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Impressions of the House

Written By: - Date published: 8:48 pm, December 16th, 2008 - 12 comments
Categories: Parliament - Tags:

First question time – the teams square off. Let the games commence. So what was the vibe? Well both sides kept getting their language muddled up (Minister/ member etc) as they tried to remember that they had shuffled around in their roles. So what of the performance?

I start by making it clear this is an impression only – I didn’t watch every second of question time (which I think lasted around an hour and a quarter or so?). I think the Government benches should feel reasonably pleased that they held their own (especially after being on the back foot from last week’s urgency lessons at Labour’s hand). Key wasn’t quite up to his charming best but he didn’t wilt or overplay his hand. Goff made his points (perhaps a little on the long-winded side) although I’m not sure they were especially relevant to those of us who are moving into holiday mode (and who are praying that we keep a paypacket in order to pay for our indulgences).

English was clear, crisp and to the point – his experience of the battle ground clearly shining through. Made some good points about Labour’s supposed overspend/underplan approach. I suspect we will see this line repeated frequently as they set the stage for spending cuts (or “re-prioritisation”).

Unfortunately for Chris Carter, question three turned from an attack opportunity on Anne Tolley and her commitment to teachers regarding the 90 day bill into a messy brain teaser which he couldn’t  quite master. I would have preferred to see the more experienced hand of Trevor Mallard running the attack, especially as he handled both the 90 days and the national standards issues so well last week in the House. Hopefully the limelight will be shared out more widely next year.

Cullen showed himself as being in a league of his own when it comes to both procedure and point. He angles the political alongside the process to the point that it looks simple and seamless. There was a slight counter-punch from Brownlee which hinted that not all might have gone so smoothly on Labour’s side regarding the lodging of questions, but not enough to take the gloss of Cullen’s mastery

National allowed itself an worthwhile attacks on ACC (unexpected costs), housing (the need to for, helpfully covering up their flip flop on the matter) and lightbulbs (incandescent). They did enough to feel that they weren’t the pushover Labour was hoping for.

Also pleasing was that we had good representation from the smaller parties, with Jim Anderton showing that he has lost none of his passion for agriculture and a well honed angle (do National really value agriculture). Jeanette tackled a subject close to her heart (ETS) while ACT did the equivalent (the EFA). The Maori Party found themselves in the midst of a tangle as to the boundaries of what Dr Pita Sharples could be asked. It was great to hear so much of te reo used through the question – something that also came from National. Labour would do well to consider how it is to handle their presence on Maori issues in the House (as elsewhere).

As for the new speaker, he is still finding his feet and it shows. With Cullen watching his every move it is not an easy place to be – in that he has my sympathy.

All in all it made me wish we had a chance to see them settle in a bit more this year, but I guess there’s time enough in the New Year. That’s when the real work for National begins.

12 comments on “Impressions of the House ”

  1. gingercrush 1

    Nice analysis. I think if you had to choose a winner it was National. Labour seemingly had the momentum last week and proved themselves they would be an effective opposition. Goff’s reply to the speech from the throne was very spectacular. And thus, being a National supporter I was nervous at what to expect. Labour for me felt rather soft.

    When something really good comes along is when you’ll find Goff at his most effective. How Key answers those questions when they come will certainly be interesting. They’re evenly matched and should be an interesting three years.

    I think Chris Carter was shockingly bad. This week with the education bill passed and statements made by Tolley one would have expected this could do well for Labour. Tolley herself should have been made to look bad. Instead Carter’s way of questioning Tolley ended up a disaster. I’m not sure why Labour has so much faith in Chris Carter because personally I don’t see what is so great about him.

    Other questions were rather boring. Do National backbenchers get more opportunities to ask questions this term than other terms? Labour last term I recall usually got two questions. This government seems to get 3/4??

    National did better than I expected, Labour were disappointing. Why no questions were directed against Kate Wilkinson or Paula Bennett is beyond me. I also think Annette King needs to be careful, because her voice is rather whiny and grating and one could continuously hear her.

    I feel Labour need to pass Cullen’s role to Trevor Mallard. Cullen isn’t staying forever and the only one that comes close to Cullen’s capability is Mallard. I think Cullen will be a huge loss for Labour but I don’t think he can stick around too long in this term. Mallard is the obvious choice to replace Cullen.


    I must say the new MP for Rimutaka Chris Hipkins and Jacinda Arden List MP for Labour had excellent maiden speeches. Labour supporters should be proud to have such upcoming talent and these two are ones to watch in the future.

    It was great to hear Simon Bridge’s maiden speech and Tim MacIndoe the National MP for Hamilton West too had an excellent speech.

  2. gingercrush 2

    Also I feel Lockward Smith so far has proved to be an excellent speaker. Very calming and in sharp contrast to Margaret Wilson who I felt never had full command as Speaker.

