After the Budget is read and debated, the next step in its passage through Parliament is the select committee process of interviewing the ministers responsible for their portfolios.
I chaired the science and education committee during the interviews of Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Education Minister Hekia Parata. The interviews are done to ensure ministers are on top of their portfolios.
Trevor Mallard (a former minister of education) is on the same committee and had challenging questions of the Education Minister.
Mr Mallard asked what was being done to stop the problem of bullying in schools, a somewhat benign question on the face of it. However, as I was to find out he was positioning to put a second question to the minister which produced a stunned silence in the room for what seemed an eternity.
His second question to the minister was: "Have you, minister, ever struck a member of your staff?" to which the minister took exception.
I ruled the question out of order, saying that this wasn't the appropriate forum for such personal insinuations, and one the minister strongly refuted.
I quickly moved on to a new question from one of the government MPs to restore order.
The next question was, how does "Investing in Educational Success" lift the professional image of teachers? This was referring to a $360 million spend on further teacher development
Again it was Trevor Mallard's turn to question the minister and he asked, "Can you confirm that you have never hit a member of your staff?" to which the minister and Government members again took offence.
I again ruled the question out of order - in my mind I was wondering what his angle was.
Evidently during the past 12 months there was a rumour doing the rounds in Parliament that there had been an incident in the minister's office. In fact the minister had heard about it herself.
It is conceivable that it all started with the individual that was now raising the questions with the minister.
Mischief like this can be contrived by the Opposition at times, a sign of frustration within the Opposition ranks when a Government is so successful.
Evidently before Mr Mallard had come to the select committee he had teed up with the media what he was going to do. The media were there in droves to report this bit of political theatre.
Sadly this was all a bit underwhelming really, from my point of view, and a total abuse of the Parliamentary process.
Colin King is a National MP, representing the Kaikoura electorate that includes all of the Marlborough region.
- The Marlborough Express