Parliament today – first Question Time of the year

After the first day or parliament for the year yesterday featured the prime Minister’s statement followed by replies from other party leaders and MPs, today things swing to normal business with the first Question Time (oral questions). No doubt various people will be trying to make an early impact.

That will be followed by a no confidence motion that is more political theatre than anything.

Order of Business:

Petitions

Papers

Select committee reports

Introduction of bills

Oral questions

Debate on Prime Minister’s statement

That this House express its confidence in the coalition Government and commends its programme for 2019 as set out in the extensive Prime Minister’s Statement.
(Debate adjourned 12 February 2019)

Amendment reads as follows: That all the words after “That” be deleted and replaced with “this House has no confidence in the Labour-led Government because in its ambition to be measured on its vague intentions it is proving itself completely incapable of delivering good outcomes for New Zealanders.” (Hon Simon Bridges)

Speeches 10 minutes
Whole debate 9 hours 18 minutes remaining

Other Government orders of the day

Today’s questions:

Oral Questions – 13 February 2019

  1. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL to the Minister of Finance: What progress is the Government making on implementing its economic plan?
  2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES to the Prime Minister: Has New Zealand’s relationship with China deteriorated under her Government?
  3. Hon PAULA BENNETT to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements, policies, and actions?
  4. CLAYTON MITCHELL to the Minister of Internal Affairs: What recent reports has she received regarding Fire and Emergency New Zealand’s response to the Nelson Tasman fires?
  5. Hon AMY ADAMS to the Minister of Finance: Is it his view that the current tax take in New Zealand is sufficient; if so, does he agree that income tax thresholds should be adjusted over time to keep up with inflation?
  6. Hon JUDITH COLLINS to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What changes are being considered to the KiwiBuild programme to, in his words, “make KiwiBuild a stronger incentive for developers and how we can make it work better for first home buyers” and “provide a package of assistance to developers that will be enough of an incentive to get them to commit to serious volumes of affordable housing”?
  7. JAN TINETTI to the Minister of Education: Has he released any proposals to strengthen and grow trades training and other vocational education?
  8. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH to the Minister of Transport: Is he committed to building light rail from the city to the airport in Auckland and if so, when will work begin?
  9. Dr SHANE RETI to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by all of his statements and actions around tertiary education and vocational education reforms?
  10. JAMIE STRANGE to the Minister for Trade and Export Growth: How much money has been spent on the Saudi sheep farm in the desert also known as the Saudi agri-hub, and have any steps been taken to stop more money being spent?
  11. DAVID SEYMOUR to the Minister for Social Development: How much did the Government transfer in social security and welfare payments according to the Financial Statements of the Government of New Zealand for the Year Ended 30 June 2018 on a per household basis?
  12. Hon JACQUI DEAN to the Minister of Tourism: What was the date he first found out about the need to postpone the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism opening ceremony?

Parliament opens for the year today

Parliament resumes on 12 February 2019

The first sitting day of the year is a bit different from other days.

There‘s no Question Time on the first sitting day of the year. Instead, at 2pm, the Prime Minister makes a statement to the House. This statement reviews public affairs and outlines the Government’s intentions for the year ahead.

The statement is followed by a debate that can last for up to 13 hours, often stretching over several sitting days. The debate on the Prime Minister’s statement is taken ahead of all other Government business.

You can watch the Prime Minister’s Statement and all the other happenings in the House on Parliament TV or listen to Parliament on RNZ.

This week in Parliament is a brief overview of anticipated business and events to be conducted by the House and Select Committees in the coming week.

The Order Paper is similar to an agenda, listing all the business before the House that sitting day. The order of business can change until the final order paper is published at 10:30am on the sitting day.

The Select Committee Schedule of meetings lists all committee business being conducted for the week. Business items displaying an asterisk indicate meetings that are open to the public. The meeting schedule is subject to changes at short notice.

New member of Parliament

Agnes Loheni will be sworn in as the newest member of Parliament tomorrow shortly after 2pm.

She is replacing Chris Finlayson as next on the National Party list.

NZ Herald:  Meet Parliament’s new MP: Agnes Loheni, National Party list MP

Incoming MP Agnes Loheni will take her values of hard work, the importance of family, and a strong Christian faith to Parliament next month as National’s first woman MP of Pacific Island descent.

It will be a proud moment for Loheni, who grew up in a state house – with up to 15 family members in three bedrooms – on McGehan Close, the “dead end” street that epitomised hopelessness for former party leader Sir John Key.

