Armstrong on Carter

March 15th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

writes:

Taking over as Parliament’s after Lockwood Smith’s departure for the High Commissioner’s job in London was never going to be easy, no matter whom the Prime Minister hand-picked for the role. …

, Smith’s replacement, knows his initial months in the job will be judged by how close his management of the House follows the Smith doctrine.

Carter, however, has made it clear that when it comes to improving ministerial accountability, it will be done his way – not Smith’s.

The latter’s tougher stance on ministers’ answers benefited the Opposition. Labour then proceeded to push the boundaries, complaining that just about any reply did not properly answer the question.

Carter has his own solution – to embarrass the minister answering the question by immediately telling the Opposition MP to put the same question again. And again if need be.

This may not seem much of a sanction, but it makes the answering of a question to the Speaker’s satisfaction something of a test of competence. …

The other noticeable change under Carter’s regime is to allow more latitude for interjections and barracking from all sides of the House – an acknowledgment that the chamber is the principal venue for the display of political passion.

Carter also deserves credit for keeping one of Smith’s time-saving innovations – blocking MPs from trying to table documents to make a political point when those papers are freely available elsewhere.

It is still far too early to say how Carter’s tenure will end up rating the in the long list of Speakerships. As far as the Opposition is concerned, the jury is still out.

What is clear is that Carter will apply the same approach he has employed throughout his political career – to quietly and slowly build respect among both political friend and foe for handling things in a commonsense, unfussy, and unspectacular manner.

I haven’t watched question time much in the last month. How do people think Carter is going as Speaker?

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21 Responses to “Armstrong on Carter”

  1. iMP (2,387 comments) says:

    It’s too early, but David is a safe pair of hands.

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  2. slightlyright (93 comments) says:

    Always going to be a hard act to follow after Smith, slightly concerned that he is steering from away from Smith’s answer the question to address the question, but then the opposition ruined it for all by taking incessant points of order over whether the question was answered and ignored Smiths qualification that Straight Questions get Straight Answers and if members ask political questions they will get political answers and he will not assist,

    As an aside being a traditionalist not happy he appears to have done away with the Speakers robes

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  3. Pete George (23,591 comments) says:

    Early on he was criticised for rephrasing answers. Labour had an attack on him prepared the following day asking which answer should Hansard record, the Minister’s or his. But but he was ready for it. He said that he would stop interpreting and simply get questions repeated until he deemed the answer satisfactory.

    He seems to be following that approach – of course the opposition aren’t always happy, but they wouldn’t be. He seems to be prepared to learn and do his homework and is working towards a quiet unflustered consistency.

    I thought Lockwood sometimes got too involved in the detail of answers, I prefer the simple acceptable or not approach. It will take MPs from both sides of the house time to adapt.

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  4. Fisiani (1,039 comments) says:

    Lockwood was a breath of fresh air after the infamous Margaret Wilson who was so one sided it was pointless asking questions as she accepted any sort of reply as having “addressed the question”.
    Speaker Carter has taken an oath to be Parliament’s man and to be impartial.
    He has been impressive so far in allowing Oppposition to repeat the question , without loss of supplementaries, if it has not been addressed by the Minister.
    National Speakers have always been far more honest and impartial then any Labour Speaker I have ever heard,.

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  5. jaba (2,143 comments) says:

    “I thought Lockwood sometimes got too involved in the detail of answers, I prefer the simple acceptable or not approach”. .. I agree.
    He doesn’t any any shit like Smith did. I also thought Smith was a breath of fresh air as Fisiani said.
    Carter looks the goods.

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  6. JeffW (327 comments) says:

    From the little I have seen, he doesn’t seem to be a great public speaker.

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  7. hmmokrightitis (1,590 comments) says:

    Fisi I totally agree, Ms Wilson, to my mind, actually bought the house into disrepute, she was that bad. The issue for me is what could have been done about that?

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  8. Daigotsu (459 comments) says:

    He is brilliant

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  9. lazza (381 comments) says:

    Yep I have watched all of Carters Q times. He is stamping, if not his authority on the post then his common sense & likeable attitude (and his “put the question” three times to the Minister … and then he is “Out” tactics) … that appeal. Goodonhim.

