The panel discussion afterwards was very interesting. It was Therese Arseneau, Paul Holmes, Ron Mark and Laila Harre. They were all very approving of Lockwood’s decision to try and get Ministers to answer the question, if it is a straight forward primary question.
Laila made an interesting point, about why this may have happened. She said that Lockwood is not personally or politically very close to the National Party Leadership. She contrasted that to Margaret Wilson and Jonathan Hunt who were both extremely close to Clark. In fact we got told how every time she had been in the Speaker’s office, Clark had phoned Hunt while she was there. There is a certain incompatability with being a senior advisor to the PM, and being the Speaker. And we saw that when we had the disgraceful collusion over Harry Duynhoven’s status as an MP.
Lockie I am sure values his own public reputation more than making life too easy for his colleagues. Hence why he has tried to change some things. And ironically I think it actually benefits National also, even though some weaker Ministers may find it hard going. The public see a Government as very arrogant when it refuses to answer even the most simple questions. It loses votes eventually.
What I have found interesting is that Lockie has actually introduced a number of changes, not just redefining the line between addressing and answering the questions. They are:
- Playing “advantage”. This was referred to as a light handed regulatory approach with clear boundaries, but I see it as a rugby analogy where he concentrates more on kepping the game flowing, rather than penalising every technical infringement. Several times I have heard him say something along the lines of giving the Opposition more supplementaries because a Minister went on too long. So rather than pul everyone up, he is just striving for a reasonably fair process.
- The previously referred to moving the boundary between addressing and answering the question
- Is cracking down on points or order that are not points or order. Winston used to be the biggest offender at that – I would say only around 2% of his points or order were legitimate, but Wilson would never pull him up.
- Discouraging tabling of documents just to be able to read out what it is. He can not stop anyone seeking leave to do so, but has tried to shame MPs by pointing out whenever they seek leave that they are abusing the process and leave should only be sought for documents not already available to MPs. And this seems to have had some effect on reducing such tabling requests
- Time – it has been many years since question time took only an hour. Hell Helen called a snap election in 2002 because of a few extra minutes a day of question time. In the last two years it was routinely taking around 100 minutes. It is now a lot closer to 60 again.
TVNZ also has online the transcript of the interview with Judith Collins.