7 April 2005

Collapsing Parliament

NZ Herald: Cullen walkout means dinner wins the day
A remarkable event last night on Member's Day. Parliament was unilaterally suspended by the Goverment by removing the sole minister from the House after one party removed leave to suspend the House for a offical dinner for the President of Indonesia.

Standing Order 38 provides:
SO38 Minister to be present A Minister must be present during all sitting hours of the House. If a Minister is not present, the Speaker interrupts proceedings and the bell is rung for up to five minutes. Where no Minister appears, the Speaker adjourns the House until the time for its next sitting.
UPDATE: For more on the Opposition's response (including an attempted (and very creative) filibuster), see Scoop: Standing Orders Protest Yields A Partial Victory.
UPDATE 2: Hansard Advances are now up:
6 April 2005 (the collapse)
7 April 2005 (the fall-out).
Transcripts of exciting bits in full in comments to this post.

4 comments:

Dean Knight said...

Sittings of the House

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister for Communications): I seek leave for the House to continue sitting so that the Employment Relations (Flexible Working Hours) Amendment Bill may be completed, and, at the completion of the bill, for the House to then rise so that members can participate in the State dinner for the President of Indonesia.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think I heard a Government Minister saying that we should stop Parliament so he can go and have a rip-roaringly good dinner with the President of Indonesia.

Hon Member: Flexible working hours.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE: Well, that is flexible working hours. That is one of the most outrageous proposals I have heard from a Minister for a long time. We are elected here to be members of Parliament, not to go and have dinners whenever we feel like it. Speaking on behalf of the ACT party, I say that we are here to represent the taxpayer and to keep the Government honest, and we most certainly will not agree to a proposal like that, regardless of how ambitious Mr Cunliffe might be to go to a dinner.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): So the member is taking objection.

Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): I seek leave for the House to rise at the conclusion of this debate and the taking of the vote on the bill.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection?

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Government junior Minister put exactly the same proposal at 6 o’clock. The idea that Parliament should adjourn so that Government Ministers can go to a dinner is an outrage. The ACT party believes we are paid to be here as members of Parliament, and we are prepared to stay here. We most certainly will not agree, but of course if the Government wants to be more reasonable and allow question time next week, we will reconsider the matter.

Madam SPEAKER: So there is an objection. Leave has been declined.

Employment Relations (Flexible Working Hours) Amendment Bill

First Reading

Debate resumed.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT): I rise to speak, as I said I wanted to, to the Employment Relations (Flexible Working Hours) Amendment Bill.

The question was raised by Lindsay Tisch that a Minister was not present in the Chamber. The bell was rung.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I hope there has been no collusion between the Speaker and the Ministers, because we did hear of an outrageous suggestion that Government Ministers are so keen to go eating and drinking with the Indonesian Prime Minister—

Madam SPEAKER: Is this a point of order?

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE: I am making a parliamentary and political point that in my time—

Madam SPEAKER: There is no collusion.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE: I have never seen Ministers walking out. I also ask for an assurance from you, which is a point of order—

Madam SPEAKER: It is an outrageous suggestion. Would you please sit down—[Interruption] I am on my feet. Under the Standing Orders, as you well know, if there is no Minister in the House, then the Speaker is required to apply the Standing Orders. I am applying the Standing Orders. The bell is ringing. I understand that under the Standing Orders it is a 5-minute bell.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I notice that you did not reply to the point that I made, and it appeared to me—maybe it was the body language of the Leader of the House—that there is collusion between the Speaker and the Leader of the House.

Madam SPEAKER: Would you please sit down. That is an outrageous allegation and I ask you to please sit down. It is outrageous to suggest that a Speaker would do that. It is my job to apply the Standing Orders. I am doing that. There is no collusion.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE: Were you advised, or were you not?

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please refrain. I was not advised of anything except to come back to the House because the session was to continue. I was advised that leave would be sought to lift the House. That is all.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE: In that case, I withdraw and apologise for my statement suggesting that you had been given prior notice of this. It is a shame that you did not know, but the rest of us did.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for that, otherwise he would also have had to withdraw. The bell is ringing.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I came into the Chamber because I heard the bell ringing. Could somebody provide clarification for me and for those who have just arrived in the Chamber. I understand that the reason the bell is ringing is that there is no Minister present in the House.

Madam SPEAKER: That is right.

John Carter: I understand that the reason behind it is that the Government does not want us to have members’ day tonight.

Madam SPEAKER: The junior National whip raised the matter that there was no Minister in the House. Therefore, it was the responsibility of the Speaker to ring the bell for 5 minutes to ensure that a Minister will get to the House.

John Carter: Thank you for that. Of course it is the Government’s responsibility to make sure there is a Minister in the House, and the Government is failing in its duty if one does not arrive.

Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Can you assure the House that this is not a test run for flexible hours of work, to prove that it will not work?

Madam SPEAKER: I point out that these are interesting points of order but no proceedings can take place until there is a Minister present.

The Speaker declared that a Minister was not present.

Debate interrupted.

The House adjourned at 7.37 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 38.

Dean Knight said...

Points of Order

Standing Order 38—Minister Not Present

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is the first opportunity to raise this point of order. When the House adjourned last night, points of order could not be raised because the bell was ringing. But I now most certainly do raise a point of order and believe that you should rule on it, and rule on it right now.

There has been an understanding in this House that it is the duty of the Government to provide the quorum. You will find many such statements made by Opposition members and made by Government members. The Standing Orders Committee, in my time, decided to reduce the quorum, so it is now down to three, but one of the requirements of the quorum is that a Minister of the Crown ought to be present.

If it is established that it is parliamentary for the Government to collapse the House just by withdrawing its Ministers, then the executive is basically saying it can do that at any time it chooses. In this case it was for a dinner, but it might be because the questions asked are embarrassing, or for a whole variety of reasons. But if it is now established that the Government can close down Parliament at any time it likes, I put it to you that we are no longer a parliamentary democracy; we are some Third World country.

I do say to you, Madam Speaker, that when you went to the Governor-General very recently you said you were going to uphold the privileges of Parliament. I believe that you should do so now, and publicly state that it is unparliamentary for the Government to withdraw Ministers deliberately just because it does not suit them to be subject to parliamentary business, and that it is particularly unparliamentary to do that on a day set aside as members’ day.

It may be that the Government does not want to discuss the state of our polytechs, but members on this side do, and we have support from the Standing Orders that say that reports of select committees should have time found for them. We finally found some time last night, only to have the matter withdrawn.

I think it would be extremely unfortunate if the Speakership were to adopt the view that the executive can make this arbitrary use of power with no rebuke from the Speaker. I cannot imagine that a Speaker of the British House of Commons would not admonish Ministers in the strongest possible terms for collapsing the House just because it suited the executive. I invite you so to rule.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): Standing Order 38 is quite clear in this respect. There is no quorum requirement at all now, except, of course, that a Minister has to be present, and presumably somebody has to be present in the Chair. Apart from that, there is no requirement for anybody else to be present. When we did have a quorum requirement—as I managed to demonstrate quite conclusively once as senior Opposition whip—on a members’ day it was actually the responsibility of the Opposition, rather than the Government, to maintain the quorum. Mr Birch found that out, much to his surprise, when the Government withdrew from the Chamber after the Opposition had been threatening quorum calls.

Last night was a most unusual situation, where one party in a multiparty House refused to be reasonable about the conclusion of the business around members’ bills, which the Government was perfectly prepared to see concluded. All parties were prepared to see the House rise at that point except for the ACT party, and the Government was forced to use the only mechanism available to it to ensure the most orderly possible procedure—that is, to ensure that a State dinner did not occur just a few metres away from the Chamber with members possibly going backwards and forwards between the Chamber and the State dinner.

Finally, I would perhaps have greater sympathy for Mr Prebble’s argument today had he not been on the 8.30 flight to Auckland last night.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I am concerned that the Leader of the House has made light of what is a very serious point of order. Standing Order 38 states quite explicitly: “A Minister must be present during all sitting hours of the House.” Yesterday evening we saw the Leader of the House quite blatantly and quite proudly break the Standing Orders of this House. I put it to you, Madam Speaker, that if the Leader of the House can quite blatantly abuse a Standing Order because it suits the Government to do so, then effectively the message to all members of this House is that if a Standing Order does not suit them they should just break it. Equally, it sets an appalling example to the people of our country, when we as lawmakers say in effect that we break rules when it suits us.

The more important constitutional point that Mr Prebble rightly raises is that this Standing Order has now been used to set a dangerous precedent, which effectively means that the Government can collapse—shut down—the House at any time it wishes. If a confidence vote is coming up that the Government thinks it may lose, it just needs to withdraw every Minister and, instantly, without any points of order, the House is shut down. It can do the same if there is an embarrassing bill on members’ day.

I have a bill in the ballot. My rights have been undermined, because members’ ability to advance legislation depends on their bills being drawn in the ballot, and only bills drawn in the ballot can be debated. Effectively, what the Government did last night through the subversion of the Standing Order was to take away 2½ hours of members’ time.

This democracy of ours survives on conventions. We have had this Standing Order, or similar provisions, going all the way back to 1853. I sat in the library this morning and went back to the Standing Orders that were first established for our Parliament in 1853. At no time in those 150 years has this stunt been pulled before.

