Paternalistic Speaker protecting Ardern in Parliament

There have been claims already that Speaker Trevor Mallard has protected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Parliament when under attack by the Opposition.

This came up again after an exchange in Question Time yesterday, where Simon Bridges moved from questions about CGT effects on KiwiSaver to Ardern’s business experience:

Hon Simon Bridges: In light of her comments on fairness, is it fair that under the proposed capital gains tax, the small-business owner will have to pay tax on a third of their business when they sell up for retirement?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, alongside the recommendations around a comprehensive capital gains tax, we’ve acknowledged that, for simplicity, that was what the Tax Working Group suggested. They also put alongside that, increasing the threshold for provisional tax from $1,500 to $5,000, increasing the closing stock adjustment, an increase in the automatic deduction for legal fees, a reduction in the number of depreciation rates.

So there was a suite of options in there, and, again, Mr Speaker, as I know you know, but as I wish the Leader of the Opposition would hear: we have not settled on any of the final recommendations of the report. We are still considering them as a Government.

Ardern brought the Speaker into the discussion.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the problem with answering my questions that she doesn’t understand small business very well?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.

Hon Simon Bridges: When she told Mike Hosking last week and this morning that she’d run a small NGO that helped her understand small business, what was that NGO?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I did not tell him that this morning.

Hon Simon Bridges: When she said last week on Mike Hosking that her running a small NGO had helped her understand small business, what was that NGO?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Actually, I spent more time talking about the fact that my first jobs were all in small businesses. The point that I was making at that time—and actually, I continue to make—is that, as a Government, we are considering all of the issues that have been raised. That includes whether it be residential rentals, whether it be small business, whether it be KiwiSaver.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the NGO she spoke of the International Union of Socialist Youth?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member knows how to use Wikipedia—well done.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has talking to international comrades helped her with her small-business policy development in New Zealand?

SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, the Prime Minister will sit down. We’re not going to have that sort of seal-like approach in this House. It’s a final warning, and I think Mr McClay will be the first out.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I stand by the fact that I have worked in small businesses, that I have been in charge of hiring and firing, and I’d be interested in how many times he’s had to do that as a Crown prosecutor.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given all the—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Ah, the businessman!

SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. Mr Brownlee will now stand, withdraw and apologise.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. What was the problem there? I called him a businessman; I apologise for that.

SPEAKER: The member knows well that he interjected while a member was asking a question. He will now leave the Chamber.

Hon Gerry Brownlee withdrew from the Chamber.

Ex MP Tau Henare:

Ardern was noticeably irritated from early in this exchange.

Richard Harman at Politik: Temper flash from the PM

What appeared to be a flash of temper from the Prime Minister in Parliament yesterday is an indication of how much the capital gains tax debate seems to be getting to her. She and Ministers are getting bogged down in detail as they answer endless questions about how the tax might work…

Audrey Young: Simon Bridges gets the better of Jacinda Ardern over small business experience

Ardern’s loss of form was Bridges’ capital gain as the National leader and the Prime Minister went head to head over a comprehensive capital gains tax (CGT) proposal.

It was a variation on fish and chip shop theme, from the previous day in which slaving over a fat vat in an after- school job gave her insights into how small business owners would be feeling about having to pay 33 per cent tax when they sold up their business for retirement.

Ardern had disputed the NewstalkZB host’s claim that none of the cabinet had experience running a small business.

It was Bridges’ moment but Mallard was having none of it. There are no rules for when applause is tolerated and when it is not. That is decided by the mood of the Speaker who clearly did not like National ganging up on her.

Mallard: “We’re not going to have that sort of seal-like approach in this House.”

Ardern looks under pressure over the Capital Gains Tax. She and her Government seemed badly prepared for dealing the widely expected recommendations of the Tax Working Group. With a decision still a month or two away, expect National to keep hammering Ardern on this.

Both Mallard and Winston Peters appear to be trying to protect Ardern in Parliament. Grant Robertson also stepped in to help. This looks paternalistic, and doesn’t help Ardern’s case.

Ardern won’t be able to come up with answers on CGT for a while yet, but she at least needs to find a way of handling the questions better – on her own.

 

UK House of Commons drama, impartiality of Speaker questioned

A report from Missy in the UK:


More drama in the House of Commons today after PM Questions.

