We got a guest post a fortnight ago that we keep meaning to put up with the title “Worth fails to cock-up for a week, apologises to PM”. Lucky we didn’t speak too soon.
The background is this. Chris Hipkins, like any good MP does, has been asking written questions to the minister for his portfolios, who happens to be Richard Worth. Written questions are an important means for parliament to check the activities of the government.
Hipkins asked basic, run of the mill questions on matters of public interest: “What are the dates and titles of all reports, briefings and submissions he has received from the Department of Internal Affairs since 19 November 2008?”
Worth was asked these on December 10th, just three weeks into his role, so the list can’t have been too long yet Worth answered: “I receive a wide range of reports from agencies, including the Department of Internal Affairs, on a number of issues. To identify all the reports I have received since I was appointed Minister of Internal Affairs on 19 November 2007 would require a commitment of resources, which I am unwilling to make.”
Hipkins didn’t let go at that point. He asked follow ups and Worth admitted his office has systems for recording the reports he is sent but refused to even say how many he had received because it would take too long. When Hipkins asked how long he estimated it would take, Worth said that wasn’t he responsibility. There’s no good excuse, Worth simply isn’t living up to his constitutional responsibility as a minister to answer questions put to him by MPs.
Yesterday morning, John Key made a vague, easy-to-back-out-of commitment to ‘have a look‘ at why Worth is breaching his constitutional duty as a minister.
Fortunately for fans of political car crashes, that wasn’t the end of things. Worth has now put out a release, which basically has a cry saying that Hipkins is asking too many questions and they’re too general. The extraordinary thing is that no-one told him not to release it – either did he not consult his colleagues or they didn’t tell him that whining about having to be accountable isn’t a good look.
There will doubtless be questions today in parliament about Worth’s behaviour but the real question is why Key is letting this incompetent keep his job.