Praise for Lockwood

February 11th, 2009 at 6:56 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong praises for what he calls his “democratic bombshell”:

Take a bow, Lockwood Smith. At long last, the House has a who seems serious about removing the blight on New Zealand’s democracy – the increasing tendency of Cabinet ministers to thumb their noses at the constitutional convention that they are accountable to .

Smith dropped a bit of a bombshell on the first sitting day of the year when he expressed displeasure with Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson’s reply to an Opposition question about the minimum wage, and then instructed her to answer the question again.

Such a practice is almost unheard of. You could see the jaws of National Party colleagues collectively dropping in shock.

I am 100% with Lockwood on this. His ruling does not apply too all questions, but only to the pre-notified primary questions and only when they are asking something factual, rather than an opinion. In those circumstances, one should get a proper response. Now of course the Minister should be able to robustly swipe back at the Opposition also, but this should be on top of giving the actual answer, not instead of.

Such interventions will not win Smith plaudits from his colleagues. They sat in Opposition for nine frustrating years complaining about Labour ministers diving for cover when the political heat was on.

Now in Government, they would expect the boot to be on the other foot. That it isn’t may be unfair on National. But stopping the parliamentary rot meant someone had to start somewhere at some time. Smith has done the right thing by serving notice that he expects ministers to lift their game. The onus is now on him to continue in the manner in which he has begun.

I seem to recall the Herald’s Political Editor saying she thought Lockwood would bomb as Speaker. I look forward to her next blog :-)

In a more minor change Lockwood has also changed the route the Speaker’s procession will take every sitting day at 2 pm. Rather than go straight from the Speaker’s Office to the back entrance to the House through a private corridor, it will now go through the main lobby, allowing the public to see it.

This met with support from all sides, but funniest comment was Dr Cullen who suggested Lockie make it clear that the press gallery can not ask questions of the Speaker during the official procession. I doubt even Duncan Garner would be quite that cheeky!

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18 Responses to “Praise for Lockwood”

  1. Exiled (20 comments) says:

    I find it somewhat hypocritical of Armstrong to suddenly have become a cheerleader for the politicians to be held accountable and to actually treat question time with the respect it deserves. Had Armstrong and a few other so-called journalists not breathlessly recounted the ‘he said, she said’ to and fro of question times past, particularly pausing to salivate over Cullen’s so-called rapier wit, perhaps the politicians may have been a little less inclined to present the middle finger to the general public the way they have.

    I feel the quality of our politicians is directly related to the quality of our political, ahem, reporters.

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  2. big bruv (13,331 comments) says:

    I know that Lockwood is doing the right thing and I know that the house could not continue to operate as it had done under the useless Margaret Wilson but it does irk me to see the Labour scum not have to operate under the same conditions as the Nat’s had to suffer for the last nine years.

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  3. bharmer (686 comments) says:

    Has Lockwood acquired a taste for ceremonial? I am not sure that the newly introduced processions add hugely to the perceptions of the speaker’s role.

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  4. 3-coil (1,200 comments) says:

    bharmer – perhaps Lockwood’s preference not to “go straight from the Speaker’s Office to the back entrance..” is to avoid more of the crass homophobic jibes that tosser Cullen has loved to taunt him with in the past…

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  5. Glutaemus Maximus (2,207 comments) says:

    What, is Cullen Gay?

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  6. slightlyrighty (2,496 comments) says:

    When I heard the Speaker actually hold a minister to account, My first thought was along the lines of “That’s not right! Shouldn’t the speaker be protecting the government?” But I immediately checked myself. A good government needs no such protection.

    This single exchange should have the last Labour Government hanging it’s head in shame, and Margaret Wilson’s conduct has been exposed for what it was. The craven protection of a bad government.

    This is a breath of fresh air. We have a government that seems prepared to hold itself to account. Good on them!

