PM gives political foes a dose of 'beep beep'

ABOUT THE HOUSE - JANE CLIFTON
Last updated 05:00 27/03/2013

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There are times when Prime Minister John Key is so unabashedly pleased about aggravating his foes in Parliament, it's a wonder he hasn't taken to warbling the roadrunner's signature gloaty laugh, "Hahaha - he - haw!"

OPINION: Question time again went badly for the would-be "wile e coyotes" of the Opposition yesterday as Speaker David Carter continued to shrug off Mr Key's cheeky behaviour, and Mr Key cheerfully bided his time during the resultant point of order row by planning his next misdemeanour.

For sheer devilment, when answering questions about the latest leak of secret personal data from a government agency, Mr Key tried to change the subject to Labour leader David Shearer's forgotten bank account.

By the expedient of saying, in respect of the accidental leak from the Earthquake Commission, that "everybody makes mistakes", he was able to tack on a reference to last week's flurry over Mr Shearer's mistake.

Parliament's rules say ministers mustn't bring irrelevant material into their answers, so when Mr Key started to talk irrelevantly about Mr Shearer, Mr Carter made the PM sit down.

But like the pesky cartoon bird, Mr Key kept popping up with a provocative grin and doing it again. The fourth time this happened, Opposition MPs had had enough.

NZ First leader Winston Peters said Mr Carter had done "precisely nothing" about Mr Key's rule-flouting.

Mr Carter over-ruled the complaint, saying he had cut Mr Key off each time he had introduced the gratuitous material.

However, as the Opposition pointed out, what usually happens to MPs who repeatedly defy a Speaker is a boot up the behind and a flea in their ear on the way out the door. Why hadn't he thrown the PM out?

Mr Carter said he had been trying to keep his patience, as he didn't want to eject anyone.

Mr Key, who was enjoying the rumpus so heartily that his smile had grown to Ronald McDonald dimensions, decided to have his say on the point of order.

"I'm not going to relitigate your ruling, Mr Speaker, but . . ." and he proceeded again to compare the Earthquake Commission mistake to Mr Shearer's mistake. By any measure, this was major naughtiness.

To the Opposition's fury, Mr Carter let him off with this, too, forcing it to eat more of the roadrunner's dust.

Never in the history of television did the beeping bird get caught. But there are other cartoons. As they made pointedly stage-whispered comments of mutiny against him, Opposition MPs were eyeing up Mr Carter rather in the way Sylvester used to regard Tweety.

Or, to put it another way, Yogi Bear looks as though he's about to take Ranger Smith head-on.

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- The Dominion Post

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