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  10. Steve (North Shore) (4,564 comments) says:

    Learning curve for Carter. It wont take long for him to learn the ropes, and who should be hung from them

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  11. Johnboy (16,651 comments) says:

    Once he gets shot of that murri, endangered species stole that he wears he could shape up to be a good man! :)

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  12. Yvette (2,823 comments) says:

    Needs flashing lights around that big chair of his, with a giant three tier lighting panel above it – Paaaaaa- doooooom, drum roll with cymbals – STRIKE THREE!! _ You’re out bloody old Winston – on yer bike!!!

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  13. Johnboy (16,651 comments) says:

    I’m meant to stalk you Yvette not the other way around!!! :)

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  14. Yvette (2,823 comments) says:

    :-)

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  15. Johnboy (16,651 comments) says:

    Je suppose que vous êtes désœuvrés ce soir Yvette ?

    Ma fin est également lâche ! :)

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  16. Warren Murray (311 comments) says:

    Another commentator (was it Jane Clifton?) came to a different conclusion from Armstrong. She observed that Carter would allow a minister three attempts to answer a question before moving on to the next question. Lockwood Smith once had difficulty getting Heatley to answer a non political primary question and eventually gave up. But he made it clear that the errant minister was failing his portfolio and the House by not answering what was a straight question. Even worse as it was a primary question, so the minister had time for his officials to have a clear answer. The result was, the next day the opposition asked the same question. Heatley looked pretty silly.

    The problem with Carter’s approach is that Govt ministers can frustrate the opposition’s efforts to hold the Govt to account. Smith could differentiate between questions that were simple and straight forward and those that were designed for political point scoring. If the question was political Smith said it allowed for a political answer. If a minister didn’t give a straight answer to a straight question, under Smith’s approach it would extend question time at the expense of the government’s legislative programme (time in the House is a finite period, so anything that delays or diminishes the time for the business on the order paper, hurts the Government and is a bonus to the opposition).

    So, IMO, Armstrong is wrong and Carter’s three attempts rule limits the time the Speaker can call for an answer and this tilts the game toward the Government at the expense of accountability.

    When the tide of public opinion shifts away from National, it may regret how Carter does things. Might not be the same as Wilson’s view that addressing the question was sufficient, but if a minister can give three smart arse answers in a row to avoid answering the question, before the Speaker decides to move on, how does that make it any better than Wilson’s approach?

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  17. HC (154 comments) says:

    Sorry, Carter never had it and never will have it, to be a competent and neutral speaker. He never wanted the job, and he had good reasons to not want it. Lockwood Smith was rather good, I think, and few would live up to his standards. Wilson I think was not great, nor some others. But then again, Carter is struggling, and his only solution is to have questioners repeat questions one to three times, to stay out of trouble. It is a bit weak for a speaker to do that.

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  18. wally (65 comments) says:

    Sorry, but have encountered Carter in an area with which he previously had ministerial responsibility and he is simply not very bright.

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  19. Positan (390 comments) says:

    re hmmokrightitis “Ms Wilson, to my mind, actually bought the house into disrepute, she was that bad.”

    Without any doubt whatsoever!!!!

    Not only her unending bias towards the Clark government, no matter how sloppy its performance – but the memory of her witch-like screeches still sends shivers down my spine.

    Wilson was Clark’s appalling choice. The worst Speaker in living memory – and in all probability the worst Speaker ever by a wide margin.

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  20. tvb (4,430 comments) says:

    Speaker Carter is still finding his feet. Dr Smith was quite capable of spectacular political misjudgments. I suspect David Carter is a much safer pair of hands. But good on him for finding his own style. I for one while respecting Dr Smith do not regard his as the gold standard against who all is judged. But I do agree Margaret Wilson was the worst. Her screeetch like screams still pierce my ears like a fingernail scraping a blackboard. At least she has the good grace not to take up “Dame”.

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  21. Neil (588 comments) says:

    Carter will never be Smith, that is good. He is being himself.
    He has relaxed a lot and you can see a good feeling from all parts of the house.
    Peters is the one who really trifles with the house and the speaker.
    A last comment. What a great difference between the lower houses in Canberra and Wellington. Their question time is a farce. That session in Canberra is just political statements made by govt ministers. The speaker makes no effort to enforce relevance on these ministers.
    A previous ALP speaker,Harry Jenkins, had made a good start to improve the running of the house before Gillard pulled the political rort of installing failed Lib MP Peter Slipper in that position.

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