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Green Party statements on giving their parliamentary Questions to the Opposition

Written By: - Date published: 11:03 am, March 19th, 2018 - 49 comments
Categories: accountability, democratic participation, greens, Parliament - Tags: , ,

From the Green Party email from James Shaw to members:

___________________________________________________________________________

Do you know what frustrates me about Parliament? Sometimes, it’s nothing but a hollow ritual.

As Greens, we’ve always stood for modernising our democracy, making MPs more accountable and giving the public better access to the levers of power.

So from this week, the Green Party will hand over its allocation of questions for Question Time to the Leader of the Opposition. That means, we will no longer waste Parliament’s time or yours asking scripted, set-piece “patsy” questions directed to ourselves.

It doesn’t mean we’ve given up pursuing issues we care about. When those issues arise, our arrangement allows Green MPs still to ask questions where we wish to hold the Government to account.

So why the change? The questions we’re giving up do nothing to advance democratic participation. Question Time should be about holding the Government to account, the Opposition can better use some of our questions to do that.

This is another example of us leading the type of change we want to see in Parliament. We’re walking our walk.

Learn more about Question Time here.

Ngā mihi,

James

___________________________________________________________________________

Press release from greens.org.nz

Green Party announces significant change to Question Time

James Shaw MP on Sunday, March 18, 2018 – 09:55

The Green Party has today announced that, from this week, most of its allocation of questions for Question Time will be handed over to the Leader of the Opposition to use, in order to limit the prevalence of “patsy questions” in Parliament and to strengthen the ability of Parliament to hold the Government of the day to account.

The only exception is if the Green Party wishes to use a question to hold the Government to account on a particular issue, consistent with the party’s Confidence and Supply agreement with Labour, which acknowledges the ability for the parties to agree to disagree on certain issues.

“The Green Party has long advocated the importance of Parliament having the powers to hold the Government of the day to account. Question Time is a key avenue for the opposition to interrogate the Government, so this move is a small step we can take to live up to the values we stated in opposition now that we are part of the Government,” said Green Party Co-leader James Shaw.

“Using Question Time to ask ourselves scripted, set-piece patsy questions does nothing to advance the principles of democracy and accountability that are very important to us as a party. We expect the opposition to use our questions to hold us to account as much as any other party in Government.

“We think patsy questions are a waste of time, and New Zealanders have not put us in Parliament to do that; we’re there to make positive change for our people and our environment.

“We don’t expect any other party to follow suit – this is about us leading the kind of change we want to see in Parliament.

“The Greens are committed to doing Government differently and doing Government better and this change, along with our voluntary release of Green Ministers diaries to increase transparency, will hopefully spark more of a debate about how we can bring Parliament’s processes and systems into the modern age.

“We will also make a submission to the Standing Orders Review, which kicks off next year, to advocate for further changes to Question Time. This review is where all parties in Parliament make decisions about how future parliaments will operate and is the best place for all politicians to discuss any long term permanent changes to Question Time.

“The Canadian Government has recently trialled changes to Question Time after Justin Trudeau campaigned to do so. This shows parliament systems are not set in stone and should be open to regular review and change to ensure our democracy is healthy and well-functioning.

“We have reserved the right to use our questions when we have a point of difference with our colleagues in government. Our Confidence and Supply Agreement with Labour allows us to agree to disagree on issues, and the occasional respectful questioning of the Government from within is also an important part of democracy.

“That we can occasionally disagree with each other highlights the strength and flexibility of this Government,” said Mr Shaw.

___________________________________________________________________________

Green Party Charter:

The charter is the founding document of The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand accepts Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand; recognises Maori as Tangata Whenua in Aotearoa New Zealand; and commits to the following four Principles:

Ecological Wisdom:

The basis of ecological wisdom is that human beings are part of the natural world. This world is finite, therefore unlimited material growth is impossible. Ecological sustainability is paramount.

