour Party
  • Angie Warren-Clark, Labour Party

8. Justice Committee: constitutional and electoral matters, human rights, justice, courts, crime and criminal law, police, corrections, Crown legal services

  • Hon Amy Adams, National Party
  • Virginia Andersen, Labour Party
  • Chris Bishop, National Party
  • Andrew Falloon, National Party
  • Raymond Huo, Labour Party
  • Matt King, National Party
  • Greg O’Connor, Labour Party
  • Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Labour Party

9. Māori Affairs Committee: Māori affairs, Treaty of Waitangi negotiations

  • Marama Davidson
  • Jo Hayes, National Party
  • Harete Hipango, National Party
  • Nuk Korako, National Party
  • Jenny Marcroft, New Zealand First
  • Todd Muller, National Party
  • Adrian Rurawhe, Labour Party
  • Rino Tirikatene, Labour Party

10. Primary Production Committee: agriculture, biosecurity, racing, fisheries, productive forestry, lands, and land information

  • Hon David Bennett, National Party
  • Hon Nathan Guy, National Party
  • Jo Luxton, Labour Party
  • Kieran McAnulty, Labour Party
  • Mark Patterson, New Zealand First
  • Rino Tirikatene, Labour Party
  • Tim van de Molen, National Party
  • Hamish Walker, National Party

11. Social Services and Community Committee: social development, social housing, income support, women, children, young people, seniors, Pacific peoples, ethnic communities, arts, culture and heritage, sport and recreation, voluntary sector

  • Darroch Ball, New Zealand First
  • Simeon Brown, National Party
  • Hon Kris Faafoi, Labour Party
  • Jan Logie, Green Party
  • Hon Alfred Ngaro, National Party
  • Greg O’Connor, Labour Party
  • Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Labour Party
  • Hon Louise Upston, National Party
  • Hon Michael Woodhouse, National Party

12. Transport and Infrastructure Committee: transport, transport safety, infrastructure, energy, building and construction.

  • Darroch Ball, New Zealand First
  • Hon Judith Collins, National Party
  • Marja Lubeck, Labour Party
  • Ian McKelvie, National Party
  • Chris Penk, National Party
  • Alastair Scott, National Party
  • Chlöe Swarbrick, Green Party
  • Michael Wood, Labour Party
  • Hon Meka Whaitiri, Labour Party

Specialist committees:

1. Business: facilitates House business, decides the size and composition of select committees, grants extensions to the report dates for bills before committees, and grants permission for members’ votes to be counted while they are absent from the House.

2. Officers of Parliament: makes recommendations to the House on the appropriations and the appointments of the Auditor-General, the Ombudsmen, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

3. Privileges: considers questions of privilege (see Parliament Brief, ‘Parliamentary Privilege’).

4. Regulations Review: examines the legal instruments variously known as ‘regulations’, ‘delegated legislation’, and ‘subordinate legislation’, made under delegated powers in an Act of Parliament.

  • Kiritapu Allan, Labour Party
  • Simeon Brown, National Party
  • Liz Craig Labour Party
  • Hon Jacqui Dean, National Party
  • Andrew Falloon, National Party
  • Duncan Webb, Labour Party

5. Standing Orders: House procedures and practices.