A dangerous precedent has been set. The right thing for the Leader of the House to do is to stand and apologise to this House for breaking the Standing Order, and he should set aside 2½ hours of members’ time to make up for such a blatant breach.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): That is a speech I really must respond to on a factual basis. In fact, it was not a result of the Government action, at all, that any time was lost for members’ business in relation to members’ bills. First of all, we had started the last member’s bill on the Order Paper, and therefore that action did not affect the number of bills to be drawn in the ballot today. Secondly, the Government sought leave twice—twice—to finish all members’ bills on the Order Paper, last night, so that there would have been no time subtracted in the future for the consideration of members’ bills. The only business the House was not able to discuss was the reports of select committees. I finally note that during the dinner function the deputy leader of the National Party thanked me for the fact that members were able to attend the dinner as a result of my action.

Madam SPEAKER: I call Sue Kedgley. [Interruption] She stood first, I am sorry. The member will be heard, but the other member stood first.

SUE KEDGLEY (Green): Now that the Minister has confirmed that he did use a mechanism available to him to close down the House last night, which precluded the completion of debate on my bill and other issues on the Order Paper, it would be helpful, Madam Speaker, if you were able to give us a ruling as to under what circumstances you would consider it acceptable for a Minister to use that mechanism to close down the House, and under what circumstances you would consider it unacceptable for a Minister to use such a mechanism. I think that that would be very helpful.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): Madam Speaker, before I get to my point of order, I want to address your idea of seniority in this House. If you thought that a member’s rising to his or her feet first was some sort of entitlement to precedence, then obviously you would have called the last speaker before Dr Cullen, who had already spoken once on the point of order. That is pretty obvious, really. I do not want to be difficult in this House, as some members are wont to be, but I am bound to point out that we have a thing called seniority, and that you should uphold it.

The second point I want to make is that New Zealand First agreed to the House being lifted, because we had in this country the president of the biggest Islamic country in the world. I was somewhat astonished to see the desire of one party, which spends all its time talking about the need for foreign intervention, foreign aid, and foreign subjugation in terms of its policies for foreign exports, not to have the House rise. I think there is a precedent for the action taken. It is a very unfortunate one, which I think happened in 1904. So it is 101 years since it was last tried. But my real point is that, if a party does object, then the House should continue to proceed with its business. In that respect, I think it is rather disappointing that the rights of the House as enunciated by one party—which, nevertheless, are still the rights of the rest of us—were ridden over in a very roughshod way. That is the point I want to make.

STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT): My point follows closely on the theme adopted by the member who has just resumed his seat. Madam Speaker, I draw your attention to the definition of “leave” in Standing Order 3, which states that it “means permission to do something that is granted without a dissentient voice”. The Leader of the House suggested that his misuse of Standing Order 38 was OK because, as he said, all the other parties wanted to see that action happen.

First, I am not sure that that is true. As I understand it, other parties were told: “If you don’t go along, we’ll collapse it anyway.” So the consent or approval that he secured might have been against the background of a threat just to wield power. But that right to deny leave is in fact the right of any member who wants the House to continue; it is not the right of the parties. I think that until the Standing Orders decide that this Parliament is simply a congress of parties, the Leader of the House should not use the argument that other party representatives were happy with his actions—and I am not sure that they were—to justify something.

I urge you to invite him to consider this and suggest that he create a convention out of this incident, that the House cannot be collapsed unilaterally, and adhere to it.

GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): The first point I make is that I made reference to this issue at the dinner last night for the Indonesian President, largely to point out in a fairly sarcastic way that there were very few members of Parliament at the dinner. Furthermore, there were even fewer Ministers at the dinner. So the question is: where were those Ministers? If they were in their offices, working, why could they not have been in Parliament, working? Given that the business of the House would have been the select committee reports and the National Party had produced a speaking list that went well into that list of select committee reports, the actual disruption to the dinner would have been minimal.

The real point of Dr Nick Smith’s point of order was that there are numerous rights within the Standing Orders for members to exercise. If they were recklessly applied by all members of the House, then there would be no business of the House. It is the conventions that apply to the way in which the Standing Orders are used that allow the House to do the business that members are elected to do. Dr Cullen has taken hold of a Standing Order, which has never been used in this way before, and grabbed powers for the Government that mean that Dr Cullen, or Helen Clark, or whoever might be running the country at the time, would be the person who determines whether Parliament sits. That is unacceptable. It also cuts right across the rights of elected members, which you particularly are charged with protecting.

When we were told yesterday that there was a likelihood the Government would collapse the debate, we assumed that meant what it usually means—that the Government would pull its speakers so that the time that is taken over any bill or discussion is reduced. At no point did we think it would mean that the Government would fail to provide a Minister to the House, and effectively shut the place down. It is the use of Standing Order 38 to shut down Parliament for the convenience of the Government that causes the most concern for Opposition parties. The suggestion is that Dr Cullen should apologise for using this Standing Order in such a reckless manner. The problem is that if he refuses, the opportunity arises for other members to use the Standing Orders in an equally reckless manner. There can be no winners out of the development of that sort of circumstance.