Social Responsibility:

Unlimited material growth is impossible. Therefore the key to social responsibility is the just distribution of social and natural resources, both locally and globally.

Appropriate Decision-making:

For the implementation of ecological wisdom and social responsibility, decisions will be made directly at the appropriate level by those affected.

Non-Violence:

Non-violent conflict resolution is the process by which ecological wisdom, social responsibility and appropriate decision making will be implemented. This principle applies at all levels.

49 comments on “Green Party statements on giving their parliamentary Questions to the Opposition ”

  1. adam 1

    This, really?

    Nope we don’t have a military actively misleading the public. A media actively working against the government. Nope we don’t have civil service who are completely ideologically neolib, and actively hostile to change in government.

    No housing crisis, no health crisis, no issues with the environment.

    No, the issue of the day is the greens not wanting to ask patsy questions. No wonder we can’t have nice things.

    Let me know when you want to deal with a real issue folks. This throwing out all the toys in your cot, is getting sad.

    • weka 1.1

      that kind of framing and response is also part of the problem. But carry on with the heavy negativity and see where it takes us.

      • adam 1.1.1

        My issue is with the labour party hacks getting upset by this.

        I don’t see much point in this taking up two posts. The greens will do what they do – if it works good, if it doesn’t then they will do what they always do, try somthing else. It’s more of the labour way or the highway stuff, tiresome, as it is childish.

        Getting upset by this issue is churlish. Especially when food banks are struggling, the temperature is dropping and we still have thousands of people living on the streets.

        I’m bored senseless of having to hear another political wonk telling me and everyone else to play there game. If there game worked, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

        • weka 1.1.1.1

          So you hate parliamentary politics and you think it’s appropriate to be relentless negative under posts about parliamentary politics. Write some Guest Posts adam on what you want to see talked about. I’ll put them up and moderate them.

          I put this post up because the conversation is going to happen anyway and I’d like to see it be a bit more informed by giving access to what the Greens have actually said.

          I don’t appreciate having my work spat on.

          • adam 1.1.1.1.1

            Take a step back, and reread what I said. I’m saying the greens have the right to try anything they want. If it works, GOOD! If not – they will do what they always do – try somthing else – that might work better.

            To think doing the same thing, that is not working, over and over – is the definition of…

            As for labour people telling the greens this is wrong – bugger off and go fix anything – rather than moan about this.

            If my point was not clear, I hope this clears it up.

            • Xanjo 1.1.1.1.1.1

              I hope this helps clear it up for you Adam. The Greens are a part of the Government. They are in power. When you’re in power, you can try all kinds of things to try to make things better and when you’re in power, you’ll be held to account for each and every one of your attempts, especially if it ends in failure. When you’re in Government, the LAST thing you do is empower the party that is ready and waiting to take you and the rest of your governmental partners down and leave you out in the cold where you can get nothing accomplished for another nine years. Yet that is precisely what the Greens have done. Talk about Green! Could they get any greener?

    • Alan 1.2

      you can have nice things Adam, we are lucky enough to live in a time and place where this is possible

    • Granty 1.3

      Nz needs a senate… an upper house instead of direct rule

  2. ropata 2

    Despite being in opposition, National still represents “the Establishment” and are not going to ask questions in the best interests of all New Zealanders. They will waste them on petty personal attacks and crosby textor framing on behalf of their multinational clients. National isn’t a real political party, they are a vehicle for banks and corporations wanting to pillage NZ. The Greens are sadly deluded if they expect Nats to behave honourably

    • weka 2.1

      I doubt that the Greens expect that at all. But follow that through. The Greens have prioritised democracy and reforming how parliamentary politics gets done. If National continue to abuse that privilege (not just the GP Qs, but QT in general) what should happen next?

      Should National be left with their own allocation to just carry on as normal? Or should someone in parliament try and change how that whole thing happens?

      Lefties need to get out of the whole power and control stuff because at the moment I am seeing a huge amount of justification for the status quo when we know the status quo is fucked.

