Griffin had offered to resign, doesn’t want to stay at RNZ

As soon as Clare Curran was appointed Minister of Broadcasting chairman of RNZ Richard Griffin offered to resign, but she asked him to stay on ‘during the transition’.

Griffin has been chairman for nine years, three three year terms, but does not want to have a fourth. It is unlikely he would be offered another term anyway.

ODT (NZME): RNZ chairman offered resignation to Clare Curran

“I proffered my resignation to her the day she was appointed. I think it was the honourable thing to do,” Griffin told the Weekend Herald.

Curran, he said, was gracious and asked him to stay on during the transition to the new Labour Government.

“It’s no secret Clare and I aren’t exactly bosom buddies but I thought it was a reasonable thing to ask and I was happy to do so given that it was going to be a difficult time for all of us.

“But not quite as difficult as it has turned out to be.”

Griffin’s third term as chairman of the RNZ board finishes at the end of April, nine years in all. He doesn’t anticipate an invitation for a fourth, nor would he want one.

“No I would not,” he said emphatically. “I think I’ve run my course and I’m sure they do too.”

He said he was very embarrassed and at times was noticeably annoyed when questioned at the select committee meeting on Thursday, and his annoyance also comes through in an interview with the Sunday Herald.

His biggest regret of his nine years with RNZ? “The last few weeks.”

“I really regret that a great talent and an interesting woman is now having to suffer the slings and arrows. I’m sorry for her. I believe that Carol thought her loyalty to the Minister checkmated her loyalty to the company and I can understand how that could happen.

“I don’t know what possessed her and I don’t know what possessed the Minister. It’s such a pity.”

He has seemed reluctant to criticise but lets a bit out here, suggesting that Hirschfeld’s loyalty to Curran was why she kept lying. On Curran – “I don’t know what possessed the Minister”.

Griffin seems undecided on whether to hand over the recording of a phone call from Curran to him. This would clarify who is being straight on what Curran said to Griffin, and whether Curran tried to encourage Griffin not to appear before the committee.

The recording either clears Curran of trying to block Griffin’s appearance at the select committee to set the record straight on her meeting with Carol Hirschfeld or it could damn her if, as Griffin claims, she suggested it would be better for him not to appear and that a letter would suffice.

Griffin will spend this weekend at his home in Ruby Bay, west of Nelson, deciding whether to voluntarily hand over the voicemail on his mobile phone.

He had asked RNZ to retrieve the voicemail after it was requested by the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Select Committee following his and RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson’s appearance on Thursday.

But even as efforts were being made to extract the voicemail, Griffin was reconsidering. He worried that refusing to hand over the recording could further damage RNZ but said there was nothing to be achieved by releasing it.

“I will decide over the weekend,” he said.

He seems torn between protecting RNZ’s reputation and causing more of a ruckus, but there is guaranteed to be more attention given to this tomorrow as media will wanting to know if he is going to voluntarily comply with the request to hand over the recording.

On Friday:

If Griffin doesn’t decide to hand it over he could be compelled to by the Speaker. Trevor Mallard has been involved in controversial situations involving Curran in the past:

Stuff: Whistleblower wins defamation appeal

The woman who accused Labour MP Trevor Mallard and a top public servant of destroying her reputation has won an appeal to the Supreme Court.

In 2007, whistleblower Erin Leigh accused Mallard, then Environment Minister, of defamation.

This was after she raised questions about political interference and alleged former minister David Parker pushed for Clare Curran to be appointed to a communications role with the Ministry.

All three Labour members involved are currently sitting Members of Parliament.

At the time Mallard was asked an oral question on the matter in Parliament and spoke negatively about Leigh.

He told the House she had “repeated competence issues” and said Curran had been appointed to “fix up the mess”.

That’s a long time ago, but is somewhat ironic in the present situation.

In its decision released today, the Supreme Court found Gow’s interaction to be covered by qualified privilege but said he could not face a defamation claim unless Leigh could prove he acted with ill-will.

