Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, November 11th, 2015 - 85 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, Annette King, john key, Judith Collins, Kelvin Davis, national, phil twyford, Politics, same old national - Tags: sami-lee ross, trevor mallard
One of the more unusual customs I have seen in Parliament is that when an MP takes exception at something said to them or about them they can raise this as a point of order and normally get a retraction. They can dish out the verbal stuff but if one of them stands and claims that they take exception to something that has been said they normally get a retraction.
There are two relevant rules in Parliament’s standing orders. Rule 119 requires the Speaker to intervene if any offensive or disorderly words are used by a Member of Parliament. And rule 386 specifically prohibits a Minister when answering a question from using discreditable references to any member of Parliament or any offensive or unparliamentary expression.
I had a quick look through Hansard for the past couple of years to try and find some examples of what happens and found these …
Like this one when Phil Twyford called Jami-Lee Ross a fool and an idiot.
Phil Twyford : You fool. You’re an idiot. No one is saying that.
JAMI-LEE ROSS : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have got a pretty thick skin, but I take exception to that.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch) : Yes, the member—I am referring to the member who made those comments. I will ask the member to withdraw those comments. You cannot refer to another member in that manner.
Phil Twyford : I withdraw.
And this one …
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Yes, this Government did renew the ban put in place by Labour, and what I can also confirm is: firstly, the 2007 Labour Government was aware of the problem; secondly, it was looking to take its own actions; and, thirdly, the Leader of the Opposition has been set up by Annette King and Phil Goff.
Hon Annette King : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take exception to the last part of that answer. On three occasions he has claimed that I set somebody up. I object to that. It is a lie.
Mr SPEAKER : On the basis that the member has taken offence, I am going to ask the Prime Minister to stand and withdraw that part of the answer.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I withdraw.
And this one featuring Judith Collins where Trevor Mallard was thrown out for implying that Collins’ family had received money from Oravida …
Grant Robertson: How can she say that the only option was to go straight to the airport or to Oravida when the programme for her visit actually had a business and legal round table in the timeslot that was used for her visit to Oravida?
Hon Trevor Mallard: Half a million dollars for the family.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I take exception to that comment. I would like to have it withdrawn, please.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has taken offence to the interjection that came from the Hon Trevor Mallard. Would he stand and withdraw that comment.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We will deal with that afterwards. I have asked the member—
Hon Trevor Mallard: No, I am not going to withdraw, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: That puts us in a very difficult position, where I have no choice but to then ask—
Hon Trevor Mallard: It was not an unparliamentary comment.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, the member alluded to a substantial amount of money being the benefit to the family. The Minister has taken objection to that, I think, with justification. I will ask the member once more to stand and withdraw that comment. If not—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I will not withdraw the truth. Her—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Hon Trevor Mallard will leave the Chamber.
So you can see that if an MP calls another MP a fool or an idiot, or claims that an MP set someone up, or they made things up or their family received money or says something that upsets them then at their request the offending MP can be forced to withdraw their comment.
But yesterday the rules appeared to change. John Key claiming that Labour and Kelvin Davis are “backing the rapists” which is patently not true as well as being completely offensive is somehow acceptable Parliamentary language.
Rob Salmond may be right and Key may have engaged in the Crosby Textor diversionary dead cat tactic. But the speaker’s job is to try and maintain some sort of order and not let the debating chamber descend into a bar room brawl.
Other speakers have taken the job seriously. Former speaker Lockwood Smith received accolades from the opposition for insisting that Ministers needed to answer straight questions with a straight answer. He understood the importance of the Parliamentary process.
I expect that there will be considerable attention on question time this afternoon. And if we witness the same sort of decision making by the Speaker then who knows what will happen.
And public respect for the political process will deteriorate further. Maybe this is the plan …