      • cleangreen 2.1.1

        100% Weka this is the best comment here today.

        The Government is heavily influenced by the global elitists & their lobbyists now and in parliament the lobbyists are thick as flies and twice as messy to deal with so you are so right, the parliament is fucked as a democratic institution now.

        The greens know this and are trying to change this from inside so let it happen.

    • Anon 2.2

      And Labour isn’t a a vehicle for Unions? This is MMP now anyway, no party should try to represent everyone.

      • ropata 2.2.1

        So you’re happy to have a party in our flimsy democracy that is just a marketing scam & doesn’t actually represent people?

    • tracey 2.3

      Labour also represents the establishment. If their signing the revised but not TPP didn’t prove that to you, nothing will

    • tracey 2.4

      You forgotten who first sold the Banks? Labour.

  3. patricia bremner 3

    Why have they done this? Does this raise the bar? Or does it appear to kick a partner when things just got nasty?
    Like many I’m finding this hard to fathom. I hope he is right and it does improve democracy, otherwise he has played into the opposition’s hands, and we lose.

    • Cinny 3.1

      Maybe, because of the extra questions, the natz will obstruct and be louder at question time……due to them having more scope for the Speaker to remove questions for bad behaviour? Maybe…

    • Carolyn_Nth 3.2

      I’m a bit puzzled by the move, but will wait to see how it works out in practice.

      And I have pretty much given up on watching Question Time. It’s bound by rituals and standing orders that make it more of a cynical game rather than somewhere the government is held to account. So, the weaknesses of the GP move may not make the situation much worse.

      John Key lowered the already low tone even further with his sneering refusal to answer questions, and his cynical clown play.

      Or does it appear to kick a partner when things just got nasty?

      Let’s not forget that Ardern kicked Turei into touch when the media turned nasty on Turei – at that at a time when the GP was getting a surge in support, and when many welcomed finally that someone in power was speaking for beneficiaries from a place of knowledge – and all that to regain momentum for Labour.

      I don’t see Labour being that much of a friend to the GP, so I suspect part of the motive was to serve notice to Labour that the GP is not Labour’s lapdog.

      Shaw said this yesterday, in respoi=nse to media questions about why they were giving their questions to National

      That means Jacinda Ardern’s conscious of ensuring coalition partner NZ First and supply and confidence partner, the Greens, “get the profile associated with our work programmes”, he said.

      Asked whether the move was about differentiating his party from Labour, Shaw said, if “NZ First and the Greens both get squeezed out of Parliament then (Labour) will end up with a no friends situation and not being able to put the numbers together”.

      So this just may be the GP starting to be a bit more hard headed in how they operate.

      Remember also, that Labour has sold the whole left out by signing up to the CPATPP, while the GP is the only party to stand their ground against it. And they haven’t really stepped up on Operation Burnham this week. Democracy needs a government that will step up for all Kiwis and for a better future for all – and that WILL be held to account if they don’t.

      So, if Labour are not going to represent the interests of democracy, and the least powerful groups in society, why shouldn’t the Greens try their best to change the set up.

      There’s other measures that could be done to make question time an arena where the government is TRULY held to account, now and in the long term future. Giving members of the public the opportunity to submit questions seems a great idea.

      • Xanjo 3.2.1

        I think you’ll find that Turei kicked herself into touch. She didn’t need any help. She did it all on her own through her own short-sightedness. She committed a crime. She’s lucky she’s only out in the cold and not in jail for it. Arohata & Christchurch Women’s Prison are full of women who committed the same or similar crimes just so they could feed their families. When Turei made her unfortunate admission, she did what the Greens are so good at doing, engaging her mouth before the brain had time to process the real ramifications of her actions.

    • tracey 3.3

      Kick a partner? Like signing the TPP you mean?

