Parliament's barking parallel universe

ABOUT THE HOUSE - JANE CLIFTON
Last updated 05:00 28/11/2012

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OPINION: Till yesterday's parliamentary sitting, most people thought the global financial crisis had been caused by things such as dodgy United States housing loans and the fall of Lehman Brothers, but Prime Minister John Key fingered a different culprit.

During an especially hoonish question time in which Mr Key at one point barked like a dog, the Opposition tried repeatedly to monster the Government about lack of progress in jobs and housing affordability.

This prompted Mr Key, in one of his shorthand garbles, to reveal that the global financial crisis was one "we inherited from Labour!"

Labour MPs spluttered with laughter, remarkably cavalier at being unmasked as the true cause of the near-collapse of the world financial system, the beggaring of several European countries and massed homelessness and unemployment across the US.

David Clark even bellowed his daily mantra, "Worst economic record for 50 years!" a couple of times, causing the Speaker to rebuke him, "Would the foghorn at the back please desist!"

Mr Key said he had "enormous sympathy" for Mr Clark, who was "not the only David sitting in the back row who wants to make a lot of noise and be leader".

This was a dig at demoted Labour high-flier David Cunliffe, who, if not personally responsible for the GFC, was found guilty of plotting to overthrow his leader last week.

Part of his punishment has been to be re-seated against the chamber wall between mid-benchers. Presumably to show that you can't keep a good man down, Mr Cunliffe made a point of interjecting with as much insouciant verve as he could muster.

Unfortunately, there was a coincidental lull in the din when he loudly accused the Government: "You can't do the numbers!"

As "doing the numbers" is also the phrase used to describe the process of caucus leadership coups, questions had to stop for an interlude as heaving MPs on all sides of the House enjoyed the irony of Mr Cunliffe's accusation.

Mr Key kept the coup motif in play when he ridiculed Labour's housing-affordability costings. He said the only house that could be built, as Labour claimed, for as little as $300,000, was one in the small South Island town of Lumsden.

"And that house would be for David Cunliffe, and it would be the dogbox," he said, sitting down with a surprisingly realistic cry of "Woof woof!"

Given the anarchic ambience, it was expecting too much that Associate Education Minister Craig Foss should give cogent answers on the origins of the Novopay debacle.

Questioned about whether the new and conspicuously unreliable system for delivering teachers' pay had been trialled, Mr Foss repeatedly denied it, despite Opposition evidence that there had been trialling.

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His explanation: "The system wasn't trialled. It was tested in parallel with the previous system."

- Fairfax Media

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