Strong start by Speaker

Trevor Mallard should have been well prepared for taking over as Parliament’s Speaker. He has been waiting to take over for several years, and he has an extensive knowledge of Parliamentary procedures and rules.

He preceded the opening Oral Questions with a statement:

Oral QuestionsSupplementary Questions

Mr SPEAKER: Before the House comes to the first question time of the 52nd Parliament, I would like to make some comments on how I intend to preside over oral questions. I have circulated this to members earlier in the day.

I expect primary and supplementary questions to be asked without interjection. Oral questions are an important mechanism for holding the Government to account, and, at a minimum, the House should be able to hear the questions being asked of Ministers. Strictly speaking, members are entitled to speak without interruption at all times, but the House has consented to some interjection to enable members to seek information—Speaker’s ruling 58/1.

In my view, oral questions will proceed more effectively if questions can be asked without interjection. Barrages of interjection other times, including during answers to questions, will continue to be out of order.

Supplementary questions are given at the discretion of the Speaker—Speaker’s rulings 172/1 and 172/3. In recent times, the Speaker has given an indication to the parties of the way they may allocate questions. I have continued that practice, and I have also indicated to the three smaller parties in the House that they are able to use their supplementaries across a week.

However, I do intend to use supplementary questions to encourage good behaviour from those asking and answering questions. Where no attempt is made to provide an informative reply, I’m likely to award the questioner additional supplementary questions.

Where questions are misused, I may reduce the number of supplementary questions available that day to the offending party, or I may increase the allocation to an opposing party. I aim to ensure a freer flow of questions and answers without the Speaker being so involved. I will still call on members to ask primary questions, but where a Minister’s asked an oral question he or she may answer immediately without waiting for a call from the Speaker.

After the primary question, I will simply nod to the member asking questions to indicate for them to continue with supplementaries. I will only call a member when inviting a different member to ask a supplementary question.

This was a sensible and clear way to kick things off. Mallard then followed up by preceding in an even handed manner, allowing questions to proceed without being dominated by bad behaviour. He laid down the law quickly.

During Question 1:

Rt Hon Bill English: What is the appropriate measure—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Sorry, I’m just going to start right now. Who is the member who interjected then? Right, there’s an additional question to the Opposition.

And:

Rt Hon Bill English: Does the Government stand by—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The chief Government whip, I think, interjected, or someone around her did. There is a further supplementary to the Opposition.

During Question 5:

David Seymour: Oh, yes, I would. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon Kris Faafoi: Where’s your friends, David?

David Seymour: Well, you find friends in the most unexpected places.

Mr SPEAKER: Was that you, Mr Faafoi?

Hon Kris Faafoi: Yes, it was.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, Mr Seymour gets an extra supplementary.

Both those rulings were against Labour MPs.

In between Labour’s Leader of the House tried to swing one their way:

Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier on, you awarded additional supplementary questions to the Opposition for Government interjection during their questions. Just a point of clarification on your earlier—well, actually, no, a question: does that apply when interjections are made by members of the same party during questions, as we had just before?

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, it does, but I think, as the Minister is aware, I am slightly deaf in my left ear, so I didn’t hear any interjections.

Funny.

There were some interjections through Oral Questions, but they weren’t allowed to dominate due to the Speaker showing he was prepared to penalise disruptive behaviour.

It made for a much better session in Parliament.

Another ruling:

Rt Hon Bill English: My question to the Prime Minister is this, then: are there other commitments that were made during the election campaign and in the Speech from the Throne that are now open to revision and later decisions?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We are committed to implementing what the Governor-General has said in the Speech from the Throne.

Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to clarify: it’s been the practice in the House for some time that a member answering on behalf of another member should clearly identify that. I didn’t want to interrupt the question, but can you clarify whether that is still the case?

Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister answered the question.

He was correct, Davis was Acting Prime Minister as opposed to speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister.

In Question 3:

Hon Steven Joyce: I’m sorry, Mr Speaker, but just to be clear, the Minister released a fiscal plan prior to the election—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will sit the member down now and ask him to ask a question. Speaker Hunt used to have an old saying that questions start with a question word, rather than something else.

Another clear ruling in Question 3:

Hon Tracey Martin: In the 51st Parliament, the last Speaker made it very clear that the Government was not responsible for the manifesto or the policies of a political party. Can I ask for a ruling on that, please?