      • dukeofurl 3.3.1

        Thats not what Shaw has said. He supported the changes that labour has made to the TPP

        “We recognise Trade Minister David Parker has made significant progress on some controversial provisions in the TPP, including investor-state dispute settlement, and we support those changes. However, we still don’t believe there are sufficient safeguards for people and the environment that would enable us to support the deal,” Mr Shaw said
        https://www.greens.org.nz/news/press-release/no-change-green-position-tpp

        Labours election policy was to sign the TPP with changes. The old one was dead when Obama failed to get Congress to pass it and new president Trump wouldnt support the old deal.

        Labour will renegotiate these provisions and said exactly this in their manifesto.
        https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/nzlabour/pages/8555/attachments/original/1504500586/Trade_Manifesto.pdf?1504500586

        Clearly Greens felt labour ‘didnt go far enough’ but its hardly a ‘kick’

        • tracey 3.3.1.1

          “However, we still don’t believe there are sufficient safeguards for people and the environment that would enable us to support the deal,” Mr Shaw said”

          It is a kick when you thought NZF and to a vague degree Labour were agin it.

          Kick may not have been the right word but this trumps a few patsy questions in parliament I would have thought.

          • dukeofurl 3.3.1.1.1

            Its terrible that what ‘we think at election time’ and what spelled out in the manifesto dont align.
            What is the problem, as the Greens have also done what they spelled out and dont support it. ( they dont like Trade agreements period, which is fair enough as they arent some magic sauce)
            It surely cant be a surprise that a party platform isnt aligned 100% to our own views.

            • tracey 3.3.1.1.1.1

              No surprise. But as I say if the Greens giving a few questions to the Nats is a “kick” as one commenter here put it, then labour effectively rubber stamping TTP was a “kick” to NZF and Greens.

      • patricia bremner 3.3.2

        I suppose that could be reason.

      • cleangreen 3.3.3

        Yes tracey,

        Exactly!!!

        Labour just pushed the TPP signing over our public opposition to it we all will always recall, as national did with selling our assets and other things like state homes.

      • Xanjo 3.3.4

        Labour signalled that they would sign the TPP BEFORE the election and why wouldn’t they? It was their baby to begin with. If this was such a deal-breaker for the Greens, they could have refused to form a Government with Labour. If they’re intent on changing things, now is their opportunity. They’re in Government. They have the power, they just don’t have the brains. If Question Time was so repugnant to them, they could have made a real statement by saying they would keep their questions and not use them. This would have saved an enormous amount of time spent in Parliament listening to drivel. Instead, they chose to hand their questions over to National, who have no love at all for the Greens, never have, probably never will. Only a complete idiot hands over a baseball bat to their enemy so the enemy can beat them with it. Let me introduce you to the Green Party. A gathering of complete idiots who have failed to learn anything while sitting out in the cold for so many years.

        • tracey 3.3.4.1

          5 bottom lines Xanjo is what they had…. the definition of bottom line seemed to shift. As did the claim they had secured the Investor Rights back down when in fact National secure dit over 12 months ago.

        • weka 3.3.4.2

          “Labour signalled that they would sign the TPP BEFORE the election and why wouldn’t they? It was their baby to begin with”

          During Little’s time Labour’s messaging was that they wouldn’t sign unless. The framing changed to “we will sign and do our best” quite late in the piece.

          “If this was such a deal-breaker for the Greens, they could have refused to form a Government with Labour.”

          Have you thought that through? If the Greens didn’t support Labour to form govt then National would have and we would have had a worse TPPA. By all means critique the Greens, but please base it on something rational.

  4. I would like to see him asked why the questions can’t be handed over to the public, to be asked by MPs who name the person or organization that submitted them.

    James Shaw can seem really high handed at times. I wonder if it even occurred to him as a possibility.

    • weka 4.1

      “I would like to see him asked why the questions can’t be handed over to the public, to be asked by MPs who name the person or organization that submitted them.”

      I’d really like to see that conversation happen. If I have time when this thing quietens down, I might write a post about it. The immediate thing I see is the work that goes into preparing the questions and there would need to be a process for that, as well as how to prioritise them. I’m sure there are other issues. I have a feeling this has been tried in the past, so if anyone has memory of that or links, I’d appreciate it.