  3. Con 3

    Lockwood Smith has considerable relevant experience for his new role as Speaker, dating from his time as host of the quiz show W3.

    Supplementary question for the Minister: it’s a WHAT question, a WHAT question…

    F***ing idiots (are we allowed to say “fuck” here?) about the f***ing light-bulbs though! Can you credit them, the stupid Nats with their flat-earther climate-change denial, and their fetishisation of individual choice? For them, the trivial “freedom to choose” a stupid light bulb is a sacred principle that completely outranks the looming climate catastrophe!! They haven’t a clue … not a clue. Thankfully, at least, inefficient bulbs will soon enough be phased out anyway (by the Chinese manufacturers), but in the meantime it’s a simple waste and a missed opportunity, caused by ideology trumping common sense.

  4. Con 4

    Further to the climate change blinkers … did anyone see the monumental stuff-up by the Australian government? A measly 5% emission reduction by 2020 is worse than a joke; it’s an absolute scandal. I can see why they chose to drop that particular bomb the day AFTER the Poznan talks. Wong would’ve got lynched (and rightly so!) if she tried to run that one in Poznan.

    (Captcha: “Helen saveth” – come back Aunty Helen, we need you!)

  5. “gingercrush
    Also I feel Lockward Smith so far has proved to be an excellent speaker. Very calming and in sharp contrast to Margaret Wilson who I felt never had full command as Speaker.”

    Probably more to do with National now being better behaved and not being intentionally disruptive, Labour so far has been a much better behaved opposition than National

  6. Kerry 6

    How suprising…….GC thinks Nationals a winner!!!

    Lockwoods is an apt name…he looks like a carved wooden statue with a doopy bloody grin!

    Poor Chris….im not sure what went wrong there……perhaps Gerry had stolen his lunch….again!

  7. Billy 7

    I didn’t watch it for long but, in the bit I saw, I thought Lockwood did a reasonable job. He certainly seemed less shrill and annoying than the previous one.

  8. Graeme 8

    Do National backbenchers get more opportunities to ask questions this term than other terms? Labour last term I recall usually got two questions. This government seems to get 3/4??

    National will get more questions. Oral questions are divvied up proportionately between the parties on the basis of MPs who are not members of the Executive Council (i.e. those who aren’t ministers inside or outside cabinet). National has more MPs now than Labour had during the last Parliament.

    National’s current 58 MPs includes 35 non-executive MPs. Labour 49 MPs at the end of the last Parliament included only 22 non-executive MPs. National can therefore expect quite a few more questions than Labour used to get while in government.

  9. Francois 9

    I think Chris Carter was shockingly bad. This week with the education bill passed and statements made by Tolley one would have expected this could do well for Labour. Tolley herself should have been made to look bad. Instead Carter’s way of questioning Tolley ended up a disaster. I’m not sure why Labour has so much faith in Chris Carter because personally I don’t see what is so great about him.

    Being in Chris Carter’s electorate I find that he’s a very good electorate MP. This actually shows in the Te Atatu results which has National beating Labour in the party vote by a slim margin but has Chris beating Tau Henara by a respectable (5000 vote) margin.

  10. gobsmacked 10

    Labour and the Greens used Question Time very effectively yesterday. It was never going to be a headline-grabber, and with no follow-up until next year, the Nats would have had to confess to a predeliction for lamb-fondling to cause the government any immediate damage.

    But – much more importantly – the Opposition got the government to defend, in the House, on the record, its policy positions on a range of contentious issues. Bill English, Anne Tolley and Key himself (on the ETS) made policy statements that will now be measured against what they actually do.

    This is important because Lockwood Smith ruled (don’t ask me why) that Ministers don’t have to answer for what they promised on the campaign trail, when they were in opposition.

    Example: Jeanette Fitzsimons established through her questions that the National-ACT agreeemnt on the ETS is meaningless. Here it is:

    National further agrees to pass forthwith an amendment to the ETS legislation delaying its implementation … .

    Now Key has admitted in the House that nothing will happen “forthwith” at all. It’s increasingly clear that Key is a “make it up as you go along” guy, and that whatever he said last week or last month doesn’t matter.

    Maybe in ADD media-land it doesn’t matter. But in Hansard, it does. So in 2009, a Minister will get done for misleading the House. Put your, er, house on it.

  11. Felix 11

    I’m no fan of Lockie but I think he’ll be a conscientious speaker. He seems to genuinely care about doing things correctly. He also probably wants this to be the job he’s remembered for in the history books.

    The interesting thing is going to be seeing how he handles the pressure when he’s been at it for a year or two.

  12. Chris G 12

    He does grin quite a bit, which makes me think he’s secretly taking the piss – Top effort.

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