Madam SPEAKER: I will hear two more contributions and then I will rule.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): I will respond to one point that Mr Franks made. Mr Franks rightly made the point that leave can be denied by one member of the House. But the implication of what he said was that when leave is denied for something—and leave is sought for many things—the Government is not able to use any other mechanisms. Of course, frequently the Government uses other mechanisms when leave is denied. To take a very obvious example, which we may well see some time in the near future—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Will the member please leave the House. A point of order is being spoken to. As the member is quite aware, it shall be heard in silence.

Hon Bill English withdrew from the Chamber.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: For example, the Government may seek leave to have a Supplementary Order Paper that is outside the scope of the bill considered as part of the bill. If that leave is denied, the Government does not just say “Well, that’s it.” Normally, the Government would move a motion in order to enable the Committee of the whole House to consider it and would then use the majority, at the cost of a debate, to overtake the situation where leave has been denied. I think Mr Frank’s assertion that simply because leave is denied for something, the Government cannot use any other leave that is available to it to achieve its objectives is one that cannot stand because it would be quite a dangerous assertion within the proceedings of Parliament.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT): I am now even more alarmed, after hearing Dr Cullen’s contribution. I will not quote his words, but the effect of what he said is that Standing Order 38 is a mechanism whereby the Government can get its own way if it does not get it by other means, and that Governments are always entitled to do that. That is an interesting notion. If we read Standing Order 38, we see that it is actually an instruction. It is an instruction from this House to the executive. It states that a Minister must be present. That is an order. Last night the Government defied this House and defied the Standing Orders.

I have been giving some thought as to whether it was such a serious defiance that it was a breach of privilege. You, Madam Speaker, may yourself consider referring the matter to the Privileges Committee. I think so because if we look at what amounts to contempt—and I will take just one example—we see that it is something that obstructs members from carrying out their duties. The ultimate obstruction to carrying out our parliamentary duties is something that prevents us from exercising free speech. If I feel strongly about it, it is because I was the member exercising my right of free speech. It was my speech that was interrupted. I take grave exception to the Minister interrupting my speech. I was not invited to the President of Indonesia’s dinner—not that that has anything to do with it; I would have had the same view even if I had been invited. [Interruption] Why should I be required to stay here? I think that that was a reflection on me.

I want to come back to the point I am making. As far as I know, Standing Order 38 has never been interpreted by any Speaker, but I put to members that the interpretation by a Speaker who is upholding Parliament should be that it is an instruction to Ministers. Where there is evidence that Ministers have deliberately broken it, then there ought to be some penalty. I think there is quite a strong case here that the Leader of the House should be referred to the Privileges Committee, because he created the ultimate obstruction to this House exercising its duties. He arranged for all Ministers not to be here, so that this House could not meet. Not to rule that would be to condone what Mr Cullen is now telling us—that there is a new device, and that any Government, at any time, whenever it chooses, can close down this House. I cannot see any other Parliament that calls itself a Parliament accepting that sort of arbitrary power.

Madam SPEAKER: Ruling on the point of order, I thank members for their contribution. As has been noted, Standing Order 38 sets out the procedure for the Speaker to follow if no Ministers are present in the Chamber. That procedure was followed. If members wish to criticise the Government for the action it took, then they are perfectly entitled to do so. If members think that the Standing Order is defective, they can raise that with the Standing Orders Committee, and I suggest they do that.

I further note on the question of quorum that there are no quorum requirements today, except in so far as that for the House to function there must be a Speaker and a Minister present. I also note that it is not for the Speaker to comment on the appropriateness of the Government or Opposition parties utilising the rights that are open to them under the Standing Orders.

GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask you to think very carefully about the ruling that you have given us today, fairly quickly. The first line in Standing Order 38 states that a Minister must be present during all sitting hours of the House. That is not debatable. It is not optional—it is a requirement. The Government deciding that it determines when the House sits—not anybody else, not the Speaker, not the rest of the members; just the Government—is the point being made here today. The right for members to participate in the parliamentary debate is what is also at stake here today. For you, as Speaker, simply to say that if we do not like this, we should send it to the Standing Orders Committee—and we know what a long procedure that is—is, I think, letting down this House and letting down members in this House.

