Hansard (debates)

Draft transcripts

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Date:
20 October 2014

Draft transcript - Monday, 20 October 2014

Election of Speaker

Speech - The CLERK

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House): I wish to nominate the Rt Hon David Carter for the office of Speaker.

Election of Speaker

Speech - The CLERK

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Deputy Leader of the House): I second the nomination of the Rt Hon David Carter for the office of Speaker.

Election of Speaker

Speech - The CLERK

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I wish to nominate someone experienced, independent, and neutral: Ron Mark MP.

Election of Speaker

Speech - The CLERK

TRACEY MARTIN (Deputy Leader—NZ First): I wish to second the nomination of Ron Mark MP.

Election of Speaker

Speech - Mr SPEAKER-ELECT

Mr SPEAKER-ELECT: Honourable members of the House of Representatives, I am honoured that you have elected me as Speaker of the 51st Parliament. It is a privileged position and it is one that I understand far more now than I did when I was first elected Speaker nearly 2 years ago. When I spoke on that occasion I promised I would strive to make the transition to being Parliament’s man, to uphold the dignity of this House, and to preserve order in an unbiased manner, and I reaffirm that commitment to you all today. To members returning from the last Parliament I especially acknowledge the courtesy you showed me over the last 2 years. I know that some of the decisions that I made would not have received total support from you but those decisions, once made, were always accepted and I think this acknowledges the special role—the very special role—that the Speaker has in the New Zealand democratic system. It is also a demonstration of the respect that members have for the dignity of this House. As I have learnt more of the role of Speaker, and as I have become more conversant with the other democracies around the world, ours is very special. It is recognised throughout the world as transparent, accountable, and relevant. It is a Parliament that I am very proud to serve. I intend to play my part in seeing that reputation enhanced. As Speaker-Elect, I will obey the instruction and go to the Governor-General this afternoon. Again, thank you for this opportunity.

[Continuation line: Rt Hon John Key]

Election of Speaker

Speech - Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister)

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Mr Speaker-Elect, can I begin by being the first to offer you my congratulations on your election to the Chair. At the risk of but not wanting to burst your bubble, Mr Speaker-Elect, because this is a very important day for you, can I simply note that there was less competition for you to become Speaker than there is to become the new leader of the Labour Party. For almost 2 years now you have managed the business of the House with authority and with confidence. I recall you were first elected Speaker on 31 January last year. I spoke of your achievements to date at that time as a member of this House. I spoke of your career prior to entering Parliament, and your studies at St Bede’s College and, of course, Canterbury University. Today I would like to share some of the lesser known facts about your time here in Parliament. When you are outside this Chamber I know that you have a love of running—fitting, as you will be running the show here in the House in a few days’ time. But my staff tell me that you are often seen on Wellington’s waterfront before dawn out for a run. I am advised by a Deep Throat source in your office today that you considered to do just that this morning and to go for a run but, sadly, you had forgotten to bring your shorts with you. I am also advised that you were not deterred by such a fact and considered that was not an inhibitor for your going for a morning run. But members will take great confidence in that you are a person who listens to good advice and, in the end, you decided to give it a miss. What members may not be aware of is that you and your wife, Heather, who is present here today—and we acknowledge Heather—have a fierce rivalry and are known for entering the same races and events to see who can outrun the other. I would like to take this moment to pay tribute to you and your family, including your daughters Sophie, Laura, Isabella, and Morgan, who are all here today, and I want to personally acknowledge Isabella, who makes the finest fudge in the history of this country with the recipe well known from Rangi Ruru Girls School . As all members of Parliament know, and those who have been sworn in for the very first time today will soon learn, the support of families is absolutely crucial, so it is wonderful that your family is gathered here in the Chamber today to see your election. Mr Speaker-Elect, you come to this role with over 19 years’ experience as a member of this House, sitting on both sides as a Minister, member of the Opposition, and the Government whip. I know that you will rule this House with a firm but fair hand. I wish to congratulate you on behalf of the National Party on your re-election and to wish you all the very best for the years ahead.

[Continuation line: Hon David Parker]

Election of Speaker

Speech - Hon DAVID PARKER (Acting Leader of the Opposition)

Hon DAVID PARKER (Acting Leader of the Opposition): On behalf of the Labour Party Opposition I, too, tender our congratulations on your reappointment to this important role. We do rely upon you in the Opposition to fairly apply Standing Orders so that we can hold the Government to account, whilst you also have the obligation to, at one level, enable the Government to do its business in accordance with Standing Orders. I would say that having regard to the change of balance in the House, we look forward to your accepting the 60th closure motion before you draw contentious legislation to an end. There will be contentious moments in this House. The business of Opposition and the business of Government are both very important roles. We are reliant upon you giving us a fair go. We are confident that you will and we look forward to your conduct of yourself over the next 3 years.

[Continuation line: Russel Norman]

Election of Speaker

Speech - Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green)