Mr SPEAKER: I’m happy to answer that. I think the member has been quite careful in the way that he has phrased his questions, asking whether the member was standing by the figures or still agreed with the figures. I think that is something that is acceptable. They’re a set of figures—it doesn’t really matter where they come from, and it’s a question of whether those figures portray the current position of the Government. If that was not the case, I would have ruled out the original question.

The Speaker also twice ruled that an an answer could be adduced by omission. In Question 3:

Hon Steven Joyce: Can the finance Minister then confirm that he doesn’t at all stand by the numbers he presented in the Labour Party’s fiscal plan prior to the election?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government is currently going through the usual process of putting together a Budget. We are absolutely confident that we will deliver a Budget that is in line with the Budget responsibility rules that were outlined in the Speech from the Throne and that will deliver to New Zealanders a fair share in prosperity. As I said in my primary answer, the final numbers are the subject of the normal Budget process.

Hon Simon Bridges: It’s simply this. The question was straight, really: whether he stood by the numbers they had pre-election. There really wasn’t any attempt to answer that specific question.

Hon Chris Hipkins: Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I’m not going to take any further comments on that. Both the asker of the question and I thought that there was a very clear response.

Avoiding answering can be assumed to be a negative response.

In Question 5:

Hon Nikki Kaye: Given the Prime Minister’s comments yesterday, that all people are entitled to care and compassion, will he guarantee that he will personally visit all of these partnership schools or the sponsors of the proposed schools prior to making any decisions about the future of some of our most disadvantaged children?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I have been clear that we will deal with all of the issues around charter schools on a case by case basis and in good faith. The negotiations around potential changes to the contracts or arrangements will be conducted by the Ministry of Education and not by Ministers.

Hon Nikki Kaye: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This was a very simple yes or no—will he visit the schools of these most disadvantaged children—and he didn’t answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER:  Similar to the advice that I gave to the Hon Steven Joyce earlier, I think, by omission the answer was actually clear.

So a very promising, firm and fair start by the Speaker.

Trevor Mallard as Speaker

Long time Labour MP Trevor Mallard (first elected in 1984, 33 years ago) has achieved his ambition of the last few terms – to become Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives.

Mallard has had a fairly chequered political career. In the past he has been very tribal and combative, but he seems to have mellowed and has tended to keep a lower profile as he worked his way towards the big chair in Parliament.

He probably has as good a knowledge of the rules and customs of Parliament as any MP so is well qualified on that count. He has served as Assistant Speaker for the last term.

Mallard should start as Speaker with a virtual clean slate. He has the necessary knowledge and experience. It will be his temperament and his impartiality that will be tested. We will have to wait and see how well he conducts himself.

From Parliament:  Meet the Speaker of the 52nd Parliament

The Rt Hon. Trevor Mallard, Speaker, 52nd Parliament

The Rt Hon. Trevor Mallard, Speaker, 52nd Parliament
Source: Office of the Clerk, 2017

Candidates for Speaker are nominated and seconded by other MPs. Only one candidate was nominated so an election was not needed and Mr Mallard was declared as Speaker-Elect.

Once declared, Mr Mallard travelled to Government House to be confirmed as Speaker by the Governor-General.

He will be known as The Right Honourable Trevor Mallard.

The Speaker is essential to the running of the House and has to command the respect of all MPs. The New Zealand Speaker is allowed to maintain links with their party (unlike in some other Parliaments), but must not show any preference or disrespect for any political party, for the Government, or the Opposition while chairing proceedings in the House. All MPs must be given a fair opportunity to participate in the business of the House.

Shambolic start to Parliament

I’ve been away for a couple of days so am just catching up a bit. It sounds like Parliament and politics is a shambles today.

Stuff:  Red-faced Government needs to bury first-day farce, fast

So far so shambolic. If this is a taste of things to come in the new Parliament, get ready for a wild ride.

Labour has run hard up against the reality of dealing with the biggest single Opposition party ever, and the panicked scenes as it tried to bargain its way out of an embarrassing vote to elect the new Speaker are a memory it will want to bury quick smart.

The desperate discussions captured on the floor of Parliament as Labour’s leader of the House, Chris Hipkins, tried to salvage a bad situation from turning into a train wreck are just the sort of images Labour doesn’t need.

Those images have catapulted what would normally be an in-house, procedural stoush, into a defining moment. They fit the Opposition narrative – the narrative being that this is the same party that only a few months ago was divided, and defeated, that Labour wasn’t ready for power, that the next three years are going to be a shambles.

