Start as you mean to go on. Newly-minted Speaker David Carter's debut in the politically-charged question time had not even started before NZ First Winston Peters interrupted him with his first point of order.
But in a session that at times seemed to come from a weird inverted universe, Peters’ query was less of a stinger and more of a ‘‘patsy question’’ - what was the story behind the cloak draped around Carter’s shoulders?
The normally dour Carter got his first laugh saying it was given to him half an hour before and symbolised ‘‘goodwill, honour and peace to the House’’ – a timely reminder Peters had once sued Carter unsuccessfully for defamation and the two had not spoken since.
Labour leader David Shearer, not known for the fluency of his own speechmaking, started his attack with a long garbled quote from John Key. But it seemed fair enough given the Prime Minister had just coined the word ‘‘disinterrupted’’ to describe Australian moves to block boat people from coming to this part of the world.
Key continued the theme toying with ‘‘optionality’’ and trotted out a new use of ‘‘ambivalent’’ to describe his indifference to where refugees to New Zealand came from.
From the far back benches former NZ First – now independent – MP Brendan Horan took a swing at former prime minister Dame Jenny Shipley over her role on the board of state-owned Genesis, given her recent exit from the Mainzeal board.
Labour’s Trevor Mallard – albeit reluctantly – stood to defend Horan’s rights in the House, but Peters was on his feet again to challenge his expelled MP.
In the process he seemed to take sides with the woman whose rise to lead the National Party came on the back of her opposition to his referendum on compulsory supperannuation back in 1997.
But Peters soon restored normal transmission with questions about Dame Jenny’s role with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority at the same time as she was on the Mainzeal board, which was active in the reconstruction of Christchurch.
Peters was soon out of his allocation of supplementary questions and Carter was able to close him down for the afternoon.
Round one to the new Speaker over Peters, but a string of rulings in favour of ministers will have the opposition – who opposed Carter’s appointment – pining for the Lockwood Smith years.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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