Written By: - Date published: 10:57 am, March 21st, 2013 - 49 comments
Categories: accountability, clayton cosgrove, democracy under attack, Parliament, russel norman, Steven Joyce - Tags: david carter
The current Speaker in the House, David Carter, is a disaster. Yesterday was beyond a joke as he let the government get away with avoiding providing serious answers to important questions. It began with a question that had been diverted from the PM to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises. It was a question to John Key about criteria he had stated in the past.
1. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises: Has the Government met the five criteria the Prime Minister laid out for proceeding with asset sales?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister for State Owned Enterprises) : Yes. In particular, one criterion was that New Zealand investors would be at the front of the queue and that we would need to be confident of widespread and substantial New Zealand share ownership. At 10 o’clock this morning the number of New Zealanders who had pre-registered their interest in Mighty River Power went over 400,000.
David Shearer: When the Prime Minister said that the third criterion would be that companies would need to present good investment opportunities for investors, with which international investors had the Prime Minister had discussions that have yet to be made public?
Hon TONY RYALL: In respect of that answer, of course I am not able to tell them exactly to whom the Prime Minister has spoken, nor am I able to comment on the nature of the investment at this time.
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This just illustrates the inability of the Government to be able to answer a question from the Opposition.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question. He said he was unable to relate a conversation—[Interruption] Does the member have further supplementary questions?
Then, with question 2, Russel Norman and Clayton Cosgrove asked questions that were not answered by Steven Joyce. Joyce used a lot of smoke screen words to divert from answering the question:
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, that did not even get anywhere near the question. I simply asked whether, having guaranteed the big end of town through the covered bonds legislation, he would commit to implementing the proposal we have put forward. He talked about the Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme and responded to an interjection, but he never answered or even addressed that question.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister said he did not accept the proposition that was put by the member. If the member wishes to ask further supplementaries, he has the ability to do so.
Later during Question Time, when Mallard and Norman attempted to complain about the Speaker’s inconsistencies and not following precedents set by the previous Speaker, Lockwood Smith, they were told Clark just had a different style.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I agree with you that it has become very noisy. I would argue the key problem is that the decision or the ruling of Speaker Smith that a straight question gets a straight answer is no longer being upheld under your new Speakership. That is creating disorder.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is now questioning the competence and the bias of the Speaker. That is very serious. I am attempting to elicit sensible answers for members, but on many occasions members are wanting the answer designed to their satisfaction. That is not what question time is. The question must be addressed, but it will not necessarily mean that the question at all times will be answered to the satisfaction of the member asking the questions.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to agree with what Dr Norman said, but to make it clear that no one—and I do not think Dr Norman did—attributed bias to you. What he indicated what was that there is a different set of rulings, and they are quite different.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept there are certainly different styles. From the moment you have a different Speaker, you will have a different style.
It is parodied well by Imperator Fish
David Shearer: Thank you Mr Speaker, my question now to the Minister of State Owned Enterprises: Has the Government met the five criteria the Prime Minister laid out for proceeding with asset sales?
Tony Ryall: Blue cheese.
Shearer: Point of order, Mr Speaker. What kind of answer was that?
Mr Speaker: The minister answered the question. He may not have given the answer you wanted, but he nevertheless gave an answer. Do you have any supplementary questions?
Russel Norman has now published an open letter of complaint to the Rt Hon David Carter:
I strongly urge you to revert to the set of rules that Lockwood Smith had developed over the course of his Speakership. These rules can be summarised as “A straight question will get a straight answer”.
I agree. However, what David Carter has exposed is the underlying approach that Lockwood Smith used much more subtly. He sometimes allowed the PM and his ministers to avoid being fully accountable to the NZ public. Smith was more consistent, and maintained a more orderly House. Most often he was fair to all sides. But there were limits to how well he served democracy.