The first vote on the first day of the House means none of those things of course. Labour was never actually at risk of losing the vote to elect a new Speaker – but what’s important is it thought that it might, after National spotted the absence of a number of Government MPs, and threatened to elect its own Speaker.

Looks like a steep learning curve for  Hipkins and for Labour.

While Labour was still scrambling to recover from that debacle, Foreign Minister Winston Peters dropped a bombshell, serving legal papers taking broad aim at a bunch of Opposition MPs, political staffers, a government department chief executive, and journalists, before heading overseas.

It’s hard to know whether Peters has evidence and wants more to back it up, or he is, as some have claimed, on a massive fishing expedition. If the latter then it looks problematic – especially going after journalists for their sources.

And it had been cl.aimed the papers were prepared two days prior to the election, and obviously well in advance of the supposed coalition negotiations.

Were the negotiations are farce designed to force Labour into conceding more?

Or was the legal action used as leverage – something like an attempt at political blackmail?

It at least make sit appear as if a National-NZ First coalition was a hopeless case.

At least they sorted themselves out in Parliament, with Trevor Mallard appointed Speaker.

But the deputy Prime Minister starting his term playing legal hard ball with the Leader of the Opposition, senior opposition MPs and journalists suggests the possibility of a very messy term – if it survives.

Stuff: Winston Peters looks to sue over pension leak

An affidavit seen by Stuff shows papers have been filed in the High Court naming Ministry of Social Development chief executive Brendan Boyle, National leader Bill English and his former chief of staff Wayne Eagleson, former ministers Paula Bennett, Steven Joyce, and Anne Tolley, and journalists Lloyd Burr and Tim Murphy.

Former National Party campaign communications manager Clark Hennessy is also named. The affidavit alleges Hennessy was the most likely source of the leak.

In a statement, Hennessy said “I strongly deny any involvement in this matter or anything to do with Mr Peters’ personal life”.

The affidavit, prepared by Peters’ lawyers, says he has instructed them to identify and sue the “persons responsible” for the leak. The affidavit was sworn in September, but the papers were only served on Tuesday, after Peters had left the country for an international summit

 

Speaking rights in Parliament

Interesting tweets from :

Under standing orders, party leaders of parties with six or more members are entitled to speak on Ministerial Statements.

In the last Parliament, this meant that (as of right) the government got one speech (plus a reply), and the opposition three speeches.

In the new parliament, with its smaller opposition, made of fewer parties, and with only one party of more than six MPs, this means that instead of the Government having one speech, and the opposition three speeches (which is what happened in the last Parliament) the Government will now have three speeches, and the opposition will only be entitled to one.

Please note I am speaking here of entitlement. Even in the last Parliament, leaders of smaller parties often spoke on things like this but this would apparently happen by agreement of the business committee, but does not happen as of right.

Advantage Government.

This is interesting but probably not of big importance. Speeches in Parliament are a part of the process but generally don’t get much attention, and most of the public will be oblivious to them.

Question Time

Media pay the most attention in Parliament to Question Time. This is usually split between Opposition MPs asking Ministers questions, trying to hold them to account, embarrass them and score political points, and Government MPs asking Minister ‘patsy’ questions, which are largely a waste of time and ignored.

What are the rules?

Questions are allocated proportionally to each party based on the number of MPs, though parties may exchange slots through mutual agreement. Any MP can ask a question. Questions may in restricted circumstances be asked of MPs other than Ministers.

There are twelve questions per session. This means that as the largest party National will get to answer the most questions, nearly half, so they will be in a position to dominate if they use their questions wisely.

Each party will have about this number of questions:

  • National: 6, or half the questions each session
  • Labour: 4-5 questions each session
  • NZ First: 1 question most sessions (they will miss 1 in 10)
  • Greens: 1 question in four of every five sessions
  • ACT: who?

This contrasts with last term when the largest Opposition party, Labour, got about 3 questions per session, and Greens and NZ First tended to do their own thing.

Advantage Opposition.

Mr Speaker

Trevor Mallard has been itching to be Speaker for a term or two, and it looks like his dream of sitting in the big chair in Parliament will come true if Greens and NZ First approve.

It will be interesting to see how Mallard manages the House. he has an in depth knowledge of the rules so is well qualified on that count. As usually the Speaker’s impartiality, or lack thereof, will be a talking point.