She went on to graduate with an engineering degree from Auckland University, and had a two-year OE based in London before starting a family business that became a trailblazer in contemporary Pasifika fashion.

Through it all, she has been grounded in a close-knit family and Christian values that see her opposed to euthanasia and abortion law reform. She is also against legalising recreational cannabis, but is open to cannabis for medicinal purposes.

The House has approved the sitting calendar for 2019:

February 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, and 21;
March 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, and 21;
April 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, and 30;
May 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, and 30;
June 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, and 27;
July 23, 24, 25, 30, and 31;
August 1, 6, 7, 8, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, and 29;
September 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, and 26;
October 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, and 24;
November 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, and 21;
December 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, and 19.

The House must sit for around 90 days in the year, with the first day being no later than the last Tuesday in February.

(Thanks for the details Gezza)

 

Provisional Order Paper for Tuesday, 12 February 2019 [PDF 463k]

Facing loss on Brexit vote May warns of catastrophic failure

Prime Minister Theresa May is stil trying to get enough support for a key vote in Parliament next week. She has warned that failure to support her Brexit deal could be catastrophic for Britain.

Reuters:  May warns of catastrophe if lawmakers don’t back Brexit deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May has warned lawmakers that failure to back her plan to leave the European Union would be catastrophic for Britain, in a plea for support two days ahead of a vote in parliament that she is expected to lose.

Lawmakers are set to vote on May’s Brexit deal on Tuesday, after she shelved plans for a vote in December when it became clear that not enough lawmakers from her own party or others would back the deal she agreed with Brussels.

May looks little closer to securing the support she needs, but writing in the Sunday Express she said lawmakers must not let down the people who voted for Brexit.

“Doing so would be a catastrophic and unforgivable breach of trust in our democracy,” May said.

“So my message to Parliament this weekend is simple: it is time to forget the games and do what is right for our country.”

Catastrophe shouldn’t be ruled out if the Brexit deal is passed by Parliament either.

Merry Christmas from Parliament

An Aussie politician with talent and a sense of humour.

Review into bullying and harassment at Parliament

The Speaker, Trevor Mallard, has announced an external review into the bullying and harassment of staff at Parliament.

Note that this doesn’t address behaviour between MPs in Parliament or via the media, and it doesn’t address bullying and harassment of MPs by media.


Independent review launched into bullying and harassment at Parliament

Speaker of the House, Rt Hon Trevor Mallard, announced today that an independent external review into bullying and harassment of staff within the Parliamentary workplace will take place.

“Bullying and harassment are not acceptable in any workplace. It’s important that people at Parliament feel respected, safe, and supported each day coming to work,” the Speaker said.

The review will begin in early December 2018 and is expected to take at least four months to complete. It will look to:

  • Establish whether bullying and harassment (including sexual harassment) has occurred and, if it has, the nature and extent of this towards staff employed or engaged since the 51st Parliament (since October 2014). This includes contract staff, who regularly work on precinct, and former staff who no longer work in the Parliamentary workplace.
  • Review how previous complaints have been handled; whether policies, procedures, and related controls are effective; how they compare to best practice and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015; and whether there are any barriers to reporting or making complaints
  • Assess the culture of Parliament as a place to work and allow for consideration of other matters brought up in the review.

A draft report, with findings and recommendations, will be presented to the Speaker and the Chief Executive or General Manager of participating Parliamentary agencies. Following the delivery of the report, the agencies will consider how to action the report’s recommendations.

At an appropriate time, the report will be made public.

Who is leading the review?

Debbie Francis, an experienced consultant and independent external reviewer, will carry out the review. Debbie has previously led performance improvement reviews at Parliament, and elsewhere on behalf of the State Services Commission. Her recent work on bullying and harassment at the New Zealand Defence Force will be of particular value to this review.

The Speaker is sponsoring the review and will work with the agencies for which he is responsible to address the findings.

Participating in the review

The review will provide current and former Parliamentary staff with an opportunity to share any relevant experiences of bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment, within the Parliamentary workplace. The review covers people employed or engaged by the Parliamentary Service, Ministerial and Secretariat Services, and the Office of the Clerk since the 51st Parliament.

 

The non-naming of the National MP raises media issues

The non-naming of the National MP alleged to have had a several year relationship with Jami-Lee Ross continues, despite probably anyone who wants to know knowing who it is.