Background: In December Parliament passed a motion on the Meaningful Vote for the Withdrawal Agreement. In this motion it was stated that if the Agreement did not pass the Government had to go back to Parliament within 21 days with a further proposal for leaving the EU. This motion is what is referred to as a forthwith motion. Forthwith is a technical term used, and means that a motion must be put forward for a decision by the Commons without debate or amendment. For this particular motion, whilst it is a forthwith motion it was agreed by the Commons that no amendment could be made to it by any member except a Minister of the Crown. Essentially this motion can only be amended by a Minister and not a backbench or opposition MP.

Today Conservative MP, (and former Attorney General), Dominic Grieve put forward an amendment to this motion changing the 21 days to 3 days. This was signed by MPs from across the House. The clerks advised the Speaker that this amendment was not selectable, and should not be selected for vote. The speaker had previously told another MP that amendments could not be tabled to a forthwith motion. However, despite it being precedent that the speaker takes the advice of the clerks and despite this being an amendment to a forthwith motion, the speaker selected it and tabled the motion.

For over an hour Government MPs raised Point of Order after Point of Order regarding Parliamentary precedent, and the Speaker not taking the advice of the clerks. The Speaker was asked several times what the advice of the clerks was, he refused to say (a journalist was told by a source in the clerks office which is where the information came from that they had advised against it).

The speaker admitted that he had not taken into account Parliamentary precedent, or given any thought to the implications of his decision, he was only interested in the here and now. The implications, however, could be serious in the future. He has set a precedent where the Speaker can change the rules of the debate whenever he likes, and he has also sent the message that precedent doesn’t matter in Parliament, despite it being one of the fundamental Parliamentary Conventions which is part of the uncodified British Constitution.

A bit on the Speaker himself. Last year allegations arose of the Speaker bullying staff in the Commons, and that he had been doing it for any number of years. Some in the Commons called on him to resign. Labour MPs, and some Conservative MPs who support Remain, resisted attempts to force the Speaker out, noting he has openly stated he voted Remain and does not support Brexit.

This has been raised again today as some wonder if the Speaker allowing Dominic Grieve’s amendment to be tabled is his way of paying back those MPs that have kept him in his position, I am not sure that is quite right, but over the last year or so his impartiality on matters pertaining to Brexit has been called into question.

 

Government appointed Speakers are always contentious, but Mallard…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mallard crossed a line the day before.

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

Mallard did apologise for that remark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The last couple of days were not good for Mallard.

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

 

Bridges keeps pushing on leak, challenges Speaker and PM

Simon Bridges seems determined to keep the leak of his expenses issue alive.

NZH: Simon Bridges says if leaking issue is not resolved, Trevor Mallard is to blame

National Party leader Simon Bridges has lashed out at Parliament Speaker Trevor Mallard for cancelling an inquiry into the travel-expenses leak 24 hours after confirming it was going ahead, and suggested he had been influenced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

He said if Mallard or Ardern had any new information, they had a duty to share it with National.

If the issue remained unresolved, National blamed Mallard, Bridges said.

This is upping the ante somewhat. That’s a serious accusation aimed both at Mallard and Ardern. It pretty much guarantees that the Speaker will not be able to walk away from the inquiry and wash his hands of the issue.

On Thursday last week Mallard named Michael Heron QC to conduct the inquiry into the leak.

On Friday afternoon Mallard cancelled the inquiry – more than a week after the alleged leaker sent a text pleading not to hold the inquiry.

That did seem to be an odd sudden reversal of Mallard’s position.

“Nothing had changed fundamentally on the Friday other than that the Prime Minister said it was an internal matter for the National Party,” Bridges said.

“Surprise, surprise, Trevor Mallard then changed his position.

“I know of nothing that gives any good reason for his change unless the Prime Minister or he knows something we don’t and if they do, they should be sharing it with the National Party,” he said.

“I believe he is obliged as Parliament’s Speaker, not a partisan one, to tell us what he knows unless there is an exceptional reason not to.”

This should force Mallard too do something in response.

Mallard appointed Heron to conduct the inquiry, despite having received the text the previous week.

The existence of that text was not revealed until last Friday – and later that day Mallard issued a statement cancelling the inquiry.

The statement said: “The text is from someone who is clearly very disturbed and today’s publicity will almost certainly make that worse.”