“The issue is whether the public servant, or whoever else communicates information to the Minister, needs more than qualified privilege in order to enable the Minister, and the House as a whole, properly and efficiently to deal with parliamentary questions.”

The Court found that was not necessary and said it was a “no bad thing” that public servants were prevented from acting with ill-will when advising a minister.

“It is very much in the interests of the proper functioning of the House that those communicating with a Minister in present circumstances, whoever they are, have a disincentive against giving vent to ill will or improper purpose.”

Also ironic.

Speaker appears to protect Peters from questions in Parliament

Trevor Mallard started in his role as speaker promising a better way of managing the parliamentary bear pit, but as time goes on he is raising eyebrows rather than standards.

In a bizarre exchange in Parliament yesterday he seemed to be protecting Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters from questioning over a serious claim that an NZ First minister was behind a threat made by new MP Jenny Marcroft (as alleged by National MP Mark Mitchell – see NZ First claims ‘misunderstanding’, Peters instructs apology to Mitchell).

Oral Questions — Questions to Ministers

Question No. 2—Deputy Prime Minister

2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Deputy Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): Yes, I do, in their context.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does he believe his actions and those of other Ministers have met the bar set in 2.57 of the Cabinet Manual, which states: “Ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards.”?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I’m going to ask the member to rephrase the question to make sure it is entirely within the responsibility of the Deputy Prime Minister. He has no responsibility for any other Ministers.

Hon Paula Bennett: Thank you, sir. Does he believe his actions have met the bar set in 2.57 of the Cabinet Manual, which states: “Ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards.”?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yes, and compared with that member and her colleagues, my actions are as pure as the driven snow.

Hon Paula Bennett: When he said yesterday in his statement as Deputy Prime Minister, “Mr Mitchell may have misunderstood her underlying point.”, what was the underlying point Mr Mitchell misunderstood?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Because this is a very finely tuned matter, I’m going to do what I did with Dr Smith last week and seek an assurance that that statement was made by the Deputy Prime Minister and, in the body of the statement, uses that appellation for the Minister.

Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I expected your question on that. I have a copy of it that’s clearly under the Deputy Prime Minister, and clearly has it written as his statement. I’m happy to—

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, the member tables it and continues with the question.

Hon Paula Bennett: Thank you. Would you like to hear the statement again?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, I heard it. We’re not slow learners over here. Can I just say that when I was first made aware of—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Just answer the question.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, if you keep quiet for five seconds, old man, you’ll hear it. [Interruption] Can I just say that when I first heard of a report of this conversation, I knew that someone had got the wrong end of the stick, and so I thought, seeing as my colleague had allowed another parliamentary colleague to get a mistaken impression, that we should correct it as fast as possible. I thought that was the right thing to do. I mean, there’s nothing big about this, but we’re surely not going to have Mr Mitchell trying to make a mountain out of a molehill?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Having listened to the reply and looked at the statement, I accept the member’s word, and it is very clear that it is headed “Deputy Prime Minister”. It is, however, clear to me that there is nothing in the statement that is the responsibility of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In all fairness, the statement that has been put out is clearly “Deputy Prime Minister”. It doesn’t even say “Leader of New Zealand First” on it. I double-checked that. So he has made those comments as the Deputy Prime Minister and, as such, he has responsibility for them as the Deputy Prime Minister and should be answering accordingly.

Mr SPEAKER: I think you have to go quite a lot further than mislabelling a statement—[Interruption] minus three supplementaries—in order to bring something into ministerial responsibility. He might be responsible for mislabelling a statement, but there are areas which he is not responsible for, and the activities of Ministers, as was made very clear by the Prime Minister, as all senior members of the Opposition will know, is a matter for the Prime Minister and not the Deputy Prime Minister.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the problem with your ruling is that it ignores the fact that the Rt Hon Winston Peters, putting out a release under the banner of the Deputy Prime Minister, has made an accusation against one of our members that he now, apparently, simply cannot be questioned upon. It is not an unreasonable thing to ask him “What did he mean? What was the other side of the story, which my colleague apparently has not understood?” To say that the House can’t question the Deputy Prime Minister about a statement he makes as the Deputy Prime Minister, I think, begins to—frankly, it just shields him from any of the normal scrutiny that would go on someone who makes, from a ministerial position, such an accusation.