Advantage no one (if it’s done right).

Election of Speaker

Members of Parliament vote to elect the Speaker at the start of each new Parliament (after every general election). This is the first task of every new Parliament once members have been sworn in.
Candidates are nominated by another member and, after the election vote, the Speaker-Elect visits the Governor-General to be confirmed in office.

The position of Speaker is high-ranking — the Speaker commands the respect of other members. This is because the Speaker is the member that the House chooses to communicate with the Sovereign on its behalf.

It is important that the elected Speaker is not biased towards any political party. This ensures that every member of Parliament has an equal chance to contribute to debates and take part in other business in the House.

Despite this, the Speaker of New Zealand’s House of Representatives is allowed to maintain links with their political party, but must not show political bias when chairing business in the House. The Speaker must not show either preference or disrespect for any political party, for the Government, or the Opposition. All members of the House must be treated equally.

From Role & election of the Speaker

 

Mallard ‘had enough’ of Opposition

Trevor Mallard held his Hutt South electorate in a close tussle with National’s Chris Bishop in the 2014 election but this year decided to go list only to focus on his ambition to become Parliament’s Speaker.

Unless Labour improve on last election’s effort Mallard is at risk of missing out on returning altogether, but he says he doesn’t want to spend more time in Opposition so if Labour fail again he may be happy to not be a part of that.

Mallard has been placed at 32 on Labour’s party list, which would require a party vote of about 32% (depending on electorate results) – 32 is effectively closer to 38 due to the six Maori electorate MPs not being included on the list. Mallard opted off the list himself last election, relying on his electorate win to get back in.

Going list only this time Mallard needs an improved party vote to return as an MP, and Labour need to probably do even better than Mallard needs to form the next government. 35% or more is probably needed to be a credible lead party.

The list ructions over the last couple of days won’t have helped.

Stuff: Willie Jackson’s role in the Labour Party is still a bone of contention

When asked to comment on the way the list disputes had played out so publicly, long-serving Labour MP Trevor Mallard said he’d never seen “anything like it” but he didn’t want to comment on “what, if any, damage it has done” to the party’s reputation.

He’ll be hoping not to much damage has been done, but Labour need to go forward, not backwards in credibility and support.

Mallard said Labour was a “broad-base party and some people will be more supportive of the shape of the list than others”.

He said he wasn’t one of the MPs that was unhappy with their list place – Mallard was given the 32nd spot, which means he needs more than 30 per cent to safely get in.

“Opposition is absolutely debilitating and I’ve had enough of it.”

His low profile may be a reflection of this – he seems to have largely given up apart from trying to be Speaker.

“I’ve made it very clear to people I have no interest in being an Opposition member of Parliament. I had nine years in a row of that. I’d love to be Speaker and the position means that if we were in a position to be in Government I can be the Speaker,” Mallard said.

So it sounds like Mallard will be happy to be out of Parliament if Labour fail again.

However to become Speaker Mallard needs Labour’s party vote to improve. Will he do anything to help with that, or has he had enough of campaigning as well?

More widespread disgruntlement amongst current or ex Labour supporters won’t help.

Jo Bond:

Disgusting. Did you find out about NZ Council rushing a special conference last year to get the moderating committee shrunk and remove binding votes from list conferences? We don’t even get to find out the results of our indicative votes. This is so bad.!

Tat Loo:

Yes I heard about that but am out of the loop on details. The old guard Labour right wing is ripped to shreds now.

Tat Loo was a Labour candidate in 2011 but has crossed swords since then, notably with Clare Curran, and as Colonial Viper at The Standard (I think he is banned until after the election).

Peters v The Speaker cont.

The ongoing spat between Winston Peters and Speaker David Carter has continued in Parliament this week, with Peters thrown out two days in a row. With him it’s hard to know if it is deliberate grandstanding, or if his frustration at the Speaker’s rulings or a lack of impact in the House is getting the better of him.

After yesterday’s ejection Peters said that Carter was a bully – perhaps that’s another attempt to try and tap into the populist issues of the day.

petersleavethehouse

Newshub: Parliament’s Speaker is a bully – Winston Peters

The first was for uttering the word “crap” – which he doesn’t think is that bad.

“Crap is not a swearword,” he said.

And he says the reason he was thrown out was because he thinks Speaker David Carter is bullying him.

