Parliament, New Zealand
08/05/2018
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Government gives plenty of low hanging fruit for unemployed National Ministers

Talking back to the Headmaster is never a good idea, as Stuart Nash, Minister for Police found out this afternoon in parliament.  Nash was bravely defending the government’s position regarding its success, or lack thereof, in fulfilling its promises for Police recruitment.  Nathan Guy and others were having some great sport identifying the differences between campaign rhetoric and real world results.

Speaker Mallard decided that Minister Nash’s responses were lacking the required discipline in some respect and stood to intervene.  When the Speaker stands it is a rule of the chamber that the member on his or her feet will sit immediately. Nash managed to avoid Mallard’s eye and continued with his response, much to the chagrin of the Speaker.  “When I’m on my feet, the Member will sit. He does not look away like a naughty child.” It wasn’t clear whether the Minister for Police was experiencing a childhood flashback to admonishment by a teacher or parent, or perhaps like so many left of centre representatives, has been swept up in the tide of hurt feelings sweeping the planet which is currently substituting for rationale political discussion.  Either way, alerting Trevor Mallard to the fact that he’d taken offence to the Speaker’s remarks seemed unlikely to curry favour with the person in the umpire’s chair. Unsurprisingly, Nash ended up having to withdraw his remarks and apologise and the opposition was granted two more interventions.

Earlier, Judith Collins had drawn out of Willie Jackson, Minister of Employment the fact that there are some 15,700 people unemployed in the Bay of Plenty and Gisborne/Hawkes Bay regions, but nevertheless the fruit picking industry has to import people from the Pacific Islands to harvest their crops.  Jackson, no doubt keen to endear himself to the tax paying public, explained that the government would not be imposing any sanctions on unemployed people who declined work in the fruit picking industry. Apparently it was ‘not so simple’. The temptation of this low hanging fruit to the National backbenchers was too much, several taking the opportunity to demonstrate through mime to the Minister the simple nature of picking a fruit, accompanied by gales of laughter from their colleagues.

Collins was on good form all afternoon, running rings round Phil Twyford, Minister of Housing as he was peppered with questions about the government’s progress in providing new houses through its Kiwibuild programme.  One was left with the sense that the government was creating another centrally planned behemoth which was extremely unlikely to produce better results than the private sector, if the private sector was left unconstrained to provide the market with what it needs and wants.  Twyford thought he had trapped Collins with a surprise move, pointing out that she had written to him on behalf of a constituent builder wanting to be part of the Kiwibuild programme. This however only generated a series of points of order and interjections, and rulings from the Speaker which left more egg on the Minister's face than when he had started.

One gets the impression that the National caucus is enjoying Minister’s questions.

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