Dr Cullen shows absolutely no remorse for taking the course he did yesterday. We already know that most members were not invited to the dinner last night, so there is no reason why there had to be that so-called traipsing in and out, and there were only a few Ministers there, so there is no reason why Ministers could not have been here. What we are faced with is a Leader of the House who simply says to you that he will decide when Parliament is open and when Parliament is closed. I have to say that we are very disappointed at your speedy ruling on this matter, and we would ask that you consider, firstly, asking the Leader of the House to make an apology for using the Standing Order so recklessly and, secondly, how members’ rights might be better protected by a stronger ruling from the Chair.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): Firstly, I want to make it clear that all members were invited to the dinner last night. In case some of them already had engagements or their secretaries did not tell them about it, I make it clear that they were all invited to the dinner last night. That is the custom of this House in those circumstances. Secondly, Standing Order 38 is a statement of the condition under which a sitting of the House can occur, in exactly the same way as the quorum requirement was a statement of the conditions under which a sitting of the House must occur. Equally, under the old rules, a quorum could have been withdrawn—which is precisely what I did as senior Government whip, and the Opposition then had to provide the numbers on a members’ day after threatening to withdraw its own members.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT): This will be a very short contribution. I am not allowed to dispute your ruling, so what I will respectfully suggest to you is that you take a course of action that other Speakers have taken, and actually look at the Hansard and the arguments that have been put to you. I am not suggesting that you need to change your ruling, but I do think that you need to look at it to see whether it should not be wider. It is a very serious ruling to accept what Dr Cullen is saying, which is that this mechanism is open to the Government, because the other alternative is that this is an instruction to the Government. When the Government abuses it, it should be open to rebuke, including the ultimate rebuke of the matter being sent to the Privileges Committee. That would be a very strong statement to the Government.

I would also say to Dr Cullen that maybe there were invitations. It was my understanding that we were told that there was not enough space in the place next door for every member. But I am not criticising members who went to the dinner, because when the original invitation was put out for a Saturday, I thought that the presence of the President of Indonesia was important enough for members to come here on a Saturday for it. I am not saying that it was not an important occasion; I just fail to believe that this House is not capable of having a dinner and being able to sit at the same time.

Madam SPEAKER: Members are debating the ruling at this point. I am happy to put my ruling in a written form for members.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Is this a different point of order?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, it is a new point of order. This House does operate by conventions, and there are the Standing Orders. I seek leave for the House to set aside 2½ hours of time for members’ business for the next sitting day on Tuesday, 12 April, to make up for the time that was removed by the abuse of Standing Order 38.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I seek leave for 2½ hours of members’ time to be set down for Wednesday, 13 April, to make up for the time that was stolen from members by the actions of the Leader of the House.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

Parliament Buildings—Media Access

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is a completely new one, but, again, this is the first available opportunity I have had to raise it. You may remember—and other members most certainly will—that I have raised this particular point of order on a number of occasions. I believe that Speakers’ Rulings and the Standing Orders—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: I just remind members that members are to be heard in silence on points of order.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE: I believe that Speakers’ Rulings and the Standing Orders make it quite clear that members are not to be obstructed when coming to and from the Chamber. I have raised this issue on many occasions, but I have basically given up. I think the media have now probably established by common law right that they can sit on the bridge between the Beehive and Parliament House.

However, I discovered that last night, suddenly, that rule was enforced. It seems quite extraordinary. This is Parliament. We parliamentarians have to zigzag and work our way around the media. On Tuesday I actually had to wait for a while until the leader of the Māori Party had finished her very interesting interview. But I discovered that last night the media were suddenly cleared away because another delegation was visiting that, apparently, has stronger views about the media. It seems to me that the Government should have a consistent rule. If we MPs have to endure the media—that is part of our job—would it not have been a good idea for the President of Indonesia to be introduced to some free press as well, and for him to have to walk through the media the same as we do?

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am more than happy to follow up that point for the member.

Standing Order 38—Minister Not Present

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wish to seek clarification. The Government has generously given leave for the time that was lost last night to be made up next Wednesday. But I suspect that the Government’s intention is to subvert that as well by moving the House into urgency on Tuesday, which means that Wednesday technically will not occur because, as we know, we have this archaic ritual whereby Wednesday is not recognised during urgency. So can I seek clarification from the Leader of the House as to whether he is actually acting in good faith, allowing members to have the 2½ hours, or whether it is just another tricky deal? Is he intending not to give members the time he took away from us last night and simply to subvert it by urgency?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): In the business statement at the start of today’s sitting I said that the Government intends to take urgency on Tuesday. If the business I outlined is finished by 1 o’clock on Wednesday, I will be very happy for the member to have his 2½ hours of members’ time.