“Don’t get up there and think you’re going to bully me out of my fundamental rights,” was his message to Mr Carter.

But…

…Mr Carter said the use of the word wasn’t the issue, it’s Mr Peters’ behaviour – and his second turfing of Mr Peters showcased it. 

“Whilst on my feet he actually yelled out for me to sit down while he wanted to speak. You cannot run Parliament with Members of Parliament showing that little respect for the Speaker.”

I’ve seen Peters getting petulant and trying to tell the Speaker what to do before.

And here’s the transcript:


Whānau Ora, Minister—Statements

9. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister for Whānau Ora: Does he stand by all his statements?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL (Minister for Whānau Ora): Āe, i te wā e kōrerohia ana.

[Yes, at the time it was being discussed.]

Darroch Ball: Does he stand by his answer on measures of effectiveness provided to justify the increase in funding to Whānau Ora, that “The increase in funding for Whānau Ora … was subject to a cost-benefit analysis consistent with other Budget 2016 social sector initiatives.”?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: Āe.

Darroch Ball: How could he possibly use the cost-benefit analysis as justification for an increase in funding, when that cost-benefit analysis clearly states that the “benefits achieved through Whānau Ora are difficult to capture using cost-benefit analysis.”?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: Arā anō ngā momo toronga o Whānau Ora.

[Whānau ora has other forms of extensions.]

Tracey Martin: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can we confirm that there is a translation going on?

Mr SPEAKER: Certainly—[Interruption] Order! There is a translation, and it would be helpful if members listened to it.

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: E tika ana kia whai ahau ā-Minita nei i tēnei kaupapa o te cost-benefit analysis. Kua eke a Whānau Ora ki tērā taumata, kāre he rere kētanga ki ētahi atu Tari Kāwanatanga. Ko taua āhua anō, ka whakamātauria ia tau, ia tau, ia tau.

[It is proper that I, as a Minister, follow due process in this matter about cost-benefit analysis. Whānau ora has achieved that standard; it is no different from any other Government department. It is that situation again, there is an annual audit each year.]

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This Minister was asked as to how he could make that statement, given that he had on record, from a Government department, a statement about the impossibility of a cost-benefit analysis in the way it was being put in his answer. He was asked how he could say that against that official information that he got, and he did not in any way try to answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, the question was not as the member has now summarised it; it was somewhat different, and, as I listened to the answer, the answer addressed the question that was asked.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. So, just to clarify your ruling, are you saying that what I heard from the Minister was not what he said?

Mr SPEAKER: No, let me try to clarify for the benefit of the member. The question that the member, Winston Peters, suggested was asked was not exactly the same as Darroch Ball asked. I listened to what Darroch Ball asked, and I have ruled that the answer given by the Hon Te Ururoa Flavell has addressed that question. That is the end of the matter. There is not much point in continuing on.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, I helped draft this question, so I know what is in it.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. [Interruption] Order! I have ruled that the question has been addressed. The member does not have to agree with that, but he has to accept it. We will move to further supplementary questions; otherwise I am quite happy to move to the next question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am certainly not going to entertain a further point of order from the Rt Hon Winston Peters contesting my ruling, and if he does so, I will be asking him to leave the Chamber.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Point of order. Can I just—[Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat. I just want to be—[Interruption] Sit down. Resume your seat, please. I just want to be absolutely clear—[Interruption] Order! I want to be absolutely clear. I have given the member a warning that I am not prepared to tolerate him continuing to raise a point of order that is challenging a ruling I have just given. If the member wishes to seek a fresh point of order on a completely different matter, that is a right that he has, and I will listen to it, but if I—[Interruption] Order! If I detect for—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Oh, Mr Speaker, sit down and let me—[Interruption]—put my point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will leave the Chamber—[Interruption] The member will leave the Chamber.

Rt Hon Winston Peters withdrew from the Chamber.

Parliamentary services on MP emails

The Speaker gave a response from parliamentary Services regarding filtering of emails after a complaint from Chris Hipkins yesterday.

Parliamentary Service—Email Security Facility

Mr SPEAKER: Honourable members, yesterday Chris Hipkins raised in the House the blocking of an email he wished to send to a journalist. I undertook to look into the matter and come back to the House. The secure, encrypted email system known as SEEMail exists primarily to encrypt emails exchanged between State sector organisations. SEEMail also prevents classified information being inadvertently sent outside of participating organisations. SEEMail has been in use in Parliament since 2007.

