Audrey Young writes:
It is just as well there is a parliamentary recess next week.
It will give some much needed time-out for Speaker Trevor Mallard and the National Party.
Mallard’s performance as Speaker this week has not done the Government any favours.
He is seen as simply part of the Government and the Government is seen to be throwing out National MPs – leader Simon Bridges and Nick Smith – from Parliament.
It has been so bad, that if Ardern is casting around for a capable minister to add to her ranks for the June reshuffle, maybe she should consider bringing Mallard back into the ministry.
Mallard was one of the most highly valued and competent ministers in the Helen Clark Government.
If he became a minister again, he would immediately be among similar ranks in Ardern’s Cabinet.
The Cabinet is so short of high performing Ministers, this is a viable idea.
I have covered Parliament under seven Speakers and Mallard is both the best and worst of Speakers rolled into one. When he’s good, he’s brilliant but on a bad day he is a House-wrecker.
That is a fair analysis.
Questions Time can be brilliant. Because of rules Mallard instituted, the flow of questions and answers is seamless and his intervention is evident only when he insists that a minister give a fuller answer.
Mallard does not always wait for a National MP to object to an inadequate answer. He can and does step in on his own judgment. He listens to questions and answers very carefully. He does not give diatribes when explaining why he has made a decision.
With oversight over written parliamentary questions, he has also demanded a better standard from ministers and twice this year has awarded National an extra 12 questions because of sloppy written answers from ministers Shane Jones and David Clark.
He has shown a willingness to adjust at times. For example, he appears to have dropped the egregious practice of taking questions away from National – for what were often minor infringements of standing orders.
I’ve made this point. Mallard has done many good things. He wants to be an excellent Speaker.
Mallard at his worst is when he abuses the inherent power of the chair by insulting Opposition MPs and then punishes them for reacting under extreme provocation. …
What is happening is that Mallard is giving himself licence to insult MPs but as soon as they bite back, they are punished. Speaker and ordinary MP will always be an unequal relationship but Mallard is abusing it. …
However, Mallard was at his absolute worst this week when he refused to put leave on behalf of Nick Smith to give priority to a bill next members’ day that provided roadside drug testing of drivers.
Smith wanted to know why and Mallard said that he himself had objected. That is unprecedented for the so-called umpire. When Smith objected, not unfairly, Mallard ordered him to leave the House.
When Smith abused Mallard on the way out (“soft on drugs, like the Government”) Mallard ordered him back in and named him, suspending him from all parliamentary proceedings for a day and docking his pay.
The Speaker is allowed to object to an MP asking for leave, because he is an MP. and all MPs have the right to object. But he was acting as a Labour List MP by objecting, not as Speaker, yet when Nick Smith yelled “soft on drugs” at him, he took it to be in his role as Speaker and named him. You can’t have it both ways.
Duncan Garner also writes:
So, Trevor the Mallard is the king duck these days. Say “king duck” carefully and slowly, so as not to mince the pronunciations.He should be fair, balanced, respected, but also quick to show respect to others. That’s where this falls over. Mallard can’t be fair. He hates National. They hate him.
As king duck, or Speaker of the House of Ducks, he’s meant to be above the fray. Beyond reproach. A man or woman of considerable intellect and standing who’s respected for his or her considerable service to the land. …
Possibly over-stating the case. I’d more say that Mallard viscerally dislikes a number (not all) National MPs and he lets is affect his judgement.
All Speakers get accused by the Opposition of favouring the Government. Even Lockwood Smith was accused by Labour of doing so (which was patently ridiculous). But what is different here is that it is impartial journalists saying there is a problem, not just Opposition MPs.