How the Nats are drawing blood by needling the govt on economic issues as living costs surge

Opposition parties appear to have thrust the government on to the defensive on inflation and the  cost-of-living crisis  and are widening the  attack to  find  chinks  in  the  Finance Minister’s armour on  his  handling  of  the  economy.

They have built  a  platform   for   the   forthcoming  budget  debate  which  will  ensure  it is  not  as  one-sided  as  in  earlier  years of the  Ardern  government.

Robertson even conceded in Parliament yesterday “we know that New Zealanders are doing it tough as global factors push up the cost of living”.

He quickly added that the  government is continuing to support low- and middle-income earners through reductions in their fuel bills and income increases.

For National’s  relatively  new  leadership  team, the  cost-of- living  crisis  has  been the  issue  that  has  allowed them  to  sharpen  the  parliamentary  skills  needed   to  spearhead  their  roles   in  exposing weakness  in  the  government policies. Continue reading “How the Nats are drawing blood by needling the govt on economic issues as living costs surge”

Boris: right idea, wrong execution

A week ago we wrote about the British PM’s move to check an out-of-control Parliamentary watchdog.  It ended in a populist revolt and he sacrificed a former minister, Owen Paterson, to the mob.

This seems to have worked as well for him as it did for Charles II.  One of his Tory predecessors, Sir John Major, broke the first rule of party loyalty by branding the government “politically corrupt”.  And the opposition started baying for the head of former attorney general Sir Geoffrey Cox because, as a backbench MP, he had also worked as a barrister and had committed such heinous offences as missing the deadline to register his earnings.  

Continue reading “Boris: right idea, wrong execution”

Parliamentary privilege ain’t what it used to be

A cornerstone of parliamentary democracy is the concept of privilege – to protect MPs from external influence by ensuring that their actions can be challenged only in parliament (or at the ballot). If you think that the principle is old-fashioned, ask yourself how Russia’s legislature gets on.

While privilege has never been universal in its scope – in the UK or in its legislative outgrowths – a recent twist raises the eyebrow.

Continue reading “Parliamentary privilege ain’t what it used to be”

Seymour nettles the PM with questions about EVs, “feebate”, the Auckland cycle bridge and the disposal of batteries

Parliament,   mostly  a  humdrum  affair  these  days, nevertheless  has moments  which  fascinate    long-time  aficinados.  One  such moment came at Question  Time yesterday when  ACT’s  David Seymour   was  probing  Prime  Minister Jacinda  Ardern  over   the  “feebate”  scheme which the  government  is  introducing  to accelerate the  introduction  of EVs.

The Prime  Minister  carries   such  an aura  these  days   that  it  is  not  easy  to  penetrate  the  wall of  omniscience which  protects her  from criticism.

But  as  Seymour  pursued  his  line of  questioning,   she showed  a  hint of  fallibility.

Seymour,  with a  smile,   teased  her:

“Is  my  line  of  questioning getting  under  the Prime  Minister’s  skin?”

Of course  he  had only  to  look  at Ardern’s  face  to   know  that  he  had.

So  Point of  Order  decided to  reproduce  from  Hansard   the  exchanges  of  this  unusual  event.

It  began when Seymour asked  whether  Ardern  stood  by  her  statement that “a large number of those buyers of those vehicles are not using them for the legitimate use?” Continue reading “Seymour nettles the PM with questions about EVs, “feebate”, the Auckland cycle bridge and the disposal of batteries”

Mallard looks like a sitting duck but the Nats may prefer to wait to bag the PM as well

Back  in   March   the  NZ  Herald  carried  a  report  headlined  “Mallard mess  needs  sorting”.  It  was  written   by  Audrey  Young, then  the political  editor.

The  Labour Party  didn’t  heed the  warning  and  now  this failure is  leaving  a  bigger mess:  on Tuesday night Speaker Trevor Mallard  accused a former parliamentary staffer, to whom he had apologised for claiming he was a rapist, of sexual assault.

In the aftermath, National Party leader Judith Collins again called for Mallard to be removed as Speaker of the House, describing his behaviour as a disgrace and contending he was “temperamentally unfit” for the role

Meanwhile  Prime  Minister Jacinda Ardern  has  boxed  herself  into  a  corner.  She has expressed  “overall”  confidence   in  Mallard  as  Speaker  of the  House,   so  she  can’t sack  him.

But  the  longer  he  stays,  the  more  damage can be done to  Labour. Continue reading “Mallard looks like a sitting duck but the Nats may prefer to wait to bag the PM as well”

Free speech in Parliament challenged: Maori Party MPs press the Speaker to bar questions they regard as “racist”

The Speaker was reprimanded by the PM yesterday, in the aftermath of the furore generated when he accused a former parliamentary staffer – to whom he had previously apologised for claiming he was a rapist – of sexual assault.

Then he was chided by Maori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer for failing to stop “racist” questions being asked in Parliament.

Other than Hansard, the only account of this attempt to curb MPs’ right to speak freely in Parliament was a Newshub report headed Rawiri Waititi lashes out at ‘Māori bashing’ in Parliament as Jacinda Ardern challenges Judith Collins to say ‘partnership’

But to whom – we wonder – is the Speaker accountable?

To Members of Parliament, we would have thought, because they 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.
Continue reading “Free speech in Parliament challenged: Maori Party MPs press the Speaker to bar questions they regard as “racist””

Nick Smith’s fairness questions (were Maori ward supporters given more time?) spark call for reopening of submissions on bill

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union  has drawn attention to a significant constitutional issue regarding our right to be consulted fairly on laws which affect our voting rights.