Mail filters look for the words “SEEMail”, “restricted”, “sensitive”, or “in-confidence”, which are attached to emails and documents at the choice of the sender. It then applies encryption to the email and attachments before sending them. It does not otherwise scan or store the content of emails. I have been given an absolute assurance that the Parliamentary Service email system does not scan members’ emails other than for spam filtering, viruses, and SEEMail classifications.

SEEMail is primarily used by Ministers and their departments who need secure, encrypted communication, but it currently applies to everyone with a @parliament.govt.nz email address. It blocks any email with a SEEMail security classification being sent to someone without that classification. The concern raised yesterday was that SEEMail’s system could hinder a member from carrying out his or her duties.

Members must be free to send and receive information as they see fit. No other agency should be involved in determining how members deal with the information they hold. That approach is consistent with the findings of the Privileges Committee when it reported on the use of intrusive powers within the parliamentary precinct.

Equally, it is important that members are able to communicate securely, safe from external cyber threats. I have identified five possible solutions to the conflict between information security and the undoubted right of members to freely use information:

(1) a member may remove the SEEMail classification from an email or document they have received. This can then be sent anywhere the member wishes. Although this would have solved Mr Hipkins’ immediate problem, it does not address the wider issue.

(2) Ministers could instruct departments not to apply SEEMail security to information being sent to members who are not Ministers. Official Information Act responses should never be so classified in the first place.

(3) If members are not satisfied with these two solutions, Ministers could be given a separate email domain so that email as SEEMail applied only to them. That would require further discussion.

(4) Parliament could opt out of the system entirely; however, that carries with it considerable cyber-security risk.

A fifth possible solution, which does require further testing, is for SEEMail to be applied only to communications with participating SEEMail organisations, then members’ emails to journalists and the public would be sent freely and without scanning or encryption.

The matter is a fairly complex one and it cannot be resolved today on the floor of the House. It is, however, essential that it is resolved to the satisfaction of members, and that their ability to send and receive information is not in any way hindered. I will distribute this ruling to all members immediately. I intend to discuss it further with the Parliamentary Service Commission at its next meeting, and I would welcome representation from any members who wish to discuss this matter with me.

 

CHRIS HIPKINS (Senior Whip—Labour): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand your desire to discuss this further and we will certainly take you up on that offer. Can I seek some reassurance from you that in the intervening period, while those discussions are taking place, members will not continue to be blocked from sending emails outside the system?

The issue I rose yesterday when discussing the very ruling that you have just made, with a journalist, the email that I was discussing the matter in was blocked from the journalist whom I was discussing it with.

So I was unable to answer any questions about the matter that rose yesterday because the system picked that up and blocked me from doing so. I had to print the email and hand-deliver it, in order for the journalist to be able to receive it. That is unacceptable, and I want some reassurance that in the intervening period that will be stopped.

Mr SPEAKER: If the member would just have a careful look at the ruling, the very first solution I give to him is that he himself can remove the classification. He may need some assistance to be shown how to do it, and that can be provided, but he himself can remove that classification—I am assured—and send it out.

CHRIS HIPKINS (Senior Whip—Labour): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: If it is a further point on this matter, I have said that this is a complex matter. It is not one affecting the order of the House. I will hear from the member, but I would prefer discussion on this to take place away from the floor of the House so that all members can understand it more clearly.

CHRIS HIPKINS: As was explained to me, any email containing the words “SEEMail” and “sensitive” will be blocked, so any discussion of the ruling that you have just made will, therefore, be blocked. We will not be able to do that via email.

Mr SPEAKER: No. I will have an IT person contact the member immediately after question time. [Interruption] Order! This is a serious matter. My understanding is that while it is blocked, unless the member makes an adjustment to his computer setting and takes the blockage out—[Interruption]—by removing the word “SEEMail”, then he can send it to the journalist of his choice.

See Hipkins overreacts to email blocking

Mallard to go list only

Trevor Mallard has announced he won’t stand in the Hutt South electorate next year, where he has been MP since 1993.

RNZ: Trevor Mallard won’t stand again for Hutt South

He will instead seek a place on the Labour list and said he had been given the nod from party leader Andrew Little that should Labour win the election he would be nominated for the position of Speaker of the House.