It is odd to see the media refraining from naming her, still. Neither National nor Labour want this going public, and there may be some journalists worried about where naming one unfaithful person involved in politics may lead.

The Southland Times should have a special interest in this considering where the MP has her electorate. Today’s editorial: ‘Moving on’ is not acceptable

An editorial published on October 25 raised the point that another issue had arisen from the Jami-Lee Ross saga, in relation to the “You deserve to die” text, said to be from a colleague with whom he acknowledged he had been having an affair.

Was it possible this text could be a breach of the Harmful Digital Communication Act, and could the sender of the text really stay in her role as an MP?

So, on November 8, the following questions were put to the National Party

* The “deserve to die” text reportedly came from a married MP. While National has indicated it is doing a review of its culture, has a separate investigation been launched to speak to the MP who reportedly sent his text?

* What discussions has the party had with the MP who reportedly sent a text like that?

* Has that MP been censured, faced internal discipline, or been stood down from duties? If no action has been taken by the party, why not?

* Does the National Party believe that the text message sent breached the Harmful Digital Communication Act?

* Does the National Party still believe the MP, who reportedly sent the text, is still fit to be an MP and represent the National Party, given they reportedly sent a text saying someone deserved to die?

* Has the MP offered to stand down? Or, are they still carrying out their duties as normal?

And wait for it, here’s the no comment from National.

“The National Party has no comment on these matters. Jami-Lee Ross is no longer a National MP and the party is moving on.”

Moving on … we don’t think so.

National may be “moving on” as it puts it, but in its wake it is leaving a trail of distrust, arrogance, and a big finger to its own party values.

Don’t forget that front and centre of National’s core values for building a society are two important words. Personal Responsibility.

Surely by now the MP in question would front up and take personal responsibility.

Hypocrites.

So the Southland Times slams National and the MP – but doesn’t name the MP.  This is a very strange approach from media.

It’s not just media – both National and Labour seem to want this kept quiet. On the AM show yesterday:

Duncan Garner: I’m not going to name names, ok, because um i don’t really know if it’s true or not, but can you tell me this, we’ll keep it generic.

Was Jami-lee Ross having relationships or affairs with National MPs?

Judith Collins: Well I don’t know. What I do know is that clearly there was something going on, but I always try and keep out of other people’s personal business, and what I do know is that that’s one of the things that I’ve always taken, is a given that you never get involved in other people’s business.

Michael Wood: …look, the Prime Minister from the top down in our Government has said that we don’t want to get involved in this stuff. We’ve got our job to do, going down the personal track with this kind of thing is not a healthy route for our democracy and our politics.

So that’s a clear message that Labour don’t want to get involved in personal relationships.

Given how much the parties attack and criticise each other over all sorts of things this is a curious situation.

More so the media’s reluctance to reveal a name – lest it become names? Jami-lee Ross threatened to ‘lift the bed sheets’ on Parliament, and if that happened it would be likely to name and out more than just MPs.

Graham Adams at Noted has concerns about this apparent pact of silence – The Jami-Lee Ross saga: Questions around cover-ups continue

Cover-ups — or allegations of them — leave a lingering stench that no amount of air-freshener can disguise. Simon Bridges may have tried to clear the air this week by testily telling journalists that he is moving on from Jami-Lee Ross and doesn’t want to talk about him any more but that seems much more like wishful thinking than acknowledging political reality.

But as the messy Jami-Lee Ross saga rolls on, accusations of cover-ups are not being levelled only at Bridges, Paula Bennett and the National Party. The news media — and particularly Parliament’s press gallery — have been accused of their own cover-up regarding the questions they are not asking in relation to the married National MP who apparently had a long-standing affair with Ross.

She was one of the four anonymous Newsroom complainants who made allegations about being bullied by Ross and she was later also reported to have sent Ross an abusive text that included the words, “You deserve to die.”

Richard Harman, who publishes the authoritative Politik newsletter, recently asked on the Kiwi Journalists Association Public Group Facebook page (which can be read by the public “in order to promote transparency, which as journalists we expect from others”) whether his fellow journalists thought he should publish her name.

Harman wrote: “Like most political journalists, I believe I know who that MP is… The inexorable pressure is now moving towards naming the MP. It’s a very difficult ethical issue. I certainly have emails from people on the left making the same allegation as Whaleoil — that the Press Gallery is party to a cover-up. But equally at what point does this simply become prurient gossip?”

