Little slip harbinger of honourable court battle

ABOUT THE HOUSE - JANE CLIFTON
Last updated 05:00 19/07/2012
collins
JUDITH COLLINS: Justice Minister.

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OPINION: There is definitely something about the sheer ferocity of Judith Collins' smile when she's on the rampage that would tend to stick alarmingly in the mind of anyone she was on the rampage for - which was how Labour's Andrew Little came to make a classic Freudian slip in Parliament yesterday.

The House was abuzz with the first instalment of the defamation case the ACC minister is bringing against Mr Little and Trevor Mallard, as the parties' respective lawyers had just that morning met a judge to sort out the timetable for the trial.

Everyone in politics secretly loves a good rumble, and since both sides of the House have at least one dog in this particular fight, it was top-of-mind even for Prime Minister John Key.

When Opposition leader David Shearer asked what he would do if his coalition prop, ACT's John Banks, were to be prosecuted for fraud - another of Mr Mallard's little projects - Mr Key smiled wolfishly and said: “Let's be honest: the only person who's going to end up in court is Trevor Mallard.”

Mr Little pantomimed hurt feelings at being left out of the picture as he, too, will face the beak as joint defendant.

And, as Mr Mallard crowed in about 45 interjections during the course of the afternoon, Mr Key himself will be called to give evidence if the Labour defendants have their way.

However, Mr Little got more attention than he could handle later in Question Time when he rose to ask about mining safety.

Government MPs teased him so vociferously that he had difficulty even starting his question, and eventually asked his tormenters whether they were ready yet.

Speaker Lockwood Smith prodded him to get on with it, whereupon Mr Little said: “My apologies, Your Honour.” It was only after a protracted interval of multi-partisan hilarity that he managed to amend this to “Mr Speaker”, adding gamely: “We're rehearsing on this side [for the court case].”

Dr Smith was unabashedly amused to be mistaken for a High Court judge.

But curiously he refused to adjudicate on another matter: Labour's Iain Lees-Galloway calling Mr Key a jellyfish.

Mr Mallard raised a point of order, saying it was clearly against the House's rules and “not on” to call anyone, “specially the prime minister”, a jellyfish.

Dr Smith said it was not on for Mr Mallard to raise bogus points of order - but delighted the Opposition by leaving the jellyfish remark to stand.

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It was the perfect intro to an unusually surreal weekly general debate, which featured duelling Labour and National MPs happily quoting Dr Seuss at one another - out of context, naturally.

- The Dominion Post

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