Offer of wine to help RMA bill go down
It was either a case of "Come into my parlour . . ." or the prime minister was asking the leader of the Opposition out for a serious political date in Parliament yesterday.
Assuming the first scenario, the spider, John Key, tried to bait the trap by offering the fly, David Cunliffe, a glass of the finest pinot noir if he would come into his lair to bond over the Resource Management Amendment Bill.
Cunliffe wasn't feeling the romance, as the Opposition and two Government support parties have rejected much of the bill, forcing the Government to shelve it for the time being.
Labour has offered to facilitate passage of the housing affordability measures in the bill, but Key reiterated: it was all or nothing. "When will the prime minister stop playing politics with the . . . bill?" Cunliffe said.
Key countered that Labour was preventing the public from having a say by refusing even to let the bill go to a select committee. It could rectify that.
"I would welcome that, and Mr Cunliffe should come up and have a nice glass of wine and we can celebrate that in my office tonight. See you at 10 o'clock!"
But Cunliffe was still playing hard to get. "I seek leave to table a good bottle of pinot noir if he would meet to discuss the passing second part of the [bill] on housing affordability alone."
Speaker David Carter said it wasn't in order to table wine - a commendably self-denying ruling, as he could easily have waited till after the wine was tabled, and then used his powers to confiscate it for himself.
Cunliffe sought to clarify his intention, which he said was to table a bottle of "The PM's Pinot, which apparently is in a blind trust which [Key] doesn't know about". This referred to a previous parliamentary row about Key's pecuniary interests.
Refusing to prolong yet another tit-for-tat over MPs' trusts and assets, Key said he could understand why Cunliffe was so keen to get a bottle of his own-label wine. "I'll make sure to have a bottle delivered to his office this afternoon."
Cunliffe asked Carter if it was in order for the prime minister to undertake delivery of a bottle of wine, "when he has no idea where it has apparently come from?" Carter now ruled the point-of-order system had been abused enough for the time being - perhaps sensing the risk for chaotic precedent if other parties began demanding their bottles in exchange for past support of bills.
But Finance Minister Bill English wrung out a last drop. Asked about apparent disparities between his own and Key's post-Budget tax cut prognoses, he said the prime minister had been extremely complimentary about the Budget. "And I now expect a bottle of wine to appear in my office to indicate a bit of gratitude."