A number of poor performing ministers like Paula Bennett, Kate Wilkinson, Anne Tolley, Pita Sharples, Tariana Turia, Rodney Hide, Pansy Wong, and Key himself, have tried to extradite themselves from sticky situations in the House by lying. It was only a matter of time until one of them lied so blatantly that a privileges complaint was laid.
Nick Smith was always a top candidate for a complaint. His handling of ACC has been ideological, error-ridden, and over-blown. The compliant itself is on an, arguably, minor matter – the claim is that Smith misled the House when he said faulty official advice was the reason he announced redundancies at ACC to the House before the staff were notified, whereas the official advice Smith had seen clearly says the staff hadn’t been advised. Basically, he lied to the House about the official advice he had received to cover his earlier breach of protocol.
Smith, who at last report had 400 unread reports on his desk, is clearly not coping with the pressures of office well. He made a total hash of the attack on ACC earlier this year derailing National’s plans for radical reform. He is clearly committed to the environment at a personal level but has led a weakening of environmental protections in government. It’s unlikely he will be able to champion a meaningful ETS against stronger characters like Joyce even if he wants to. Frankly, he’s a liability for National because you never know when he’ll crack.
I don’t know if the complaint will get far though. Speaker Lockwood Smith may well nix it. The same with the second compliant – against Chris Finlayson who told the House the Buckle St Memorial Park was in the “planning stages” when Treasury budget papers said is was “cancelled”. Finlayson says Treasury got it wrong.
Still, Labour’s strategy here is to highlight how ministers are playing fast and loose with the facts in an effort to gloss over the unpalatable truths of their government’s performance. They’re doing what a good Opposition does. Keeping the pressure on ministers and bringing their misbehaviour to light.