      • Carolyn_Nth 4.1.1

        Russel Norman asked members of the public to submit questions to be asked in Question Time. Can’t find a link to it yet.

      • Chris 4.1.2

        Shaw says:

        “So from this week, the Green Party will hand over its allocation of questions for Question Time to the Leader of the Opposition. That means, we will no longer waste Parliament’s time or yours asking scripted, set-piece “patsy” questions directed to ourselves.

        “It doesn’t mean we’ve given up pursuing issues we care about. When those issues arise, our arrangement allows Green MPs still to ask questions where we wish to hold the Government to account.

        “So why the change? The questions we’re giving up do nothing to advance democratic participation. Question Time should be about holding the Government to account, the Opposition can better use some of our questions to do that.”

        Why can’t the Greens choose their own questions and ask them instead of the “set-piece “patsy” questions directed to ourselves”? Surely the supply agreement lets them decide whatever the heck they want to ask.

        • weka 4.1.2.1

          It does and the Greens have retained the right to use some of the Questions to hold the govt to account when they need/want to. I’m assuming they don’t need 42 of such questions per year.

        • dukeofurl 4.1.2.2

          “Why can’t the Greens choose their own questions and ask them”

          They do . labours patsys go its own Mps to ask , NZF to its own Mps to ask.

          Thats what he means by a circular process . The greens staff formulate the questions and then formulate the answers to those questions.
          The Mps are just actors asking the questions to ministers who know the answers

  5. Siobhan 5

    And I’m sure National will enter into the spirit of things and work hard to uphold and further the “principles of democracy and accountability “.

    After all there is nothing in their record, or Bridges career to suggest otherwise.

    Unless you count Nationals ‘spamming’ of the written Question time process.

    Or, you know, their whole political History of attack, lie, ‘disremeber and obfuscation.

    • dukeofurl 5.1

      The numbers tell the story Siobhan. Greens + national = majority to get changes in Question Time.

      I would hope a good deal has been done on specific changes to Oral Questions that national has agreed to support.

      From what Bridges has been talking about ‘documentation’, it doesnt sound like a purely verbal agreement so far.
      But then Bridges has been saying ‘no strings attached’ as well.

    • patricia bremner 5.2

      Tui there Siobhan.

  6. esoteric pineapples 6

    Apart from all the other reasons this decision is insane, patsy questions actually serve a purpose. They allow the public to find out about things that the opposition won’t want promoted in Parliament.

    Someone has definitely lost their marbles and I can only assume its James Shaw. I wouldn’t have thought the other members of the caucus would have gone along with it. At this point, I’ve noticed nothing posted on Facebook about it on Chloe or Golriz’s pages, but it is on Gareth’s page.

    • Carolyn_Nth 6.1

      On reflection, if the Greens are determined to change to culture and related structures of parliament, they will need to bring all parties, and significant majority of all MPs on board. So they will need to be able to show to the Nats that it will benefit everyone.

      Otherwise the systems will be changed back as soon as the Nats get back in government.

  7. Incognito 7

    I’ve come to see this latest move by the GP as a fine example of prefigurative politics: being the change you want to see.

    It comes hot on the heels of their transparency measures to proactively release their ministerial diaries, to show who they’ve met with and why as well as Green Ministers, MPs and staff not accepting corporate hospitality, such as free tickets to events unrelated to their work.

    If you want to change & improve democracy in NZ you start at the source: Government and Parliament; I cannot fault the inescapable logic of this.

    • Robert Guyton 7.1

      Yes to that, Incognito.

    • weka 7.2

      I think there is also an earlier change of declaring their spending.

    • Tuppence Shrewsbury 7.3

      Yea but it’s going to be used against labour by national. we can’t give the baby killers more power to attack the righteous saints of the labour party now that they are in power

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