Speaker Trevor Mallard has reprimanded Labour MPs for their treatment of National Party MP Chris Bishop, after a testy parliamentary hearing about issues at managed isolation facilities.
At a meeting of the Health Select Committee on Wednesday, Labour MPs routinely frustrated Bishop’s attempts to question officials on a failure to ensure Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) staff were getting fortnightly surveillance tests.
In the House on Thursday, Mallard said he had watched a recording of the committee and the ability for the Opposition to ask questions was “not in compliance in the spirit” with parliamentary rules.
Because of this, Mallard said Bishop could have an additional four supplementary questions to pursue the issue with Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins in the House – effectively punishing Labour.
This is exceptionally rare, if not unique.
I can’t recall another occasion where the Speaker has basically punished the Government for the actions of their backbench MPs in a select committee.
But this seems justified. The Labour MPs were doing everything they could to stop Opposition MPs from actually questioning officials in a meaningful way.
“From my perspective, there was not adequate time for the Opposition to ask questions at that time. This was the first opportunity, from my perspective, to at least partially remedy that,” Mallard said to reporters afterward.
“It’s a clear indication to select committee chairs that it is the job to provide the opportunity for officials to be held to account. That did not appear to occur yesterday.”
Again a good call from the Speaker.