A bit of drama happened in Parliament yesterday. It seems the simmering resentment within National’s ranks reached boiling point.
It started after Bennett showed her inability to ask a simple question, or at least one that is within Parliament’s standing orders.
The rules are clear. Here they are:
Questions must be concise and not contain—
(a) statements of facts and names of persons unless they are strictly necessary to render the question intelligible and can be authenticated, or
(b) arguments, inferences, imputations, epithets, ironical expressions, or expressions of opinion, or
(c) discreditable references to the House or any member of Parliament or any offensive or unparliamentary expression.
And here is the question that started it all off.
Hon Paula Bennett: So why was a $2.8 billion bribe for tertiary students more important than her promises around health, education, and police that she’s promised?
Mr SPEAKER: No, no, no. I’m going to require the deputy leader of the National Party to rephrase that question in a way that she knows is within Standing Orders, and she’s not getting an extra question for doing it; this will be a new supplementary.
Hon Paula Bennett: Why was a $2.8 billion payment for tertiary students more important than her promises around health, education, and police?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, a narrow view of the policy given this will have a greater potential impact for those workers who have never ever engaged in post-secondary education. But my second question: if it’s a bribe, will you reverse it?
“Bribe” is one of those unparliamentary phrases (see page 13441) which causes disorder and Mallard was right to pick up on it.
Bennett became upset because she had to use up a further question to ask the question properly and then stormed out of Parliament. All I can say is diddums.
Brownlee also lost it, vented and then cost National a further five questions.
You would have thought this would be the end of the matter and National would lick its wounds but no.
National has chosen to escalate the matter and attack Mallard on a different basis, essentially that he leaked a National MP’s description of Jacinda Ardern being a “silly little girl” to the media.
From Radio New Zealand:
The National Party has issued a strident letter to Parliament’s referee Trevor Mallard, demanding he explain his role in a story about an alleged sexist remark.
Mr Mallard, who is Speaker of the House, insists he heard a National MP call the Prime Minister “a stupid little girl” in the debating chamber two weeks ago.
The remark was first reported last week by Newshub but no source was given. Mr Mallard confirmed on Wednesday those were the words he heard.
The audio recording of the incident is unclear and National’s MPs have denied saying any such thing.
National MP Gerry Brownlee said it was unacceptable for the Speaker to promote stories about unverified events.
“None of us heard it and none of us said it,” he said.
“The only person who says he heard it is the Speaker and we are concerned about why some days after it had been dealt with, it’s now back in the media.”
The allegation is strange. When you watch the video Mallard immediately responded to something that was shouted out in Parliament. The implication that Mallard is making this all up days later is bizarre.
And this Heather Du Plessis Allan interview of Bridges raises more questions than it answers. Bridges was asked who called the Prime Minister a stupid little girl and Bridges gives this reply:
I don’t know if anyone cause here’s the thing I was sitting there, I didn’t hear it, I’m closer to the supposed people who might have said it. I’ve informally gone around some of the people who supposedly are in the line up of culprits or possible culprits. No one has told me they said it so was it even said.
Heather Du Plessis Allan then asks a remarkably good question.
OK so you have gone through the list of people, does mean that you have spoken to Brownlee, Bennett, Foss, Carter, Doocey, Young, Smith Finlayson and O’Connor.
And how is this for an answer from an ex Crown prosecutor:
I don’t know if I have spoken to all those people. I am not going to go on some witch hunt about a supposed theoretical thing.
So let me get this right. A lawyer has a list of nine suspects and does not ask any questions to exclude them as suspects? This really sounds like cone of silence stuff.
It looks like National has realised there is no audio of the statement and are using this to attack Mallard. And vent at the same time although as he pointed out he has given National 22 extra questions in rulings so far. Claims of being one sided appear to be excessive.
But this could be an interesting day in Parliament.
And if you do want to see what happens when unparliamentary language is used and how awful the last speaker was can I remind you of when John Key said that Labour and the Greens were backing the rapists?
Or how the speaker refused to make Key apologise?
Interesting times …