Mallard said the person who sent the text was the leaker. “He or she has details of events that it is unlikely anyone outside the National Party would be privy to.”

So a day after appointing a QC to conduct the inquiry Mallard has reversed his decision based on his judgement that it would be “unlikely anyone outside the National Party” would be involved. That seems quite unusual.

Speaking on Friday, Ardern said the inquiry should be stopped if it was proven the individual had mental health issues, and it was an internal matter for National.

“I would want to deal with that internally but that is a matter for the leader of the National Party.”

“If indeed this is an issue that’s come out of the caucus, and if there are indeed mental health issues, it would strike me it needs to be dealt with really sensitively. It is perhaps best dealt with internally than externally.”

This was also an unusual involvement of Ardern, saying much the same thing that Mallard had said in justifying scrapping the inquiry.

It does seem odd that Ardern and Mallard are saying much the same thing. The Speaker is supposed to act independent of any party.

It seems to be high risk for Bridges to escalate this issue into a likely confrontation with the Speaker, given that whatever the outcome this is an awkward issue for him and National.

Does he have information that he hasn’t disclosed that justifies his challenge of both Mallard and Ardern? He has as good as accused them of collusion in scrapping the inquiry.

This is all becoming increasingly messy, and seems to be far from over.


Bridges is just now being interviewed on RNZ.

Inquiry into leak of Bridges’ expenses

I’m not sure whether most of the public will care much about the leaking of Simon Bridges’ expenses, but it seems to have been a big deal for Bridges, for the Speaker, and for political journalists who have given it a lot of coverage.

RNZ:  Inquiry launched into leak on Simon Bridges’ expenses

Parliament’s speaker, Trevor Mallard, said a Queen’s Counsel would lead the inquiry with the help of an employment lawyer and also someone with forensic IT skills.

Mr Mallard said he spoke to Mr Bridges and they agreed there was an issue about the security of information, which could potentially be quite serious.

“The inquiry will look at who forwarded [the information] to whom, and also who else had access to the data which was very specific data at a very specific point in time and who did access it and for what purpose,” Mr Mallard said.

“The general manager of the Parliamentary Service has used his authority to give full access to all of the core Parliamentary Service computers for that purpose, so there is not a question of having to ask people’s permission.

“As far as [MPs] are concerned there are matters of privilege and consent or a waiver will be necessary.”

Mr Mallard said he would ask Mr Bridges to make sure all his MPs signed the waiver allowing access to their computers.

“I’m not putting a start date or a finish date on this inquiry – it might well be the fact that the level of expertise that is coming into it causes someome to put their hand up, because unless they have incredible expertise – they will be identified.”

Asked whether all of the National MPs would sign the access waiver, shadow leader of the House Gerry Brownlee said “yes they will – we’re pretty hot under the collar about it”.

If it turns out an MP has leaked the information – their identity will be made public, but if it is a Parliamentary Service staff member Mr Mallard said that would be an employment matter.

RNZ – Simon Bridges spending leak: Consensus over need for inquiry

Not even Mr Mallard was free of the waiver – although he said it was already on the record that neither he nor his office received the travel expenses electronically, which was how they were leaked to media.

Mr Mallard said there was no escaping cyber experts.

“The inquiry will look at who forwarded [the information] to whom, and also who else had access to the data which was very specific data at a very specific point in time,” Mr Mallard said.

“The general manager of the Parliamentary Service has used his authority to give full access to all of the core Parliamentary Service computers for that purpose, so there is not a question of having to ask people’s permission.”

Mr Brownlee welcomed the investigation and said National had no issues with any of the inquiry’s waiver requirements because they were all “hot under the collar” about the leak.

“Anything that goes into a server stays there no matter what you do with it.”

A Queen’s Counsel will lead the inquiry with the help of an employment lawyer and a forensic information technology expert.

I don’t remember seeing this level of cooperation and determination to identify a leaker.

It’s interesting that Bridges is making such a big deal of it, as his big spending was the focus of the leak.

It would be embarrassing if the culprit turns out to be a National MP, and will ignite inevitable claims of disunity – but if that’s the case Bridges may benefit in the longer term if an enemy within his caucus is outed.

Funnily Newshub – who published the leaked Bridges expenses, yesterday published expense details of all National MPs, but that seems to have been largely ignored. Most attention was given to the leak inquiry.