Madam SPEAKER: Has the matter been clarified for the member?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I seek leave, in the event that the Government does not allow for the 2½ hours of members’ time to be granted on Wednesday, 13 April, for the House to set aside the time to make up the 2½ hours on Tuesday, 3 May.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There is an important point here about the leave. The member referred to the Government not allowing the time. It is in Parliament’s hands, once urgency is moved, as to how long the business takes, not the Government’s hands.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave was sought to put that matter—it shall be put first. Is there any objection? There is.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I advise you that yesterday I had the benefit of seeing a delayed broadcast of Parliament’s question time. I want to put New Zealand First’s position very, very clearly. Frankly, I believe that some members of this House are wasting question time seriously. Although the issue today is very, very important, nevertheless it is 35 minutes since the House was called, and it means that some of us are having our right to put our issues seriously compromised. I believe, Madam Speaker, that if you look at Hansard over a long period of time, you will know who the main offenders are.

With the greatest respect, we are getting frightfully sick and tired of it. If members cannot make their points of order succinctly, then we should move on with parliamentary business. Around the country hundreds of thousands of people are waiting on New Zealand First’s questions, and I think they should have an answer.

Madam SPEAKER: I agree with the member. I have reviewed Hansard. As the member well knows, last week he made three spurious points of order that occupied some time in this House. But as I indicated yesterday, the rules will now be applied rigidly.

GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In that regard, during the course of Dr Nick Smith’s previous point of order there was an interjection that I noted from your body language you did see.

Madam SPEAKER: I could not hear who it was, though. I knew there was an interjection.

GERRY BROWNLEE: Even during Mr Peters’ point of order just a few moments ago, a number of people perhaps only laughed but, none the less, interrupted that point of order. It certainly was not heard in silence.

The Hon Bill English has a question set down for later in question time. He made one comment during a point of order—we do not challenge your ruling, but he probably was unlucky, in the circumstances, to have been slung out of the House. We would appreciate it, Madam Speaker, if you would consider allowing him back into the House to ask that question. Certainly, the custom has been that when Ministers—and I can think of a number—have angered the Speaker in the past, they have been given a great deal of leniency because of questions addressed to them.

Madam SPEAKER: I take the member’s point. The Hon Bill English will be allowed back into the House for that question.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker, and I apologise to Mr Peters. I am forced under the Standing Orders to raise my point of order at the first available opportunity, and, again, this is it. I draw your attention to Hansard, which I have sent you a copy of, and to the comments you made to the House last night. I invite you to correct the record, because you told the House last night that you had had no advice of what Dr Cullen was proposing. I have now learnt that at the Business Committee, which you chaired, he in fact made that very threat. I think you should have told the House that you knew he was intending to use that mechanism, instead of leaving me with the impression that you were as stunned as I was by his action in staging a walk-out.

Madam SPEAKER: I will take one contribution on this.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): As a person who spoke at the Business Committee, my recollection is that I gave a general indication that the Government would look at other mechanisms to achieve its objectives, not specifically this one. I can certainly say, and can assure the House, that I had no communication with the Speaker about the action I took at 7.30 last night.

Madam SPEAKER: I am happy to review Hansard. My recollection is that the allegation was of collusion, and that is what objection was taken to. Of course, the matter was raised at the Business Committee, but no decision was taken. I looked for members when I came into the House and when the point of order was raised by the National whip.

...

Points of Order

Members’ Day—Rescheduling of Debate

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek the leave of the House for the 2½ hours of members’ time that was lost as a consequence of the Government’s breach of Standing Order 38 to be set aside for Tuesday, 3 May.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask you to consider the content of that leave request. The member did not merely relitigate a ruling that you gave but stated it was wrong. The member stated that the Government had breached Standing Order 38. That, of course—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I didn’t.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think the member should very carefully look at his own Hansard, because that is what he said. He said that the Government breached Standing Order 38. You, Madam Speaker, have already ruled that the Government was not in breach of the Standing Orders on that matter.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes. Leave was denied. [Interruption] Is there another point of order?

JOHN CARTER (National—Northland): I seek leave of the House to table Standing Order 1, “Purpose”.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table Standing Order 1. Is there any objection? There is.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I seek leave of the House for the 2½ hours that was lost last evening as a consequence of a Minister not being present in the House—when Standing Order 38 requires a Minister to be in the House during all sitting hours of the House—to be made up on Thursday, 5 May.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is. Leave is denied.

JOHN CARTER (National—Northland): I seek leave of the House to table Standing Order 2, “Interpretation”.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table Standing Order 2, “Interpretation”. Is there any objection? There is.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I seek leave of the House for the 2½ hours of members’ time that was lost last evening as a consequence of the Government breaching Standing Order 38, with regard to Ministers being present in the House, to be set aside.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that time to be set aside. Is there any objection? There is.

JOHN CARTER (National—Northland): I seek leave to table Standing Order 3, “Definitions”.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table Standing Order 3. Is there any objection? There is. Members need to be counselled that they are close to bringing themselves and the House into total and justified disrepute. [Interruption] I have ruled on the matter of last night.

