A parliamentary day

My day started in Auckland. I stayed up there for an extra day as National’s Northern Region had its Christmas Party on Sunday Night. The Regional Chair spoke about how well the Party did locally n both the party and the electorate vote.

John Key gave a very funny speech. There were serious parts about the future of mass membership parties, the financial crisis etc but I remember the part about his son ringing him up a few days ago, from the place he was babysitting at and complaining he was hungry. When John asked what he was meant to do, he was informed that as Prime Minister he can surely arrange for some pizzas of he can run the country. The story continued with how impressed the Pizza Hut staff were to have the PM call in an order, and now that they have his cellphone number they let him know how he is doing in the job 🙂

This morning I was on the same flight as Helen Clark, and in fact was set to be just behind her in the queue to board the plane. I was just about to greet her automatically with “Good Morning Prime Minister” until I realised that of course is no longer the salutation. I actually had to stop and think for quite a few seconds about what the correct greeting would be, and settled on “Miss Clark”. But by then she had left the line.

Headed into Parliament a bit after 1 pm, and for the first time in nine years sat on the side of the visitors gallery opposite the Government benches. It was nice to be able to see the Nats back on the Speaker’s right.

There was a TV set up in the gallery, so we could see the three Commissioners cross the road and walk through the grounds and corridors of Parliament to the House. The Governor-General is not allowed in the House so he sends three Commissioners to do the opening. They were the Chief Justice, the President of the Court of Appeal and the Chief High Court Judge.

Dame Sian read out the various proclamations and asked the MPs to elect a Speaker. The Commissioners then exited the House and the Clerk of the House proceeded to swear MPs in. They come up in alphabetical order and are grouped by whether they swear or affirm the oath and on whether they speak in English or Maori.

Lots of MPs did modified versions of the oath, as their way to try and score a point. It got a bit tiresome really, as after they did their version, they then did the official one. Several MPs tried to add on references to the Treaty of Waitangi (including a European MP), and Sio tried it in Samoan before doing it in English. I did have to laugh though at Hone Harawira’s one which bore no resemblance at all to the oath as he went on about a duty to Te Tai Tokerau, Aotearoa, his constituents, the public etc. He then did the much shorter standard one.

The funniest part was when they called Darren Hughes and Parekura Horomia up together. This was a slip up as Parekura was to do it in Maori, and Darren in English. Rather than make a fuss Darren said it in Maori with Parekura – he didn’t even do a Milli Vanilli but managed the words well.

Then the election of Speaker at around 2.45 pm. Lockwood was the only nominee and certainly looked the part. He did a really good acceptance speech and referred to being in Parliament when Speaker Gerry Wall threw out the PM and the Opposition Leader on the same day. He said he hoped not to emulate that record but would do so if it was necessary!

This then led to several other MPs telling uncomplimentary stories of Speaker Wall (generally regarded as worst Speaker in living memory) as they congratulated Lockwood. Talking of Lockwood, Audrey Young has a blog on what she sees as his strengths and weaknesses for the job.

Normally after the House elects a Speaker-Elect (believe it or not the GG has to confirm them in the role), the Speaker-Elect travels to Government House to be confirmed and ask the GG to respect the privileges of the House etc. But as Government House is being renovated, we got a rare treat and MPs (and their guests) got to witness the ceremony being held in the Legislative Council Chamber. Took around half an hour all up.

As we were waiting I was chatting to a Minister about special votes and overseas votes and how he was keen for me to do some analysis around them. As I agreed to do so, one of the new Labour MPs sitting just in front of us turns around, and says she’d like a copy also 🙂

Actually I’ll probably stick it on the blog once I do finish it, as it is all sourced from public information.

After the GG/Speaker ceremony, there was a function in the State Banquet Hall, hosted by the GG. Got to meet a few of the new MPs I had not yet met, which was nice. What was funny was when talking to one new Labour MP and her husband, the photographer asked if we wanted our photo taken together. I quipped that it would probably knock 1,000 votes off her majority so we declined 🙂

Finally as I was leaving Parliament, I had the good fortune to be on the forecourt just as Emma Daken arrived. I blogged about Emma a few days ago – she is walking the length of New Zealand to raise money for cystric fibrosis research. MP Katrina Shanks pointed her out to me. Katrina, like many MPs, has been really supportive of Emma’s efforts. She’s now raised $21,000 but still some way off the $50,000 target. You can donate online to here at this site. I find what people like Emma are doing is really inspiring in its selflessness.

So a pretty full day. Tomorrow is the state opening and the GG reads out the speech from the throne. After that I expect the House will elect a Deputy Speaker, two Assistant Speakers and also appoint MPs to Select Committees. They will then start the address in reply debate, but also go into urgency to introduce and pass some of the laws they promised.

The maiden speeches will start tomorrow, and the best speeches you will ever hear in Parliament are (in my order) valedictory speeches, maiden speeches and then speeches on conscience issues. With 35 MPs that is a heck of a lot of maiden speeches (I guess Sir Roger won’t get one though) so I doubt I can cover them all, but will try to cover a few of them anyway.

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