Answering the question you wish you were asked rather than the one you were is a common PR tactic (to a point) when speaking to the media. Watching a cabinet minister try the same trick in parliament really starts to unveil this government’s contempt for democracy (though this example is perhaps not quite as bad as stay-on-your-bum Gerry Brownlee).
Marty G has well proven Nick Smith’s propensity to play with or hide numbers when they don’t quite suit him. First in this post showing he edited a Treasury costing he then tabled in parliament to make it look as though they didn’t know the future costs of the ETS’s subsidies to polluters. Then in this post three days ago telling the real story of the ACC beat up. In neither post did anyone seriously bother disputing the claims Marty G made.
Question time yesterday was so (almost)laughably pathetic that I just couldn’t resist putting yet another nail in the coffin.
If the questions being asked were out of the ordinary and raised issues not raised before, one could understand Nick Smith stumbling a little. Even then I would hope and expect a cabinet minister to promise to follow up and get the real answers sought.
The question asked however was simple: ‘What is the estimated whole-of-life cost to ACC of all new claims made in the financial year ended 30 June 2009?’
Nick Smith gave an answer completely irrelevant to the question: ‘The annual report of the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) tabled last week shows that the current estimate for claim costs for the year ended 30 June 2009 is $7.103 billion. ‘
He then claimed, ‘The answer is the advice I have received from ACC. The question was forwarded over to ACC, and that is the answer it has provided me with.’
Under further pressure he simply repeated his original answer.
Nick Smith had hours before question time yesterday to ensure he had a correct answer to a simple question. If he really believed the question was about what the current claim costs were, why did he need to forward it to ACC for advice? He had after all tabled the annual report in parliament only the week before.
The last supplementary was a nice patsy one from a National backbencher:
Michael Woodhouse: What reports has the Minister seen on not fully funding accident compensation, and returning it to a ‘pay as you go’ model?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The problem with ‘pay as you go’ is that the costs of today’s accidents are passed on to future generations…
Really? Could it possibly be the future costs of today’s claims that Labour’s David Parker was asking for in the first place?
This is an issue fundamentally related to a beat up that Nick Smith came up with and has spent significant time hammering out through the media, alleging that Labour ‘lost’ billions of dollars from ACC. Making that serious an allegation, one would at least expect him to be prepared and well briefed on the issue.
Pretending he still doesn’t understand the difference between the whole-of-life cost of new claims, and the current claim costs just doesn’t fly. And if he was telling the truth, he most certainly is not fit to be a cabinet minister.