OPINION: Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has such a pleasant smile and a blithe manner that some of the quiet stiletto jabs he slides into the Opposition can pass almost unnoticed.
But after three days of Mr Joyce's twinkly sarcasm, Labour's David Cunliffe, visibly refreshed by an overseas holiday and a close shave, decided to take him on.
He has counted a slew of old projects re-announced as “new projects” in Mr Joyce's latest braggadocio, and at Parliament's question time yesterday, he set his sights on the new Government report, Building Export Markets.
Mr Cunliffe has already dismissed most of the several “new” ideas in the booklet as either public relations or communications exercises. Now he asked why this report on building export markets had contained no export targets for the next 13 years. “The PR glossy,” he said, “contains no quantitative export target till the year 2025.”
Mr Joyce lit up his most avuncular smile, saying, “The member's analysis is as deep as the normal puddle.”
Mr Cunliffe complained to Speaker Lockwood Smith about Mr Joyce's latest “intemperance!”
But Dr Smith said he had heard “derogatory comment!” in Mr Cunliffe's question, so Mr Joyce was entitled to respond in kind.
There was general puzzlement. What had been rude about querying the absence of quantitative targets?
“If members include a reference to a publication as ‘some glossy', it is not objective language,” Dr Smith ordained. “Questions should contain objective language.”
Mr Cunliffe and his colleagues looked again at the Building Export Markets report. It did have a distinct sheen to it. It reflected a fair bit of light. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, even glossier than the great arched dome of Mr Joyce's distinguished bald pate.
Labour's Trevor Mallard protested: “Referring to a glossy publication as ‘glossy' is hardly subjective."
But Dr Smith was indignant. “The Speaker might look stupid but he's not that stupid. The language was intentionally derogatory. It's common language to refer to something as ‘a glossy' when it's considered to have not much content.”
Mr Cunliffe offered to repeat the question omitting the G-word, and then tried formally to table Building Export Markets to provide proof that it was literally, rather than derogatorily, glossy.
Dr Smith, who later revealed he was feeling sensitive because he'd had complaints from members of the public about MPs' unruly behaviour, responded with a threat to eject any more MPs who abused the House's procedures.
He appeared - or chose - not to hear a daring last interjection from Labour's ranks: “The gloss has come off the Government!”
- © Fairfax NZ News