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green): Congratulations, Mr Speaker-Elect, on your successful nomination for Speaker of this House. On behalf of the Green Party caucus I wish you well for your second stint at the beginning of this 51st Parliament. You come to the role with 19 years’ experience as a member of this House, as a Minister, a member of the Opposition, and as a Government whip. You bring to the House the wisdom of your time both in Parliament and outside Parliament. We wish you the very best in applying that wisdom and experience to this crucial role as Chairperson of this House. As you are aware, one of the functions of this House, according to the text on this place, McGee, is to: “ ... scrutinise Government decisions and to receive genuine explanations from Ministers about the administration of their portfolios.” One of the ways the House achieves these functions is through question time, which you chair. McGee describes the process of holding Government to account as the: “ ... quid pro quo for the authority they consider necessary to carry on governing the country,”. McGee goes on to say: “Many of the procedures of the House are designed specifically to enable the House to play its part in the scrutiny and control of the Government. These include questions addressed to Ministers, general and urgent debates, and select committees of members investigating matters of governmental responsibility and regulations made by the Government under powers delegated by Parliament. Everything the House does potentially gives it the opportunity to probe and criticise the actions of the Government.” It would seem to me that in order for the Opposition to effectively do its duty—to effectively probe, scrutinise, and criticise the actions of the Government, which is our job—we need actual answers to questions in question time to the questions we pose to Ministers about their portfolios. To achieve that, the Green Party asks that you reconsider one of your rulings. The previous Speaker ruled that questions should be answered; straight questions deserve straight answers is what Dr Lockwood Smith said. You reinterpreted that ruling to say that they had only to be addressed, which is of course what the Standing Orders say, and I appreciate that the Standing Orders do say that. I would ask you to reconsider that ruling. I think that the ruling by Dr Smith that straight questions deserve straight answers made a big difference to this House. As you are aware there are very serious concerns currently about the Government’s application of the Official Information Act, including possibly illegal delaying activities, which are being investigated the Chief Ombudsman, Beverley Wakem. The Official Information Act and question time are two of the key mechanisms available to the Opposition members of Parliament to seek explanations from Ministers and to hold them to account for the decisions that they make. I would argue that there is a real risk—a chilling risk—to our democracy if during question time Ministers are not required to answer straight questions. This is a time of great pomp and ceremony today and tomorrow, and of course Lockwood Smith was a great lover of pomp and ceremony, and introduced some elements of pomp and ceremony into this place. But Dr Smith was not only a great lover of pomp and ceremony; he was also a believer in parliamentary accountability—the idea that the Government of the day should be accountable to Parliament for its actions. That is what question time is all about. I think it is time we went back to his ruling that straight questions deserve straight answers. It made question time a better place; it made our Parliament a better place. The pomp that Dr Smith introduced into Parliament remains but some of the content has faded because question time is weaker. I request that you revert to Dr Smith’s ruling. It was a good ruling. The role of the Speaker in our democracy is a sacred one. Once it was to protect Parliament against a monarch; these days it is more to protect Parliament and our democratic institutions against the Government of the day. I would ask that you enforce those rulings by Dr Smith.

[Continuation line: Rt Hon Winston Peters]

Election of Speaker

Speech - Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First)

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): Having had a nominee ourselves, it would be churlish not to congratulate you, Mr Speaker-Elect , on your reappointment, and to assure you that all of your judicious, considerate, independent, fair, and equitable decisions and rulings will have the support of New Zealand First. Question time should not be an exercise that puts one in mind of pulling hen’s teeth; it should be an exercise where the truth prevails and where prevarication and organised deceit should not in the end triumph. That is what our view in New Zealand First is. We do wish to see a change in the way that question time occurs, for without it, outside of this Parliament others will be seen to be more careful about the quality of our democracy than we have been. That is not to prejudge what you may have learnt in the last 2 years, but, certainly, we would be hoping that in the future, someone who has done the research and the homework to come to Parliament to ask a Minister for an answer on a serious matter of public interest will have a chance to get at the truth by the end of that exercise. In the meantime, Mr Speaker-Elect, we wish you all the best.

[Continuation line: Te Ururoa Flavell]

Election of Speaker

Speech - Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL (Leader—Māori Party - Waiariki)

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL (Leader—Māori Party - Waiariki):

[Continuation line: Hon Peter Dunne]

Election of Speaker

Speech - Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future - Ōhariu)

Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future - Ōhariu): Mr Speaker-Elect , can I be amongst those to congratulate you on your re-election. I think I have probably known you longer than anyone in this House. Certainly, as the first of the St Bede’s College contingent in this place, it is great to see you back in this role. Over the last couple of years, you have noticeably grown, both in your confidence in terms of interpreting the role before you and in your treatment of members and also in the judgments that you have applied. I am sure that the benefit of that experience is that you will serve this House particularly well during the coming term. One of the things that you lay claim to when you go to Government House is the rights and privileges of the House and its members. I think that they have been under some challenge in recent times, both in terms of what has gone on in this place but also in terms of some of the challenges that external agencies are posing. We look to you as, in your words, Parliament’s man to uphold the rights and privileges, not just of the House as an institution but of its individual members as well, to ensure that this is a true House of Representatives where members can conduct their business in a free and unfettered way. I have every confidence that you will continue to serve this House well and I am very pleased to have supported your re-election.

[Continuation line: David Seymour]

Election of Speaker

Speech - DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT)

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader--ACT): I rise on behalf of the ACT Party and my fellow Epsom electors to congratulate you, Mr Speaker-Elect, on your recent election. I know from having watched your performances on YouTube for many hours late at night that you will preside over the proceedings of this House with a judicious ear and a stern voice. Let me reiterate my congratulations to you with great anticipation of a successful parliamentary term. Thank you.

[Continuation line: Mr Speaker-Elect]

Adjournment

Speech - Mr SPEAKER-ELECT

Mr SPEAKER-ELECT: Can I thank members for their comments. The job is a challenge—I think that is acknowledged in the comments that have been made—but it is a challenge that I will strive to do my best at. On the points raised, particularly by the co-leader of the Green Party, I will do my best, because I accept Lockwood Smith’s ruling that a straight question deserves a straight answer. What I do say to all members is that when they are asking their supplementary questions if they can keep them short and ask a straight question, that will certainly make my job considerably easier to assist a member to then get a straight answer. Ladies and gentlemen, as per your instruction I will proceed to Government House this afternoon.

The House adjourned at 12.36 p.m.