If Labour+Greens get to form the next Government and if Greens support Mallard becoming speaker and potentially if NZ First support Mallard becoming speaker.

Mr Mallard said it was up to Labour’s moderating committee to decide on list placements ahead of next year’s election.

This could be quite a risk for Mallard unless Labour improves it’s support. Last election Andrew Little only just squeaked back into Parliament via the list.

If Mallard gets back in on the list but doesn’t become speaker what will he do then? Mark time on the back bench.

Mr Mallard said his decision not to stand again in Hutt South had nothing to do with National’s Chris Bishop working hard to make some ground in the electorate.

“We’ve polled in Hutt South and I’m not convinced that Chris Bishop has made any more traction there than any other MP,” said Mr Mallard.

“In fact the local results very much parallel the national results with the significant increase for Labour since the election.”

Labour got 25% in the last election. They got 25.5% in the latest Roy Morgan poll and I didn’t see much questioning of this. They have polled in the twenties up to the low thirties since the election.

Bishop came within 709 votes of Mallard in Hutt South last election, down from 4825 in 2011. Mallard got a considerably higher vote (43.48%) than Labour (27.84%).

Bishop continues to work hard in the electorate. He recently opened an electorate office.

Mallard has put Labour into an awkward position.  He will continue to represent the electorate until the next election, so Labour’s new candidate will have to try and build a profile in his shadow.

However if Labour loses Hutt South it may give Mallard more chance of making it in via the list.

Has anyone positioned themselves solely to become the Speaker before?

Stuff earlier this month: Could ‘the everywhere man’ Chris Bishop win Hutt South off Mallard?

Labour mis-using taxpayer money?

First a word of caution. This apparent bust comes from the Taxpayers’ Union, who say they are funded and run independently but those involved in running it have close links to National.

They have put out a media release today claiming that Labour appear to be running the campaign for Labour mayoral candidate in Wellington out of their Parliamentary offices. Non-parliamentary activities and electioneering are forbidden uses of parliamentary funded resources.

The Taxpayer’s Union say they have been leaked this email:

LabourStafferMayoraltyEmail

That suggests that “we” from the Labour’s Party Whips office have produced a campaign video for “our Labour candidate for the Wellington Mayoralty”. It is a least a bad look, and it may breach Parliaments rules.

Labour were warned about misuse of Parliamentary resources earlier this year. The Taxpayers’ Union was also involved there. From Speaker’s Warning To Labour Over Parliamentary Funds:

Some weeks ago Labour sent an email in the name of Paul Chalmers, the Project Manager at Labour House, to Labour’s Auckland supporters detailing how Andrew Little had opened a Auckland office that will be “the centre of the Labour and progressive movement in Auckland and the place to co-ordinate the local government and General Election campaigns.”

The email also called on “like-minded partners” to share office space and other facility resources.

It appears that Andrew Little and his MPs are pooling together taxpayer resources to open a campaign office in central Auckland for the Party and Phil Goff’s campaign for the Auckland mayoralty. Use of taxpayer resources in this way is clearly against the rules.

The Speaker has confirmed that the Parliamentary Service will be monitoring Mr Little’s spending and has written to him setting out the rules for taxpayer funded out-of-Parliament offices.

The letter from the Speaker to Labour begins:

Speaker2Labour1

And concludes:

Speaker2Labour2

That is a very clear warning to Andrew Little. Labour should be well aware of these rules anyway.

MPs campaigning for local body office while paid for by taxpayers is suspect, although it has both potential benefits and disadvantages.

Not surprisingly David Farrar has also posted on this, fairly carefully, at Kiwiblog: Lester’s campaign being run from Parliament?  Farrar is heavily involved with the Taxpayers’ Union.

But regardless of the source this does look quite dodgy from Labour, especially after already being warned by the Speaker.

Given there past actions I presume the Taxpayers’ Union will advise the Speaker about this, but don’t expect significant repercussions – that’s why parties keep flouting Parliamentary rules, because they think they can keep getting away with it.

But this is not just flouting Parliamentary rules. It is flouting democracy, giving some candidates an unfair advantage over others.

Now I don’t know if this refers to the same Lester campaign video:

Wellington mayoral candidates get creative and cringeworthy with online campaign videos

Wellington’s mayoral candidates have taken to social media, releasing online campaign videos to sell their message to voters.

Labour candidate and current deputy mayor Justin Lester takes an active approach attending various community events and has citizens endorse him. Robinson says Justin ticks nearly every box with his video.