There is certainly a difficult issue in how much personal relationship information should be made public. It would be bad if every little pash and bonk made the headlines. But there must be a line somewhere in between minor and major, rather than a comprehensive brick wall.

Although nearly all the opinions in response (including mine) were in favour of naming her, Harman concluded that he would be guided by the aphorism that “What the public is interested in is not necessarily in the public interest” and that she should remain anonymous.

Is ‘public interest’ the overriding factor here? Or is it self interest from media who fear what might come out?

In fact, there are very good reasons in the public interest to name her, and the Facebook discussion canvassed most of them. Obviously, there is the old-fashioned test of hypocrisy. If the married MP is indeed the one who has been widely named on social media, she represents a conservative electorate, is a social conservative herself, and publicly espouses family values. At the very least, you might think, voters might like to be told who she is so they could decide whether to continue supporting her.

It’s likely that many in her electorate will know who it is and may judge her accordingly at the next election, but that doesn’t excuse the media being some sort of moral guardian.

It’s not as if political journalists don’t know who the MP is either if they want to ask questions. All the news organisations to which the abusive text was leaked must know, including RNZ. And Heather du Plessis-Allan and others who work for Newstalk ZB must also know because in an interview with Ross he named her (which was bleeped out).

The hypocrisy test can also be used to judge the media alongside the MP. Certainly, the argument that it is not in the public interest to name her stands in stark contrast to the media feeding frenzy that erupted in 2013 when news of a sexual liaison between Auckland mayor Len Brown and a junior council adviser was made public on the Whale Oil blog.

Once the name is published it may open the floodgates, but not even Whale Oil has gone as far as naming her on this occasion – Slater has all but named her, but not ‘crossed the line’.

The fact that five years later the media is so coy about naming a married National MP who anonymously gave Newsroom highly personal details about her relationship with another married National MP inevitably raises uncomfortable questions — including whether there is one rule for Parliament which has a dedicated press gallery that operates in a symbiotic relationship with politicians and another for councils which don’t.

A casual observer might conclude that when you’re a woman like Chuang who is an ambitious nobody you’re fair game but when you’re a woman like the National MP who is an ambitious somebody the media will protect you.

And that’s hardly a good way to inspire trust in the media’s impartiality or its willingness to upset powerful people.

I suspect that some of the difference between Brown/Chuang and Ross/Dowie is national versus local politics. Local body politics is much more fragmented, both elected representatives and media.

Parliament is not just a grouping of MPs frequently in one place, it is also a media gallery of journalists who work alongside each other and alongside MPs a lot. It’s like some sort of club that has adhered to ‘what happens on tour stays on tour’.

I think that the media should name the MP who is at the centre of this issue, but if the do they should also look at the wider issue of relationships and sex amounts MPs, journalists and staff.

Journalists should disclose personal relationships if it relates to politicians they are reporting on and giving their opinions on. There are issues with journalists straying more and more into political activist roles, so the public has a right to know who may be influencing their opinions and their choice of stories and headlines.

The naming of the MP may be uncomfortable for parties and politicians, but they have long records of keeping things private and secret of they can get way with it.

It is up to journalists and media to investigate and to reveal pertinent political secrets. When they don’t want to go near the sex and relationship thing it suggests they could have secrets of their own they don’t want disclosed.

This is not a good situation for the supposedly without favour fearless fourth estate to be in.

Protest over Parliamentary prayer

There was a sizeable protest at Parliament yesterday against the removal of ‘Jesus’ from Parliament’s prayer (I think that ‘god’ should also be removed from it).

‘Judas Mallard’ is rather over the top.

In January: New parliamentary prayer a compromise, says Mallard

One of the first things Trevor Mallard did after being appointed Speaker last year was to update the prayer read out at the start of each question time.

Mr Mallard said the reference to Jesus was a Christian one, and he wanted the prayer to be more inclusive of other religious beliefs.

He said the prayer was still a work in progress, and he will “keep thinking about”.

There had been consultation and feedback from MPs across the Parliament.

The majority, he said wanted a secular prayer, but he has settled on what he described as a “compromise”.

Yesterday: Protesters push to put Jesus back in Parliamentary prayer

Today’s rally was arranged by the group Jesus for New Zealand and included prayers by pastors from a number of evangelical churches.

Event organiser Ross Smith said New Zealand had a Christian heritage that he did not want erased.

