Young interviews David Carter


Opposition parties are frustrated that Mr Carter is not applying the same method as Dr Smith.

Generally Dr Smith would decide whether a question was “straight” or “political” and if he deemed it a straight question he would not accept a political answer – one that contained a political attack on a party.

That was hugely different from the days when ministers could simply use a word from the question and be deemed to have acceptably “addressed the question”, which is the requirement.

Mr Carter has opted for a halfway house. If he believes a minister has not addressed a question adequately, he will allow an MP to repeat it, sometimes several times, and Mr Hipkins has used it to the greatest effect with his questioning over the resignation of Education Secretary Lesley Longstone.

“The reason is he is asking straight questions,” said Mr Carter.

Mr Carter said he thought Dr Smith was the best he had ever seen in action “but I never thought for one minute I would do things exactly as Lockwood did”.

“He tended to paraphrase the question as he saw it and paraphrase the answer as he saw it and then draw a conclusion as to whether the answer was adequate enough.”

Mr Carter said he attempted to do that for the first couple of days but the result was that some MPs sought to bring the Speaker’s comments into a question in the House.

Ultimately if the minister hadn’t given a satisfactory answer, it was not the Speaker’s responsibility, it was the minister’s responsibility.

“At some stage in proceedings you have got to move on and then the Members of Parliament and anybody listening to Parliament will judge the accuracy and ability of that minister.”

I’d make the point that the first months of a Speaker’s regime are always turbulent, and the best time to judge is around four months in.

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