Newsroom: Will ‘Limogate’ investigation reach top gear?

(I think -gate labels like this are dated and stupid, especially when used for relatively trivial issues).

After all, this was not classified or confidential information: it was already due to be released as part of a wider disclosure regime, with the leaker simply jumping the gun by a few days.

There’s no suggestion that Bridges has been misusing taxpayer money by taking his Crown car on personal joyrides.

After all, this was not classified or confidential information: it was already due to be released as part of a wider disclosure regime, with the leaker simply jumping the gun by a few days.

As for National leader Simon Bridges’ spending, as highlighted by Newshub – the organisation which received the leak – that’s also less than thrilling.

There’s no suggestion that Bridges has been misusing taxpayer money by taking his Crown car on personal joyrides.

It’s not the “what”, but the “who” and “why” which is most intriguing.

Why leak something which is going to be released all and sundry anyway? It seems a high risk, low reward move, given the likely punishment if they’re caught.

The Speaker seems intent on making it a big deal, presumably to warn off other would be leakers.

If someone is caught they may become a major scapegoat for what has been a common part of politics.

Speaker demands that media censor baby coverage in Parliament

Ahead of Jacinda Ardern’s return to Parliament next week (she ‘returned to work’ yesterday but seems to have worked from home in Auckland) the Speaker Trevor Mallard has warned media off acting like paparazzi in Parliament – fair enough.

The ban only applies to baby Neve and not to Ardern.

But Mallard has also threatened severe repercussions for ‘accididental’ or incidental shots of Ardern’s baby, and this is quite controversial, especially to the degree Mallard has explained it.

Stuff: Warning to journalists who take unauthorised photos of returning Jacinda Ardern’s daughter Neve

Parliament’s Speaker Trevor Mallard has issued a warning to journalists planning to take unauthorised photos of returning Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s baby Neve.

The Parliamentary Press Gallery was informed that any journalists who took unauthorised photos would have their accreditation removed and their employer would also be penalised.

That’s harsh.

The only time photos or video featuring Neve could be taken are in a single specified area (level 1 foyer of Parliament House) or by invitation only.

That seems draconian.

A spokeswoman for the speaker said most parents who are members of Parliament might not want their childrens’ photos taken and as part of a family-friendly parliament, parents’ choices would be respected.

The rules were not new and all photos taken in the parliament precinct needed permission and that would continue to remain in place, she said.

Parliament’s filming and photography protocols apply to anyone seeking to film or interview politicians on the parliamentary precinct. Non-accredited people had to seek permission on a case-by-case basis.

So it seems to be a reinforcement of existing rules.

But media are allowed to film and photograph in parts of Parliament.

However, accredited journalists – the Press Gallery – had greater freedom of movement under the rules to interview, film or photograph MPs in some additional public areas.

The rules allowed Press Gallery journalists to film or photograph members on the parliamentary forecourt and steps, the level 1 foyer of Parliament House, corridors outside select committee rooms, the reception areas of Parliament and Bowen House, as well as outside the Beehive Banquet Hall.

This is where things get tricky. If the baby ends up in the background of an interview Mallard says that must be edited out – that is, part of the interview must not be shown.

I don’t think Ardern will pop up in shot with Neve when Kelvin Davis or Clare Curran are being interviewed to effectively censor the shots to save face.

But Ardern (and Gayford) must have some responsibility to remain discrete with Neve and avoid those parts of Parliament where filming may take place,

An interesting discussion and clarification on Twitter:

Newshub:  Speaker threatens to kick journalists out of Parliament over PM baby privacy

Graeme Edgeler: Is it required to delete like the text says, or prohibited from airing (so maybe blur, reaction shot, b-roll over audio etc?) like says in the audio? There’s a massive difference.

Reed Fleming: Good. Neve isn’t actually an elected member of Parliament and should be able to visit Parliament without being filmed – just like hundreds of members of the public do every day. Calm down.

Henry Cooke:yeah but if clarke walks past the background of a shot with Neve in his arms while a minister says something newsy it seems ridiculous that we would have to delete the video

Reed Fleming: A shot with Clarke walking past in the background, out of focus surely isn’t what the Speaker is targeting. Chasing them across the bridge probably is. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable or onerous rule to follow.

Henry Cooke: Yeah but Reed that exact example was actually brought up and he did say we would have to delete it.