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  7. GerryandthePM (328 comments) says:

    Anyone who watched Parliament in recent years must have noticed how farcical question time had become.
    Smug Ministers guffawed their way past giving reasonable answers, and the Prime Minister obfuscated with carefully constructed weasel words when serious questions were asked.
    The Government’s bit players further detracted from the most public face of our Parliamentary business with frequent childish interjections by way of spurious points of order.
    Sadly the Speaker was unable to recognise the damage to democracy that this lack accountability was engendering.
    The Press Gallery seemed powerless, or simply unwilling, to call this for what it was.
    That lack of accountability became so brazen that eventually the tide of public opinion turned on what had seemed an unassailable hold on the Treasury benches by a coalition of the swilling.
    John Key has indicated that the National Party wants to be judged by a higher standard of ethics than the previous Government, and Lockwood Smith, as Speaker, is holding the new Government to that word.
    The Speaker’s entourage, by leaving the Chamber via the front lobby, rather than the private back corridor, symbolises a return to dignity that our Parliment desperately deserves.
    The Opposition parties would be unwise to not recognise the courtesy and goodwill that this new Goverment is extending to them.
    And so would the Press.

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  8. LUCY (359 comments) says:

    The beginning of a government that behaves ethically and professionally. We have waited a long time for a government that has standards. Yahhhhhhhh!!!!!

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  9. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    The Herald says

    “the increasing tendency of Cabinet ministers to thumb their noses at the constitutional convention that they are accountable to Parliament.”

    I would have said “accountable to the citizens of NZ”. The opposition politicians are elected by the voters and are in effect their voice in parliament. The utter arrogance and apparent ignorance of this fact that was displayed by such as Helen Klark, David Cunliffe, Peter Hodgson, and Chris Carter was a complete disgrace, and would not have been tolerated in a country where the media acted in the interests of the people rather than socialism, and did not fawn so nauseatingly and fraternally over left wing politicians.

    The Labour Government and its stooge speaker Margaret Wilson in their collective arrogance and contempt for Westminster style public accountability demonstrated why left wing governments are always going to be a danger to democracy.

    ..and I agree with the commenters above. Why now? Armstrong said virtually nothing while these commie scum turned Question Time into a totalitarian and dictatorial farce. Man, I try not to be too hard on these weasels calling themselves journalists, but that Armstrong and his hopeless colleagues never made any strong protests about the conduct of the fraud Wilson and her commie cronies in nine years of arrogance is one of the primary reasons why the situation developed to the extent it did.

    Your job Mr. Armstrong is to protect NZ citizens from the predations of big government, not cover up for it and fawn over it and do its propaganda. NZ’s journalists need to get off their collective useless arses and start doing their job, but no matter how well they do it from this point on, they’ll never be forgiven for their abject failure to perform over the last nine years.

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  10. phobius (46 comments) says:

    Margaret Wilson was on the New Year’s Honours list and received a gong “For services as a Member of Parliament and as Speaker of the House of Representatives.”

    Could anyone advise on the process for petitioning the crown to have the honour stripped from her or at least to have the acknowledgement of being the Speaker of the House removed. The last part is particularly incorrect, insulting and absolutely cheapens the gong for past, present, and future recipients.

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  11. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    While one does have a natural desire for payback we were vicious in our condemnation of Labours holding themselves above account. We can be satisfied with getting what we demanded, an accountable government.

    I don’t expect Smith will be cutting the oposition any slack though.

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  12. Sam Buchanan (502 comments) says:

    Well, it’s a small step towards having a parliamentary culture that expects MPs to act like adults, but welcome anyway.

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  13. georgebolwing (612 comments) says:

    In the UK, and to a lesser extent Australia, Question Time is actually a time where Ministers are genuinely held to account and have to debate the issues.

    In the UK, they go so far as allocating a whole question time to each portfolio, by rotation. All ministers in a portfolio, junior and senior, attend and there ensues questions AND ANSWERS, often at length, discussing the issues of the day.