“He shows that he is embedded in communities, in a variety of communities and people trust him and people endorse him. While people are talking about him he’s actively engaged in a whole variety of environments.

“You can’t fault this video I would have to say in my 17 years of campaign video watching this is the best campaign video any NZ candidate has ever produced.”

Claire Robinson believes anybody running in an election should follow the lead of Wellington’s candidates and campaigns will continue to evolve with technology.

I don’t know what Robinson would think if Parliamentary resources were used to make the video.

Key kicked out of Parliament

John Key was ordered to leave the Chamber today during question time. This is the first Prime Minister to be ordered out since the last one (Clark in 20o5).

Bill English said that he thought it was accidental and that key simply didn’t see the Speaker standing. Whether that’s true or not Key has been pushing boundaries and patience in Parliament lately.

3. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): My answer reads “yes”.

James Shaw: Does he stand by his statement in the House yesterday that charities including Greenpeace and Amnesty International are named in the Panama Papers as beneficiaries of foreign trusts?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think if the member checks the Hansard, you will see that I said “on the database”. They are in the database, and if you actually look at how this information is presented, you go to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. There is a single website link, and it says “Offshore leaks database”, and then it says: “Find out who’s behind almost 320,000 offshore companies and trusts from the Panama Papers and the Offshore Leaks Investigations.” Than you type in “Greenpeace” and it comes back with “Beneficiary of Exodus Trust”.

David Seymour: Can the Prime Minister recall answering a question from the Green Party about the environment?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think in 2008, when I became the Prime Minister, I got one, but since then it has been, you know, a little off radar.

James Shaw: When he made that statement yesterday, was he aware that those charities that he named were actually all found to have been victims of a scam where their names were used as a front by those seeking to use foreign trusts to avoid tax?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Absolutely not—absolutely not. But this is the point, is it not? This is the point—that so many New Zealanders are being implicated, and that member has been at the forefront of sullying the names of New Zealanders because they are in the database. So when Deborah Pead’s name was on TV last night, according to James Shaw, it is fine, but when it is his mate Greenpeace it is not fine. They are both in the database.

James Shaw: Does that not exactly prove the point that the problem that we have got is a regulatory regime that allows foreign trusts to be used for illegitimate purposes and that we need greater transparency and disclosure?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. No, it shows his lefty mates went and hacked into somebody’s website, put it up there, did not actually filter it out, and did not have the decency to protect everyday New Zealanders who might be implicated, and all of a sudden, when one of their mates is there, they do not like it. Well, actually, the truth is we do protect New Zealanders, and if the member had some decency about him, he would not have gone on the news on Saturday night and said I was responsible for the Cook Islands when he patently knows it is not true.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is just too much interjection occurring.

James Shaw: Can he tell the House why he chose to attack charities and my colleague Mojo Mathers rather than answer legitimate questions about the lack of disclosure in New Zealand’s foreign trust regulation?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Sadly, the problem with question time is—this is the way it works. The member asks the question, and if it is to the Prime Minister, I have to answer it. Yesterday the member asked me a question about foreign trusts, with all sorts of implications that they were bad, and lots of questions about the database—apparently, it you are on it, you are bad—and yet my simple point is this, to New Zealanders: next time you hear about this database, next time you hear about the Panama Papers, and next time you see James Shaw making these ridiculous assertions, just ask what is behind it. I am absolutely sure that the member is right: Greenpeace is unwittingly named as a beneficiary, but, nevertheless, it is in the database and it is a beneficiary of the Exodus Trust. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The specific member in the front row was the one I received the most complaints about by my emails yesterday. I will accept some interjection, but when it is continuous, I am going to have to deal with it.

James Shaw: Given that answer, why will he not apologise to Greenpeace, Amnesty International, and Mojo Mathers for misrepresenting them in the House yesterday?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have not misrepresented Greenpeace. It is in the database as a beneficiary of the Exodus Trust. I do not like the fact that it is there, but it is there, so in what way am I misrepresenting it? I think the member should do this. I think he should get on his feet and he should say: “John, on Saturday night”—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. [Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! The Prime Minister will leave the Chamber. When I stand to my feet—it happened yesterday; I gave him fair warning—and call for order, he is to be treated no differently from any other member in this House. The Prime Minister will leave the Chamber.

  • Rt Hon John Key withdrew from the Chamber.