Reed Fleming: that seems an absurd application of a reasonable rule. hope you’d broadcast that example regardless.

Graeme Edgeler: Henry confirms that the rule the Speaker has sought to impose is the stupid alternative of the two alternatives previously described. Don’t air it? Sure. Run a reaction shot? Sure. Blur the background? Sure. Delete the footage of eg a minister making a newsworthy statement. GTFO.

This may all be moot – if Ardern and Gayford don’t wander past when the cameras are rolling it may never come up.

Talking of censorship:

I know that Mallard had blocked me from his pre-speaker Twitter, but I don’t recall ever interacting with his @SpeakerTrevor account. I have no idea why he doesn’t want me to see what he tweets as Speaker. Is Parliament a secret society?

And – it’s a bit ironic that Mallard has banned baby shots but promotes himself with a baby photo. I think that’s the baby of an MP, taken in the House.

Speaker reprimands Phil Twyford

The Speaker Trevor Mallard has come down quite hard on Minister of Housing and Urban Development Phil Twyford for giving flippant answers to written questions submitted by Judith Collins. Twyford wasn’t in Parliament to face the flak.

The Opposition (National) were given 20 additional supplementary oral questions, which seems quite a significant penalty for the Government.

Mr SPEAKER: Replies to some written questions to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development have been drawn to my attention. In particular, I have considered the answers to written questions Nos 12234, 12225, 11652, 11710, and 11715. The answers are an abuse of the written question process. In my view, they show a contempt for the accountability which a Minister has to this House. The Minister knows that they would be completely unacceptable as answers to oral questions, and the same rules apply.

Ministers are required to endeavour to give informative replies to questions—Speaker’s ruling 177/5. While the Speaker is not responsible for the quality of answers, I do expect Ministers to make a serious attempt to provide an informative answer. These questions do not come close to meeting that standard.

As a result of these answers that I have seen, I rule that: (1) the Minister will provide substantive amended answers to the questions concerned by midday on Tuesday, 3 July; (2) since the Opposition has been denied an opportunity to use written questions to scrutinise the Government in a timely manner, they will receive an additional 20 supplementary oral questions, to be used by the end of next week.

I have also written to the Minister indicating a form of reply he is using to avoid giving substantive answers is unacceptable, and that he has until next Thursday to provide corrected answers.

There was more later when Leader of the House Chris Hipkins raised a point of order.

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. At the beginning of question time today, you made a ruling regarding written question answers that my colleague, the Hon Phil Twyford, had put forward. I’ve had a chance to now look at those questions. I know that you have written to me about this matter as well.

Certainly I can understand the concern that you have raised about some of the answers that my colleague has given, and I agree with you that some of the flippant comments that he has made in those do not reflect well on the House. However, the question that I would like to raise with you is around some of the ironic expressions that are made in some of the questions themselves and whether, in fact, one or two of those answers were in fact appropriate given the context of the question. For example, in question No. 11652, the operable part of the question was how many more sleeps are required before a decision is made regarding KiwiBuild eligibility rules and income testing, to which the Minister replied, “it depends how frequently the member sleeps”. The point that I would make there is that the question itself did set itself up for that kind of answer. So—

Mr SPEAKER: No, you will sit down.

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I fully understand a more rigorous approach to the answers and I wouldn’t contest that at all. The question that I would ask of you, Mr Speaker, is that a rigorous approach is also taken to the accepting of the written questions themselves, because some of these questions do invite answers that would not reflect well on the House because the questions themselves don’t reflect well on the House.

Mr SPEAKER: I can deal with that point of order very easily. If the Minister of Housing and Urban Development had not used the expression “not many more sleeps” in this House to the member when she asked the oral question, then I would not have allowed it in the written question. The original offence, the original irony, was quoted from the Hon Phil Twyford, and, from my perspective, that is an acceptable use within a written question. If the Minister had not used the expression, he wouldn’t have been subject to what looks like an ironic question but, actually, is just a straight response to what was almost certainly an inappropriate comment that he made in the Chamber.

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House): A further point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you, therefore, ruling that the phrase “so many sleeps” is out of order, because that is an answer that has been given for many, many, many questions in the House.

Mr SPEAKER: No, no, I’m not doing that. But what I am indicating is that when that is quoted or used in a written question which relates to the answer given in the House, I’m not going to rule it out; whereas if it didn’t have a context, then at that stage it could well be considered ironic.