    Regardless of the rota, the Prime Minister faces a half hour of questions each week. This the high point of the Parliamentary week, where the debating skills of the PM are put to the test.

    Look at the one from last week and compare it with what happens in NZ: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/cm090204/debtext/90204-0002.htm#09020464000008

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  14. PhilBest (5,117 comments) says:

    Great comments, everyone.

    Can someone please tell me of an occasion when socialists in power actually reciprocated for the honourable behaviour of their conservative opponents?

    The only way out of this, is to have a constitution binding on all governments, that will be enforced by their removal at gunpoint by an apolitical police force or military in the event of it not being honoured. There are times when a nation might actually benefit from a Bainamarama.

    And as for the media, Redbaiter and the others are right. Someone I was reading recently commented that the USA’s founding fathers failed to foresee what the media might become, although the Constitution was just right in so many other ways. They granted enormous freedoms to the press, on the assumption that the Press was a “check” to government power; they did not foresee a day when the Press would be cheerleaders FOR massive encroachments of government power on the rights of the individual, and would be cheerleaders for any such political parties to the extent of participating in the covering up of their misdemeanours.

    Abridgement of the freedoms of the media will of course come from the Left, and the abridgements will be selectively applied AGAINST what elements remain, that would be a “check” on their powers.

    Evil has triumphed because good men “did nothing”.

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  15. georgebolwing (612 comments) says:

    I would start with a constitution binding on all governments that will be enforced by independent judges.

    To appoint these judges, I would propose something like the following:

    a) when a vacancy arises, the Attorney-General would convene a panel comprised of (i) the deans of each laws school in New Zealand (ii) the deans of two laws schools in Australia, (iii) the dean of a law school in the UK and (iv) every former Attorney-General, not a current member of parliament, under age 75.

    b) the panel would meet and select a candidate for the office, by a significant super-majority;

    c) the candidate would appear before a select committee to answer questions touching on their qualification for office (a confirmation hearing);

    d) provided the committee agrees by a two-thirds majority that the candidate is suitable for office, their appointment would be recommended to the House; and

    e) a similar two-thirds majority of members of the House would be required for the appointment to be approved;

    f) the G-G would then appoint the person, who would hold office for life, subject to removal from office, for proved misbehaviour or incapacity, by a two-thirds majority vote of the House, following an investigation by a select committee.

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  16. bka (135 comments) says:

    Lockwood’s approach may also be an incentive to reduce the gaming that occurs whereby a very wide ranging question gets set down, followed up by a specific supplementary that the Minister has had no chance to prepare. Supplementaries are limited by the scope of the initial question. If the Ministers don’t face a possible free-for-all over their portfolios that is a plus for them, besides the public interest in less BS in the House.

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  17. berend (1,634 comments) says:

    And here a contrary view, if National MPs are reading this, please take note: http://lindsaymitchell.blogspot.com/2009/02/just-answer-damn-question-cant-you.html:

    8692 (2008). Hon Annette King to the Minister for Social Development and Employment (12 Dec 2008): How many staff are employed within the Ministry of Social Development, by section and occupatio at 12 December 2008?

    Hon Paula Bennett (Minister for Social Development and Employment) replied: I am advised that the number of staff employed by the Ministry of Social Development is regularly raised as part of the Annual Financial Review and Estimates Examinations of the Ministry of Social Development by the Social Services Committee, which are both available from the Parliamentary Library.

    Linday’s comment: I do not have access to the Parliamentary library. These answers are supposed to serve the public as well as MPs. What is so secret, anyway, about the number of staff employed by MSD? This one is uncooperative and obstructive.

    We the people like answers to factual questions, except if they are operational matters (Linday’s first question, where, I think, she is incorrect in describing it as evasive).

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  18. Seán (396 comments) says:

    Perhaps Lockwood’s tough stance on ministers’ replies is a sign of an underlying resentment at not becoming a minister himself…!

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