Claire Trevett covers Parliament yesterday. I have to say I thought Lockwood was in awesome form as Speaker.
First of all he handled a huge amount of complaints from Labour MPs about his decision to now allow signs about an industrial dispute to be displayed on boxes, so they get seen on TV. The rules allow party logos, but not signs or slogans. You could see certain Labour MPs were right on the brink of either walking out, or trying to wallop Lockwood. Even normally good natured Darren Hughes was pushing it, by slapping a box off a desk onto a seat, rather than placing it there.
But no way was Lockwood being partisan. Gerry Brownlee obviously did not want to answer the question about when the Government decided to back or fund a TVNZ bid but Lockwood kept insisting that as the question was set down, and factual, it deserves an answer. Gerry tried arguing that as no amount had been discussed, he could not answer that but Lockwood insisted. Look at this exchange:
10. BRENDON BURNS (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Broadcasting: When did the Government decide to offer financial support to a TVNZ-led bid to gain the free-to-air rights for the Rugby World Cup?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister of Broadcasting: The Government is committed to the concept of a stadium of 4 million people supporting the Rugby World Cup in 2011. Free-to-air broadcasts of matches must, therefore, have the widest possible coverage. The Government is united in that view. However, the specifics of any costs have not yet been determined.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need a point of order. The question on notice asked a very straight question: when did the Government decide to offer financial support to TVNZ? Either the Government has or it has not offered support, but the House deserves to hear an answer to the question since it was on notice and it is a straight question.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: And I gave a straight answer. The specifics of any costs have not been determined.
Mr SPEAKER: The question on notice did not ask what the cost was. The Minister is perfectly at liberty to point out that the Government has not decided to offer financial support, but the question asked “When did the Government decide to offer financial support to a TVNZ-led bid to gain the free-to-air rights for the Rugby World Cup?”. It may be that the answer is that the Government has not decided to do that, but if it has, the question asked about when it decided. It did not ask about how much money is involved. I ask the Minister to answer the question.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I raise a point or order, Mr Speaker. You are deciding to interpret the question as being one that is correct. I would love to know where the verification that the Government has made such a determination came from in the first place. I decided—
Mr SPEAKER: I invite the Minister to resume his seat. A perfectly fair answer to the question would be that the Government has not made such a decision. That is a perfectly proper answer, but the Minister did not offer the House that answer. It is a perfectly fair and proper question, and there is public interest in it. I believe that the House deserves to hear an answer. Forgive me; I am not interpreting the question. “When” is a very simple word.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Government has not determined the specifics of any costs that may be required.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, I say the question was one of timing, and “when” is a very simple word. I think your office has been supplied with material from the Hon Jonathan Coleman, which I am sure people will be finding for us now, indicating that the Government had made that decision. All—
Mr SPEAKER: I do not want to get into debating the substance of the matter. The question simply asked “When did the Government decide to offer financial support?”. It did not ask about the specifics; it asked when a decision was made to offer financial support. It may be that it is not in the public interest to reveal that, but the question has been on notice for some hours and I think the House deserves to hear an answer.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have said three times that it has not made that determination.
I really can’t recall any previous Speaker being so willing to force an answer out of his or her own party’s Ministers.