Parliament Building—Media Access

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Before question time I drew your attention to the question of access to the House and the gangways, and the media. I was informed during question time that the situation was more serious than that which I had raised with you—a lot more serious. I am now informed—although I have to say this information still is second-hand—that accredited members of the news media, who are entitled to be in Parliament and who have accreditation from yourself, were told by police officers that if they did not move themselves from parts of this building they would be arrested.

We had the issue of police officers extensively litigated last year. It is my understanding that a police officer may not exercise authority in this House without the Speaker’s express approval. You indicated to me, Madam Speaker, when I raised the point of order before question time, that you were not aware that there had been incidents on the gangway last night. That would indicate that police officers were acting in Parliament without your approval. If that was so, I think that is a very, very serious matter.

When you are looking into that, could you also inquire as to whether police officers did threaten accredited members of the news media, who are entitled to be in Parliament, with arrest, and if they did so, whether they had your approval. If they did, I think members would like to know why the Speaker thinks that members of the press gallery should be threatened with arrest—even if some members may be sympathetic to that. I think we should get a report on the matter.

Madam SPEAKER: I am happy to look into that matter.

Members’ Day—Rescheduling of Debate

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am very concerned about the statement you have just made in respect of the points of order that I and my colleague John Carter have made. The leave applications we sought were perfectly within the Standing Orders. Of course, there is a convention that we should not abuse those provisions, but I find it quite ironic that when the Government abuses Standing Order 38, which is very explicit and was never intended as a mechanism for shutting down the House, you refuse to make any negative comment, at all. I would have let the matter rest if you had made even the comment that it was unwise for Dr Cullen to do as he did last evening. I ask you to reflect on the comment you have just made in respect of myself and Mr Carter, when I am complying absolutely with the Standing Orders in terms of the points of order I am raising, that suggested I am doing anything other than acting quite properly, within the strict interpretation of the rules we are obliged to obey.

Madam SPEAKER: Ruling on the point of order that has been raised, I say that I merely reminded members that if they continue to work their way through the 370-odd Standing Orders, then they will bring themselves and the House into disrepute. [Interruption] I am not finished. On the other matter the member raised, yes, that matter was raised in an earlier point of order during the proceedings of the House today. That matter was fully discussed at some length. The ruling at that time was that if members are unhappy with that particular Standing Order, then they should take it to the Standing Orders Committee. But the Standing Order was followed as written. That was my ruling.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The fundamental point on which it is essential for this House to operate is the Standing Orders, but we also have conventions. Under your ruling, many Standing Orders can be abused in exactly the same way that Dr Cullen did last night. We rely on conventions and good faith in this House for this democracy to function. If the Speaker is to take a very narrow interpretation when it involves the Government but a very broad interpretation when it involves members of the Opposition, then that, in my view, will break down the great traditions of this Parliament that enable it to operate effectively as the democratic institution of our nation.

Madam SPEAKER: I did not rule; I merely counselled members to think carefully.

JOHN CARTER (National—Northland): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am not sure whether there is a Standing Order that will allow me to make the comment I want to make, but I feel that I am obliged to make it. I am a long-serving member of this House, and, indeed, one who I think has some respect in it. I am concerned that what we have seen in the last 24 hours is an abuse of the Standing Orders. I respect this House absolutely, and it gives me a lot of disappointment that I am here now making these points of order, which I intend to continue with for some time. The point the Speaker made was absolutely right; it will bring the House into disrepute. The problem we have is that we as the Opposition have no other means of making the point that the Government took the opportunity to misuse the Standing Orders in a way that was never intended. The only way we can fight back is by doing exactly the same thing as that. Indeed, the difference is that we are doing it within the Standing Orders. I am disappointed that I have been driven to this point, but I intend to continue to do what I have been doing for some little time, in order to drive the point home to the Government that what goes around in this place comes around.

Madam SPEAKER: I accept the member’s point. The point I was making is that it is a matter of debate. There has been considerable debate on it. Obviously, members will make their judgment, as will the public.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Perhaps we could resolve this issue. You have seen fit to provide counsel to myself and Mr Carter in respect of the use of the Standing Orders. I think it would help considerably if you saw fit to provide some counsel to the Leader of the House about his use of Standing Order 38.

Madam SPEAKER: The application of Standing Order 38 was in accordance with the Standing Orders. It is a question for comment by the public and by members of this House, not by the Speaker. My role was to apply the Standing Orders as they are written. I have done that. If the Standing Orders are not acceptable to the members of this House, then I suggest that the Standing Orders Committee should look at them.

RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT): I seek the leave of the House to table Standing Order 4.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought for Standing Order 4 to be tabled. Is there any objection? There is.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I seek leave for the 2½ hours of members’ time that was lost as a consequence of the actions of the Leader of the House last evening to be set aside for Thursday 5 May.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is.

BRIAN CONNELL (National—Rakaia): I seek the leave of the House to table Standing Order 5.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table Standing Order 5. Is there any objection? There is; it will not be tabled.

JOHN CARTER (National—Northland): I seek the leave of the House to table Standing Order 6, “Amendment or revocation of Standing Orders”.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table Standing Order 6. Is there any objection? There is; it will not be tabled.

Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (Deputy Leader—ACT): I seek leave to table Standing Order 7, “Functions of Standing Orders Committee”.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I seek leave for the 2½ hours that was lost last evening as a consequence of Dr Cullen’s not being able to provide the Minister required in accordance with the Standing Orders to the House. I think the date is important. The date that I was indicating for that time be set aside is on Tuesday, 10 May.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that date. Is there any objection? There is.

STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT): I seek leave to table Standing Order 8.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Is there any objection to that course of action being taken? There is.

BRIAN CONNELL (National—Rakaia): I seek leave to table Standing Order 9, “Official report”.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Is there any objection to that course of action being taken? There is.

JOHN CARTER (National—Northland): I seek leave to table Standing Order 10, “Custody of Journal and records”.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Is there any objection to that course of action being taken? There is.

PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First): I seek leave to table the whole damn book and have it put on each member’s desk, so that we can all study it at our leisure.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Is there any objection to that course of action being taken? There is.

STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT): I seek leave to table the Hansard pre-print of the part of the debate this afternoon when members addressed the granting of leave for matters not earlier contemplated by the rules, which I have just received.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Is there any objection to that course of action being taken? There is.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I seek leave for the House to sit on a members’ day so that the time that was lost from last evening’s business as a consequence of there being no Minister in the House, as directed by Dr Cullen, Leader of the House, may be made up on Wednesday, 11 May, immediately following question time in the House.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Is there any objection to that course of action being taken? There is.

SUE KEDGLEY (Green): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to speak in support of this particular point of order. It was my bill that members were almost able to complete—

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): What is the point of order?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Seek leave.

SUE KEDGLEY: I seek leave, basically, to support Nick Smith’s seeking of leave that time be made available on Wednesday, 11 May, to make up time so that members can complete the business that was intended to be completed last night.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Is there any objection to that course of action being taken? There is.

Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier in the proceedings today a number of members who had interrupted a point of order were asked to leave the House. Dr Nick Smith quite audibly interrupted Sue Kedgley. I think that if that is the standard of behaviour that has been set earlier today, Dr Smith deserves to go, as well.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): I am sorry, I did not hear Dr Nick Smith do that.

DARREN HUGHES (Junior Whip—Labour): Maybe you could invite Dr Smith to confirm whether he did it. I am sitting opposite him. I heard him call out to Sue Kedgley: “Just table it.” He quite audibly interrupted her during the point of order. You could ask him the question. [Interruption]

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): I say to Ms Kedgley that I am on my feet. I say to members that we are going from the sublime to the ridiculous, and I will now caution members. Dr Smith has his first yellow card. He is a good sportsman, so he knows what that means in association football.

SUE KEDGLEY (Green): I felt obliged to say that I did believe that in the circumstances, Dr Smith was trying to assist me rather than to interrupt in a disorderly fashion.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I seek leave, quite specifically, for Sue Kedgley’s bill, which was not able to proceed last evening, to now be considered by this House at this very moment, it having been interrupted by the Government using the tactic, and the abuse, of Standing Order 38 by not requiring any Minister to be in the House at that time.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Is there any objection to that course of action being taken? There appears to be none.

JOHN CARTER (National—Northland): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I have some clarification that no one objected, so that means that the bill can be considered? Does that mean immediately?

Hon George Hawkins: I did.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Was there objection? There was. I am sorry, I did not hear it. There was objection, I say to Mr Carter.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was very clear that, following my point of order in respect of Sue Kedgley’s bill, you ruled quite clearly that no objection had been raised by Government members. No Government member jumped to his or her feet and took a point of order, so my view is that the proper item at the top of the House’s agenda is—quite properly—the bill in the name of Sue Kedgley, which is the Employment Relations (Flexible Working Hours) Amendment Bill.

DARREN HUGHES (Junior Whip—Labour): The Government does not object if members now move immediately to conclude the first reading of Ms Kedgley’s bill.

Graeme Edgeler said...

Hi Dean,

still reading - I hadn't read the Hansard of this before - thanks for posting it - it's hilarious

Ed Snack said...

Yes, certainly shows what a joke as speaker Wilson was.

Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"


This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

Course Archive

Search Course

  © Blogger template 'Photoblog' by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP