Parliamentary question time is really important. It is the one chance the opposition has to hold the Government to account and demand answers to questions on what it is doing.
Ministers are meant to answer questions honestly. If they do not do so accidentally then they are expected to correct their answer as soon as they are able to.
The correction is by way of seeking leave of Parliament to make a personal explanation and to set out the inaccuracy. This is an important safeguard to make sure that Parliament has not been misinformed.
Anne Tolley made such an explanation yesterday. But the way in which it was conducted and the Speaker’s handling of subsequent issues made a mockery of what should be a solemn apologetic process.
Here is the video:
This is what was said on July 23:
Darroch Ball : Does she still stand by the statements she made on Q+A on 21 June “If they … deliver good results … why not?”, and “if private enterprise can deliver those sorts of results, I wouldn’t hesitate to use them.”, when she was asked about Serco providing child services in New Zealand?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : To the first part of that question—yes of course, because this Government is all about making sure that the money we invest in social services gets results for the people they are designed for. But I did never ever answer any question in regard to Serco, and I have had no conversations with them about any social services. In fact, it was the interviewer who talked about Serco, using it as an example of private enterprise.
Ball then sought to table the transcript but was refused leave. Tolley’s answer was clearly wrong.
Following her personal explanation yesterday there was some response from Ron Marks and Winston Peters. Clearly they were upset that they were not able to contradict the Minister with her own words and that she had delayed a proper response for so long.
Then Winston Peters raised a point of order about the delay in Tolley seeking to correct her answer as soon as possible which she clearly did not. This had previously been raised by Ron Mark but it was an important point.
Carter then chucked Peters out for relitigating the point of order and the rest of New Zealand First walked out in protest.
New Zealand First’s collective anger at their treatment was understandable. And you have to question why transcripts of interviews cannot be tabled in Parliament. Especially when they can show that what a Minister has said to Parliament is wrong.