“It’s a legacy. The principals and the values that are in this nation are based on our Christian-Judea roots.”

Removing the name would destroy those roots, he said.

New Zealand is supposed to have democracy separated from religion, has largely moved on from traditional Christian practices.

It is also important to note that some significant principals and the values that are in this nation are based were pre-Christian Aotearoa.

Petition of Pastor Ross Smith for Jesus for NZ – Include Jesus Christ in Parliamentary Prayer

Petition of Pastor Ross Smith for Jesus for NZ, That the House of Representatives revise the Standing Orders to provide that the parliamentary prayer must include the name of Jesus Christ

Stuff: Parliamentary prayer rally calls for speaker to reinstate references to Jesus

Mallard said in a statement that he had no plans to make further changes to the Parliamentary prayer but respected the views of those who protested at the rally.

What about praying for no religious prayer in Parliament? Will that work?

 

Jami-Lee Ross ‘improving’, uncertainty over future

Jami-Lee Ross is said to be improving after surviving a “very real situation” on Saturday night and being sectioned and admitted in mental health care, but it will likely take time to find out what impact this will have on his future as a now independent electorate MP after the National caucus ejected him last week.

The Mental health Foundation is disappointed in how Ross’ mental health situation has been described and discussed in media including social media, and says it is necessary to separate political decisions from mental health problems – but this may not be simple given that Ross’ political decisions have been obviously influenced by his mental health situation.

NZ Herald – Jami-Lee Ross improving, getting the mental health help he needs – friend

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross is improving but remains in the mental health wing at Middlemore Hospital, after surviving a “very real situation” on Saturday night, a friend says.

Concern for Ross’ health has amplified since he was picked up by police on Sunday and sectioned to a mental health facility.

“He’s a bit rough at the moment, but getting the help he needs. He’s in good care. Staff are wonderful,” said the friend, who did not want to be named.

“This was definitely not attention-seeking. It was a very real situation he was in on Saturday night,” the friend added.

It could take some time before we know what will happen from here.

Ross will continue to hold the seat of Botany unless he resigns, National leader Simon Bridges uses the waka-jumping law (a process that takes at least 21 working days), or Ross is deemed unfit due to mental health reasons (a process that takes at least six months).

The friend said there had been no discussion about whether he might resign, as Ross had “more important things” to think about at this stage.

Following Ross’ admission to hospital, several steps need to occur before Speaker Trevor Mallard would be notified that an MP was the subject of a compulsory treatment order.

Mallard said he had not received any such notice, but constitutional lawyer Graeme Edgeler said informing the Speaker was the last step in a process that could take weeks.

It was standard practice to take five days to make a mental health assessment, Edgeler said.

“But if the five days isn’t enough, it can be extended to 14 days. If those have happened and they still wish to compulsorily treat someone, they then ask a Family Court judge.

“If the judge makes a compulsory treatment order or an equivalent order, at that point the court notifies the Speaker.

“It would be exceedingly unlikely for a court to be involved at this early stage.”

If the court issued a compulsory treatment order, the Speaker would then ask the Director-General of Health and a medical practitioner to assess if the MP was considered “mentally disordered”.

If so, a further assessment would follow six months later. If the patient was still unwell, the Speaker would be obliged to inform the House and vacate the MP’s seat, triggering a by-election.

So unless Ross resigns the uncertainty looks like extending well into next year.

Early last week Ross said he intended resigning from Parliament on Friday, but on Friday he said he had changed his mind and would remain in Parliament.

It’s hard to see how Ross could function effectively now as an electorate MP, and he is likely to have lost a lot of support in Botany. Even if he recovers mental health-wise he would also have difficulty operating alone and discredited in Parliament.

Also uncertain is whether Ross will resume his threatened attacks on National and whether he will try to ‘uncover the bed sheets’ in Parliament. He seems to be confusing consensual promiscuity, which appears to be common amongst some MPs and associated staff and journalists, and the harassment and abuses of power that he has been accused of.

Cameron Slater, who has been giving mixed messages about his involvement with Ross before he was committed to a health facility, has threatened a number of times over the weekend to reveal some sort of information – “Just wait and watch what happens this week.”

One might think both Ross and Slater have enough problems to deal with already without lashing out further – they both may have little more to lose politically given how toxic and isolated they have both become, but as has been demonstrated in the weekend they are at personal risk from the pressures they create for themselves.

 

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.