The house descends into farce

( Uncorrected transcript?subject to correction and further editing

Speaker Wilson is a toady and a fool. Witness this covering up for a arrogant and churlish Minister.
[quote]Gerry Brownlee: When was the Minister first told that David Benson-Pope had expressed an opinion on the employment of Ms Setchell to Mr Logan?

Hon ANNETTE KING: If members could just wait one moment while I get the date when I was told?

Hon Bill English: Is this the Prime Minister?s department script?

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister is endeavouring to answer the question, as the member reminded the House before, in the best possible way. Would the Minister now address the question.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I try to be accurate in what I say. I have written down here the dates and times, and so on, that I was going to refer to. I will take the opportunity later to provide the answer, because I will not take the time of the House by looking now.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You may choose to accept that as addressing the question, but if the Minister of State Services does not know what day she was made aware of the most crucial fact in this case, then that Minister does not deserve to hold the warrant.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: This seems to be a peculiarly inappropriate week for the Opposition to climb on a high horse about who can remember what when, about what was said. This week has been a week in which Mr Key cannot remember what he said about almost anything, and had various stories on everything. [Interruption] And they do not like it when they are reminded of that fact?they do not like it at all. The fact is?[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: We will now hear the point of order in silence. Anyone who makes a comment will leave this Chamber. I could not hear what Dr Cullen was saying.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The fact is the Minister was seeking to consult her notes on a matter of detail. It is a pity that Mr Key did not take the chance to do so on a large number of occasions.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Do you consider that the Minister saying: ?I will choose to answer this later.? is addressing the question?

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I agree. Yes, the Minister did address the question, and it was not a point of order. You were making an observation, which you are entitled to do, but not as a point of order.

Gerry Brownlee: When was the Minister told that David Benson-Pope had expressed an opinion on the employment of Madeleine Setchell to Mr Logan?

Hon ANNETTE KING: On 29 July.

Gerry Brownlee: Further to her response to oral questions yesterday, has she now asked Dr Mark Prebble whether he was telling the truth when he stated in the Dominion Post article that: ?Ministers ought not be involved, and I understand the environment Minister David Benson-Pope was not involved?; if not, why not?


GERRY BROWNLEE (National?Ilam): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In answer to the last supplementary question asked of the Minister to the previous question, the Minister told us that she first knew of David Benson-Pope?s expressing a view to Mr Logan about the employment of the new communications manager on 29 July. David Benson-Pope announced that to the House on 26 July and was out of his job on 27 July. Does the Minister want to correct her answer, or did she know about it a whole month earlier than that?

Madam SPEAKER: I will ask the Minister to reply, although that was not a point of order.

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of State Services): My apologies, Madam Speaker. I thought?

Hon Bill English: Oh!

Hon ANNETTE KING: I thought this was a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, the Minister is right. There will be no further interruptions during a point of order. The member raised a matter; the Minister was trying to be helpful. We will hear the answer in silence.

Hon ANNETTE KING: My apologies. I thought the member had asked me when Mark Prebble had remembered that Hugh Logan had mentioned it to him. That was on 29 July.

Madam SPEAKER: The member?s original point of order was not a point of order. It was, in fact, an observation, and it is a debating matter. It is not actually a point of order. However, I let it go for the sake of obtaining clarification for the House. That has been given.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question was extremely specific, and it was asked of the Minister twice: on which date did she know? It may be that one can get up and give the sort of answer that skates around it, but that is deliberately misleading the House.

Madam SPEAKER: The member is again making a debating point, not a point of order.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is a question of order, because, as you know, Madam Speaker, the Opposition is limited to a certain number of supplementary questions. It would clearly be unacceptable that those supplementary questions are used up by Ministers giving misleading answers in order to avoid actually answering questions. As my colleague has pointed out, we have had to use two supplementary questions to ask that particular question quite definitively. It was clearly stated and unambiguous; there was no doubt as to what it was about. The Minister has now created a situation where, by her having given a misleading answer, we lose the opportunity, because we are getting through our supplementary questions, to get her to answer the question that she was asked and still has not answered.

Madam SPEAKER: I understand the member?s point. I would point out also that when the Minister was attempting to answer that question the first time, there was an interruption. She then indicated that she wanted to give an accurate answer and, therefore, she would table it later. Then, when the question was asked again, she gave an answer. When it was then questioned as not being an accurate answer, she gave an explanation, which is why I allowed that explanation to be given even though it was not a point of order. So I think we are back at square one.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister?s explanation was that although I asked her twice very, very clearly about when she knew, she thought somehow that I wanted to know when Dr Prebble said that he knew. I do not know how one can get that out of a simple question like that. This Minister is avoiding answering an important question.

Madam SPEAKER: I will say this once more. The point the member raises is, of course, a point of debate or of discussion. Certainly, the member is entitled to criticise and comment, but it is not a point of order. That is the point I am making. I have been tolerant until we had clarification for the House, but the House has been interrupted on matters that are not valid points of order.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. How can one have any order in this House if, when a question is asked about a Minister?s own involvement in something, that Minister turns around and says he or she is giving an answer about someone else?s involvement? If Ministers are to treat question time like that, then we will have an enormous amount of disorder, simply because there is an entitlement for members to have their questions answered.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. The member himself is in danger of creating disorder. The matter has, in fact, been clarified, and even though I have ruled that it was not a point of order, I did enable the Minister to clarify the point that the member has raised. We shall now move on.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker?

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, but if this is the same point of order, then I will be asking the member to leave the Chamber. I have ruled on this matter.

Gerry Brownlee: It will be your judgment, Madam Speaker, as to whether it is the same point of order. Have you now ruled that if we ask a very specific question and a Minister chooses to hear that in a way that does not relate at all to that question and chooses to give an answer that makes the Minister herself look quite ridiculous, are we supposed to just sit here and accept that? What is the point in having question time?

Madam SPEAKER: No, the point I have made, Mr Brownlee?and I will do this for the very last time?is that I have said that it was not a point of order. It was not a point of order. It was a matter of obvious importance, however, which is why I enabled the Minister to respond to it for the information of the House.[/quote]

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