Hon Chris Hipkins: The closest example I can think of where the House has dealt with this matter before was when the then Labour Opposition was trying to question the then Prime Minister, the Rt Hon John Key, about statements that he had made in his capacity as the leader of the National Party, but he had made them at his prime ministerial press conference. The Speaker of the House at the time—I can’t actually recall what the exact issue was, but I remember arguing about it—argued that he had made those statements in his capacity as leader of the National Party even if the venue in which he had made them was his prime ministerial press conference. The question is not where a statement is made or how it is cited or the title that is used in citing; it’s whether the Minister has ministerial responsibility for the matters in question. In this case, the Deputy Prime Minister does not have ministerial responsibility for the issues he’s being questioned about.

Hon Nikki Kaye: I did want to rise to speak because you have taken three Opposition questions as a result of my outburst. I am, frankly, appalled that, in this House, a Minister could put a statement out with the words “Deputy Prime Minister” and then, as Speaker, you could somehow know that he wasn’t acting in his responsibility and he had mislabelled the statement. That’s why you got the outburst. I would ask you to reflect on this. It’s a very serious matter. It’s not possible, in my view, for the Speaker to know what’s inside a Minister’s head. They’ve issued a statement in the capacity as Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: Can I just make it absolutely clear to Nikki Kaye that I am quite offended by her comments then. I know what the responsibilities of the Deputy Prime Minister are, and that’s what’s important, and I ruled that way.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: There is no comparison between the example given by the Hon Chris Hipkins and the current situation. For a start, if a person is being interviewed by a group of journalists in a stand-up situation, they may well be asked a range of questions and they may answer them without actually specifying “I am now taking this hat off and putting this hat on.” That was, you will recall, established well by the Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt, when he sat in the chair that you now occupy, some years back. But, in this case, the Deputy Prime Minister, on the Deputy Prime Minister’s letterhead, put out a statement making an accusation against a colleague of mine, suggesting, effectively, that my colleague had got the wrong end of the stick. We’re just now saying, “Well, what was the right end of that stick?” He must know for him to have made that statement. Given that this is not a trivial matter, any suggestion that someone gets in the road of a member of Parliament doing their work—the elected work that they are sent to this place for—is a serious matter. Therefore, for Mr Peters to simply say, “Well, you know, the Hon Mark Mitchell must have got the wrong end of the stick or got the wrong meaning, etc.”, cannot just stand as a statement by the Deputy Prime Minister that says, “Close off; nothing to see here.” Surely, he can be questioned about what he actually meant?

Mr SPEAKER: If, in the body of the statement, which I’m sure the leader of New Zealand First approved, it had said “Deputy Prime Minister”, I would have had more sympathy. But the fact that it has been printed by a press secretary on an inappropriate letterhead does not—[Interruption] minus another three—bring it within the Deputy Prime Minister’s responsibilities.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Does that mean that a Government press secretary should know the difference between a letterhead that says “Leader of New Zealand First” and that of Deputy Prime Minister? You can only assume that it was done through the offices that are located on the ninth floor, which are Government offices—ministerial offices—not party offices.

Mr SPEAKER: In actual fact, I think, as the member is aware, there are a number of people who are employed in those offices who are dually employed, including in his own leader’s office.

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

Mr SPEAKER: A further point of order?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yes it is, because that implies that there is some level of bad behaviour going on in the Leader of the Opposition’s office—in other words, using of taxpayer funds illegitimately, unreasonably—and that is not the case. But it would be worse if that was somehow to be the reason why there would be an excuse for the Deputy Prime Minister to make an accusation on Government letterhead, using Government resources to make that accusation, but then not come under any scrutiny in the House whatsoever.

Mr SPEAKER: I do want to, if I can, draw this to a close as soon as I can, and I want to be very careful about reflecting on mistakes made by staff members—especially a person who has had quite a history around these buildings, working for a number of parties. But it is clear to me that someone made an error in putting it on this letterhead.

Hon Louise Upston: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’ve got two points of order. The first is around the process of tabling documents and the supplementary question from the Hon Paula Bennett. You, as Speaker, had then asked for the document, and yet there wasn’t a process of tabling it. So my question is: have you made a ruling, as a result of that action, that you have to sight any documents that are made by members of this House in a supplementary question before you allow them to be raised on the floor?

Mr SPEAKER: The answer to that is no, and I let the member ask her question. Carry on—second point.

Hon Louise Upston: Sorry, Mr Speaker, on that first point—

Mr SPEAKER: No, no, the first point’s been dealt with. If the member has a separate point of order, she may raise it, but that point of order has been dealt with. Second point of order?

Hon Louise Upston: The second point of order is the assertion that you’ve made, Mr Speaker, about a staff member making an error. As a member of this House, I’m curious as to what’s led you to that conclusion, given that it is a document that’s on letterhead from the Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume her seat now. If she is curious about my rulings and requires tutelage, I’m happy to explain it to her but not to take up the time of the House. I’ve made an indication to members that if they don’t understand my rulings, if I’ve not been clear enough, then I’m willing to talk to them about it, but points of clarification—or points of curiosity, as this one might be characterised—are not allowed under the Standing Orders. I’m going to warn the member: she’s disputed my ruling once already; if she disputes it again, I will view it very seriously.

Hon Louise Upston: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In terms of the Speakers’ ruling that you have just used, could you please bring that to the attention of the House? I’ve been listening to the comments around me and I just want to know what that ruling is, please.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I think the member’s now trifling with the Chair.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Thank you, Mr Speaker. My point of order is simply that if we are now to move on from this—get it all nicely resolved; everyone is happy to an extent—is it reasonable that we, effectively, lose six supplementaries because of a mistake made by one of Mr Peters’ staff members?

Mr SPEAKER: No. The six supplementaries have been lost because members on my left breached the Standing Orders.

Fletcher Tabuteau: Is the Deputy Prime Minister aware of any molehills that have been transformed into mountains of late?

Mr SPEAKER: And three of the supplementaries have just been given back because the member knew that that was not a proper question.

Speaker’s Rulings — Retrospective Rulings

I missed a Speaker’s ruling from Parliament, thanks for pointing it out duperez. It adds to recent discussions here. In brief:

…in light of the matters raised, it is worth referring to the full text of the report at page 14:

“There is a well-established prohibition on raising points of order in the House about events that have passed. This helps ensure that points of order address matters that are relevant to the maintenance of order at that point in time and are not themselves used to disrupt the order of the House.”

This prohibition on retrospective points of order is appropriate and we encourage Speakers to continue not to entertain them.

Points of order are not intended to ask questions or to seek clarification. They are to deal with matters of order at the time they are occurring in the House or to draw the Speaker’s attention to the fact that a member intends to exercise a right given by Standing Orders, such as making a personal explanation.

The committee intended that the Speaker could, on his or her initiative, deal with retrospective matters of order. It did not empower members to raise such matters on the floor of the House and, in fact, required them to be raised privately with the Speaker.

Members have a right and a duty to raise points of order where they feel the House is outside its Standing Orders, but any attempt to bring into question the Chair’s decision is out of order and is in no way protected by the Standing Orders.

So points of order are for dealing with compliance with Standing Orders as debate unfolds in the House. Raising issues about past decisions and clarifications need to be done in private with the Speaker.

Questioning rulings is forbidden – for good reason, if it was allowed it would enable endless bickering with the Speaker.

This was raised by ex-Speaker David Carter on Wednesday 6 November 2017.

Speakers’ Rulings—Interpretation of Speaker’s Ruling 20/5

Rt Hon DAVID CARTER (National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to ask you to give serious consideration to a considered ruling to points that were raised at the start of question time around retrospectively raising points of order. I did not make that point at the time, because I considered that your patience was getting to a stage when it may have been dangerous to do so. But as you and I know, when we go back and look at Hansard, subsequent to question time, we often see pieces in that Hansard that we wish to question and raise with the Speaker.

You and I both sat on the Standing Orders Committee and were both partly responsible for the inclusion of Speaker’s ruling 20/5 around the ability to raise issues retrospectively. You will remember, without doubt, the history of why that particular point was put into the report of the Standing Orders Committee and consequently into Speakers’ rulings.

I think it is a very dangerous precedent that could be potentially made by your initial ruling today that, unless matters are raised instantly, they cannot be raised at all.

I ask whether you would consider the points that I think were raised considerately by members at the start of question time, particularly by Opposition members, and have a look at Hansard again and perhaps come back to the House with a considered ruling and the ability for us to raise, retrospectively, points of order that we think are worthwhile raising.

There was no discussion that I recall during the deliberations of the Standing Orders Committee about a stage by which such concerns were raised privately with the Speaker in his office. Members of Parliament—Opposition and Government—have rights to raise points of order and I ask you to reconsider very carefully your original initial ruling made at the start of question time today.

Mr SPEAKER: I want to thank my right honourable predecessor for his intervention. I will seek further advice on this. Clearly, we have different memories of the reasoning behind this and the methodology to be used, and if it’s shown that his memory is better than mine, which I wouldn’t at all be surprised by, then I will come back to the House.

The Speaker came back to the House on this on Thursday.

Retrospective RulingsInterpretation of Speaker’s Ruling 20/5

Mr SPEAKER: The second point: yesterday, the Rt Hon David Carter raised with me the issue of retrospective rulings on matters of order. I’ve reflected on that matter and on methods of disagreeing with a ruling of the Chair. Earlier this year the Standing Orders Committee considered the matter of retrospective rulings.

An extract from the committee’s report appears as Speaker’s ruling 20/5. However, in light of the matters raised, it is worth referring to the full text of the report at page 14: “There is a well-established prohibition on raising points of order in the House about events that have passed. This helps ensure that points of order address matters that are relevant to the maintenance of order at that point in time and are not themselves used to disrupt the order of the House.

This prohibition on retrospective points of order is appropriate and we encourage Speakers to continue not to entertain them.

We consider, however, that the Speaker is able to deal retrospectively in the House with matters of order if the Speaker considers it is important and in the House’s interest to do so. The Speaker’s primary task is to preside over the effective conduct of proceedings. Where an incident may have a continued impact on the House’s ability to deal with its business, the Speaker can address the matter.

Members should raise such issues privately with the Speaker, outside the House. This ensures that the prohibition on retrospective points of order remains undisturbed and members can discuss their concerns with the Speaker away from the charged atmosphere of the Chamber. There is still, of course, a strong presumption that points of order will be raised immediately. As always, rulings of the Speaker are final. A retrospective ruling on a matter of order does not reopen the matter for discussion.”

The committee intended that the Speaker could, on his or her initiative, deal with retrospective matters of order. It did not empower members to raise such matters on the floor of the House and, in fact, required them to be raised privately with the Speaker. While the event that led to the change involved a comment that the Speaker had not heard, the report did not restrict members’ rights to raise a variety of matters relating to the order of the House and the rights of members. The presumption remains that a point of order must be raised once and cannot be raised by a member at a later time—Speakers’ rulings 20/3 and 20/4.

Speakers from Guinness through to Carter have ruled that when a matter has been the subject of a decision by the Chair, that decision is final and comment on it is not allowed. Members have a right and a duty to raise points of order where they feel the House is outside its Standing Orders, but any attempt to bring into question the Chair’s decision is out of order and is in no way protected by the Standing Orders. To persist in doing so, despite warning, makes it a highly disorderly procedure—Speakers’ ruling 22/3. The only way to challenge the ruling of a Speaker is by a direct motion on notice—Speakers’ rulings 17/6 and 18/1.

Points of order are not intended to ask questions or to seek clarification. They are to deal with matters of order at the time they are occurring in the House or to draw the Speaker’s attention to the fact that a member intends to exercise a right given by Standing Orders, such as making a personal explanation. I thank the Rt Hon David Carter for raising this matter.

I will circulate this ruling immediately and I will be available in my office from 5 to 6 p.m. today and again next week, if members require further clarification.

Pointless points of order

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

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

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

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

It didn’t end there:

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

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

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

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

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

Mr SPEAKER: No, no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q5 – point of order from Judith Collins.

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

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

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

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

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

Q8 Points of Order:

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

Q9 Points of Order:

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

Q11 Points of Order:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat.

Q12 Points of Order:

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

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

Question Time concluded with:

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

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

Hon Member: Supplementary question?

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

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

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

MPs on notice over written question feud, reform possible

Trevor Mallard continues his very promising start as Speaker. He has introduced innovations to try to help the flow of questions and answers, he has been balanced, and has penalised interjections that breach his guidelines in a balanced way. And he has been prepared to adjust his guidelines as he sees how they work in practice.

Question time (Oral Questions) has been working better as a result.

See Speaker Mallard plans to let the game flow

Trevor Mallard says he wants to be a hands-off Speaker in Parliament — if MPs are prepared to play ball. Mallard spoke to Sam Sachdeva about which predecessor is his role model and his plans for parliamentary reform.

On Friday Mallard warned all MPs over the written question feud that had escalated into large numbers of questions to Ministers being submitted by the National Opposition.

Newsroom: MPs on notice over written questions furore

Speaker Trevor Mallard has put both sides of Parliament on notice in the war over written questions, warning them he expects a higher standard once the House resumes in 2018.

Speaking to Newsroom, Mallard said it was “very early days” in the new Parliament, but he expected both sides to resolve the situation by the new year.

“There’s clearly a bit of ‘young bull, old bull’ head bashing going on, and that is pretty inevitable as a settling down of new and different roles.

“I think it’s fair to say I wouldn’t be happy if the current approach from either side continued in the long term … I don’t want us to be in this situation after Christmas.”

“Members are meant to be individually approving each of their questions and I’m not convinced that’s happening, and ministers are meant to be individually approving each of their replies and I’m not convinced that’s happening either, but it’s not my role to dig deeper into either side.

“What I hope is that the Government eventually gets to the point of fulfilling its undertakings to be open and transparent.”

That’s a gentle but pointed reminder of what Jacinda Ardern had promised but have not yet delivered.

Mallard said he would not comment on the quality of the Government’s answers, “other than to say if it continued like that for a long period of time then I would get anxious”.

Asked specifically about decisions to decline written questions asking for a list of briefings, he acknowledged he had used the same approach while in opposition.

He has asked thousands of questions of Ministers in the past. He knows most of the tricks of Parliamentary process, a lot of it from his own experience.

While there were some cases where it was justified to withhold information, Mallard said “most stuff … should be able to be got out there by one route or another”.

However, he described written questions as “sort of like a last resort”, and instead believed it would be better to establish an automated method of releasing information.

“There was a strong view [in past discussions] that if you could get a system that was pretty much automatic, transparent, didn’t require application, then that would be better.

That sounds like significant reform, not just of systems but also of attitudes and practices of Ministers and their departments.

“That obviously takes time, it takes a bit of discussion with the Ombudsman to work out where lines should be.

“Eventually getting some websites going which contain most of that material, for example, Cabinet papers two months after they’ve been to Cabinet automatically up unless there’s a good reason not to, just that sort of stuff would mean you’d have a lot of access to, actually quite boring information, but access to what’s going on.”

Opening up more public mechanisms for transparency was the best approach, he said.

“Frankly, the idea that the written parliamentary question is the mechanism for transparency generally … it would be very sad if it had to be that, because I think it’s not just parliamentarians, everyone should be able to access the matters which should be publicly available.”

I hope Mallard has success with this sort of reforming and the necessary cultural shift.

National MP and shadow leader of the House Simon Bridges said the Opposition remained concerned that the Government was “simply not giving any respect to” the written questions process.

Leader of the House Chris Hipkins refused to speak to Newsroom about the issue, with a spokesman saying he had said all he intended to on the matter and was focused on “delivering for New Zealanders”.

There is little sign of progress so far.

 

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).