It’s the suggestion (the union said “disclosure”) that Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahata gave local councils advance notice of her Māori wards legislation and the short time that would be allowed for public submissions. 

The Minister had given her allies a five-day head start to prepare submissions on the Bill to entrench Maori wards, union spokesman Jordan Williams contended.

Members of the public, on the other hand, were given just one day’s notice to prepare for “the disgracefully short two-day submission window.”

Williams insisted:

“The Minister knew perfectly well what she was doing. The decision to warn her mates before blindsiding the general public can only be read as a cynical attempt to manipulate the consultation process and limit the contributions of New Zealanders opposed to the Bill.”

This compromising of the process warranted the Speaker reopening the calling of submissions, Williams said. Continue reading “Nick Smith’s fairness questions (were Maori ward supporters given more time?) spark call for reopening of submissions on bill”

Mr Speaker wrongly cried “rape”, and then apologised – now let’s see if he becomes Sir Trevor

As  the political  year  comes   to an end, the  Labour  Party  has  much to celebrate, highlighted by  an electoral victory  that could lead to its longest term in power  under  its  most popular  leader  in history.  This was remarkable, in an era  when  governments  in  most Western  democracies    are  under  strain.

But  there  is   at  least one blot  on the Labour  escutcheon:  the Mallard  affair.

Despite  calls   for his  resignation, Trevor  Mallard has no intention of  stepping aside from  his  role as Speaker, the  third  highest  post  in  NZ’s constitutional  arrangements.

He  has offered  profuse  apologies for having defamed  a  person with  an accusation  of  attempted rape,    the  Prime  Minister  has accepted  he  made    a  “mistake”,  and  the  taxpayer   has picked  up  the  legal bill  of  $330,000 (and  counting) that is the price-tag on this “mistake”.

So  that’s  all  neat and  tidy,   it’s  history  now, and Parliament  can look forward to  another  year  of  his  judicial  guidance  in the  tradition  of   his  predecessors?

Well, not  quite.  Opposition  parties  have declared they have no  confidence  in him.

Hardened Labour  supporters  can  say  this is  just  the  Opposition  parties   playing  politics.  And  many  taxpayers  who  have to pay the legal price  of  the  Mallard “mistake”  may  yawn  at  what  they regard as nothing more than the  ugly side  of the political games played inside  the parliamentary  arena.

Yet  this  is  the  issue:  how  much judicial authority  can Mallard  exert in what  is  supposedly  the  highest  court in the  land?

Presiding  in Parliament  is  not  some  sort of game,  with the  referee  flourishing  a  red  card  now  and then.

Mallard  told a select committee  he almost immediately regretted describing the series of sexual assault complaints  in a review of parliamentary  culture  as  “rape”.  If this be so, why didn’t he offer  an apology earlier?   Is it because  a motion of  no confidence  may have been moved  long before the election?

Veteran  Press Gallery   journalist Barry Soper contends he withdrew  the rape claim just recently because, had he done so last year, chances  are he  would not have survived a no-confidence  vote  in his Speakership.  New Zealand First would not have supported him.

He may, of  course,  have been  bound  by legal advice.  But  meanwhile the  target  of  his  allegation  not  only  had had his employment  suspended  but  was suffering  from  mental stress.  And  if he had  not been tracked down  by a  journalist  and  aided  in finding  a  QC, he  could have   been  left the victim of  an unfounded calumny.

This means scant compassion  was shown  to  a  person  who (Point  of  Order  understands)  had  served  in the  parliamentary  precinct  for 20 years.

Those  who  support  Mallard  argue   he was motivated  by the  need  to  overhaul  the  once prevalent culture  in Parliament  of bullying  and other  unpleasant practices. And  who can be  critical  of  his championing  the  underdog, essentially  the tribal instinct of any  Labour  MP?

With  the  support  of the  Prime  Minister,  accordingly, it  seems  he  can  occupy  the Speaker’s chair  for  as  long as he  wishes.

But Point  of  Order  portends one delicate issue remaining  for the Prime Minister.  It’s the tradition of offering a knighthood to a Speaker  serving  a  second term.

The  dilemma  for Ardern  is that she will be accused of setting a new standard, if she offers Mallard a knighthood, and it will be the mark of disapproval  that  would rule out a  third term in the Speaker’s chair she if she doesn’t.

Boris rides the storm

The inevitable hail of editorial outrage has descended on the head of PM Boris Johnson after yesterday’s Supreme Court decision overturning the Queen’s prorogation of Britain’s Parliament.  He in turn has hastened back from the UN to resume the battle in a reconvened legislature.

The general line is gross-abuse-of-convention-thank-God-for-the-Supreme-Court.  For example, the Financial Times concluded in thunderous tones“The 11 judges unanimously concluded that Mr Johnson’s five-week suspension of parliament was an unlawful attempt to silence MPs, at the very moment the UK, through Brexit, faces the biggest shake-up in its constitutional status for decades. “ Continue reading “Boris rides the storm”

Queen breaks law – but badly advised

In a stunning denoument, Britain’s Supreme Court has ruled that if you want Brexit, you really need to vote for Boris Johnson.

Well, not exactly …  The Court decided – unanimously – that Boris’s advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament for five weeks was unlawful – and it follows that the Queen’s decision was null and of no effect – in effect Parliament was not prorogued at all. Continue reading “Queen breaks law – but badly advised”