Twyford has frequently shown signs that he hasn’t been able to step up to the responsibilities of being in Government and being a Minister.

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.

Brownlee’s letter to the Speaker

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

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

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

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

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


Interjection ban on National dog barker, and crappy “stupid little girl” cop out

Parliament’s question time can be raucous, with some members barking at every passing Minister. National MP David Bennett annoyed the Speaker enough today to earn a two day ban on interjecting.

In Question No. 9—Children:

Darroch Ball: What is the Minister doing to ensure that children get the best services that they need?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Excuse me, Mr Speaker. I forgot that we had one other question coming, perhaps. On behalf of the Minister for Children today, Oranga Tamariki are holding the first of 14 regional hui with their 525 providers to talk about how they will work together in the future to ensure that all services meet the best needs of the child. Collectively, they receive around $268 million from Oranga Tamariki per year. The ministry is trying to give them greater certainty around their funding and is moving to longer-term contracts—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will resume her seat. David Bennett will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon David Bennett: I withdraw and apologise.

In Question No. 11—Social Development:

11. ANGIE WARREN-CLARK (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: What recent announcements has she made regarding the Growing Up in New Zealand study?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): Mr Speaker—

Hon David Bennett: Oh, has she got her notes this time? Good on her!

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Today, I announced that the Government would restore more than $1.9 million—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. Now, Mr Bennett, your interjections are very, very frequent. Referring to members using notes in the House to answer questions is an area which is totally my responsibility and not for you to comment on. I would like to remind the member that several of his colleagues rely heavily on notes, not to answer questions, which is quite a lot harder, but even to ask them.

In Question No. 12—Employment:

Hon WILLIE JACKSON (Minister of Employment): Thank you, Mr Speaker. In response to the first part of the question, of course I stand by my statements. As for the second part, the policy response for job seekers remains the responsibility of the Minister for Social Development.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does he stand by his statement that “people have commitments,” as reasons that unemployed New Zealanders cannot pick fruit, and, if so, how many commitments does an individual need to not have to show up to work?

Hon David Bennett: How many commitments have you got?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Of course I stand by—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! David Bennett, once again you have interjected, involving me in the answer, and what we’re going to do is have you on an interjection ban for the rest of this question time and tomorrow. [Interruption] Order!

Overyapping in Parliament is unlikely to do the opposition any good, Putting a muzzle on Bennett for a couple of days will be better for the House.

Also under scrutiny is an as yet unidentified National MP – Newshub investigates: Which National MP made a ‘very sexist remark’ about Jacinda Ardern?

In Parliament last week, while the Prime Minister was speaking, a National Party MP hurled a “very sexist remark” across the Chamber.

He – and yes, Newshub can confirm the remark was made by a man – called Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern a “stupid little girl.”

As soon as the comment was made, Speaker Trevor Mallard stopped proceedings in the House, calling for the person who made the “very sexist remark” to apologise.

A week later, the culprit still hasn’t owned up to the remark. If they ever do, they will have to stand in Parliament, withdraw the remark and apologise.

At the time the comment was made, Mr Mallard said the remark wasn’t made by Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges; “It was someone behind.”

Behind Mr Bridges sits Matt Doocey, Jonathan Young, Gerry Brownlee and Nick Smith.

Other men in close proximity are Simon O’Connor, David Bennett, Jami-Lee Ross, Chris Finlayson, David Carter and Paul Goldsmith.

So with the culprit not big enough to own up all these MPs have a cloud hanging over them.

Newshub asked nine of the 10 male MPs who sit behind Mr Bridges whether they made the remark and whether they know who made it. The tenth has been contacted.

The nine MPs are named and all deny making the statement. The tenth must be Simon O’Connor.

Regardless of who it was this looks terrible for National.

Mr Bridges said he’d have to review footage before deciding what would happen to an MP who made such a remark – though he said these sorts of remarks are heat of the moment.

“Parliament’s a place of cut and thrust. People say things in the heat of moment, on all sides of the House, including, let’s be honest, the Speaker,” Mr Bridges said.

That’s a crappy cop out from Bridges. A decent modern leader would have made sure the culprit stood up in Parliament and made a damned good apology.

Without that National look like a pack of mongrel MPs who have no idea how to build respect in opposition.