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.