Written By: - Date published: 8:48 am, November 27th, 2017 - 90 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, bill english, David Farrar, democracy under attack, dpf, national, Parliament, Politics, same old national, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags:
Her Majesty’s opposition is doing what it said it would do and creating more tension and more pressure in Parliament for the Government. Bill English said it was not National’s job to make Parliament run properly and the last week has shown that National is It has lodged a multitude of questions, 6,254 to be precise, through the parliamentary written question system.
MPs are clearly doing this to stress the system. Ministers’ offices with brand new or even skeletal staffing are meant to produce pristine responses in a short time frame to some pretty naff questions. Like how many papers has the Minister has read in the past seven days. Or how many phone calls did they make or receive in a three week period.
Each question needs to be considered properly and the relevant information needs to be screened to see if there are valid reasons to withhold any piece of the information.
It would be one thing if there was even a remote possibility that the questions would unearth information that would let the opposition do its job properly of holding the Government to account. But so far the quality of questions is poor and apart from clogging the system up there appears to be no reason for the questions. Even National’s pollster agrees that the questions seem silly, and are over the top.
But National is complaining that Labour, and in particular Trevor Mallard did it too and asked 8,791 written questions in July 2010. He did but if you have a look at the questions many of them were discrete questions asking for the roles of each school and the expected total operational funding for each school. It is easy to imagine what use the information could have been put to.
Besides even if National’s criticism is correct it does not justify their behaviour. Labour did it too is the sort of excuse a primary school kid would use. And if the behaviour is stupid it does not matter who is doing it.
The current batch of questions appear to be revenge for Labour fobbing off originally poorly drafted questions. The system relies on sharp precise questions being asked. But many of the original questions were in the form of “what reports, briefings, memos, meeting notes or aide memoires if any did the Minister receive between 23 October 2017 and 13 November 2017 by title and date”. Talk about a fishing expedition.
If they want the information then they can use the Official Information Act. Then in a more measured way their requests can be answered. But using the short cut Parliamentary question system to clog up Ministers’ offices shows a complete disregard for the intent of the system.
And instead of the opposition trying to get its head around how for instance it should respond to the proposal that there should be a political consensus on how child poverty should be addressed it is designing scores of questions so that Ministerial staff are too busy answering stupid questions to doing anything meaningful.
If this keeps up it is going to be a long three years.