Author of own misfortune

Labour MP Chris Hipkins blogs:

On the 8th of December I lodged a number of Written Parliamentary Questions to John Key in his capacity as Minister Reponsible for Ministerial Services. They all involved spending on services provided to ministers (eg. self-drive cars, VIP cars, ministerial housing etc). I had assumed that given the “Double Dipton” debacle they’d be keen to be seen as open and transparent.

So far John Key has replied to all of them with the same answer: “I am unable to provide the member with the information requested in the timeframe available. I will provide the member with the answer as soon as possible.”

All of the questions were lodged on the 8th of December, so he’s already had several weeks. In almost all cases there are examples of similar questions having been asked of Helen Clark in the past. I’m sure John Key isn’t going to argue that he should be subject to a lower standard of accountability than his predecessor, so I’ll look forward to getting his answers before he takes off for his holiday in Hawaii.

A snide wee post from Chris where he laves out certain key information. And we won’t even touch on his assertion that a period of 12 days is “several weeks” except to comment this proves the case for national standards in numeracy.

Now the first big omission from Chris is how many questions Helen Clark got as Minister of Ministerial Services. Over an entire three year term from 2005 to 2008, she got 150 – an average of one a week.

And how many have Chris and his mates submitted in just December 2009? 128!!!!

I am all for Ministers answering parliamentary questions – they are important. But frankly you look like a wally if you file 128 questions in the weeks before Xmas (and during a time when the PM is known to be overseas) and then complain that you don’t get replies promptly.

Also important to note is that many of the questions are not ones seeking just one item of information – ie something one staffer can do in under an hour. Some examples are:

How much office or administation area was leased by Departments, Ministries or Crown Entities for which they are responsible in the 2008/09 year listed by department/ministry/crown entity, building name, total area leased and rental cost?

How many days sick leave was taken by staff in each of the Departments, Ministries or Crown entities for which they are responsible for each month in 2009?

What was the total cost to date of petrol for ministerial self-drive cars received by their minister on or after 19 November 2008 and how does that figure break down by month?

Just imagine the scores and scores of hours it will take to compile that sort of information for 128 questions.

Now I am a firm defender of the right for the Opposition to ask these questions and gain the info. But frankly they should not expect to get 128 replies within a couple of weeks and have only themselves to blame for not asking earlier, or spreading them out more evenly.

Again remember, Chris and his colleagues have almost asked more in two weeks than Helen Clark got in three years for this portfolio – a piece of information he forgot to mention in his little snideness.

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