In an eventful day National’s deputy leader Paula Bennett stormed out of parliament & Gerry Brownlee attacked speaker Trevor Mallard in a letter and a press conference questioning his ‘neutrality’ 

Gerry Brownlee

Tensions have been running hot in Parliament for some time now but things reached boiling point on Wednesday afternoon.

National deputy leader Paula Bennett stormed out of the House after an argument with the speaker at Question Time.

Hours later, shadow leader of the House Gerry Brownlee made public a letter he sent to Speaker Trevor Mallard expressing “serious concerns” about his chairing of the House.

“…our confidence in you as a Speaker has been significantly shaken,” Brownlee said in the letter.

He then called a media conference, saying the Speaker has created a “difficult situation” where his neutrality is not as strong as it should be.

Although an opposition being upset with a speaker is hardly new, the lengths National went to on Wednesday were significant.

Significant but, for those who have been paying attention, not entirely unexpected.

National’s main gripe with Mallard is his style of discipline and the way he keeps order in the House.

Whereas previous speakers may have kicked members out of the chamber, Mallard prefers to deduct supplementary questions.

For example, if an opposition member has an outburst, Mallard may deduct two supplementary questions, or “sups”. If the same thing happens on the Treasury benches, Mallard may award the Opposition additional supplementary questions.

This was the main source of contention during the first question on Wednesday after Mallard deducted five sups from National after Brownlee made an unparliamentary remark.

The official house records did not record what he said, but it was severe enough for Mallard to deduct the unusually high number of sups from National.

Brownlee, who clashes with the Speaker during most question times, was clearly unhappy with Mallard’s ruling saying it goes against what an opposition is meant to do – challenge the Government.

After Mallard shut him down, Bennett had a turn and reiterated the same point.

Mallard, again, did not concede and that was it for Bennett.

“No, I'm leaving. What a waste of time,” she said as she left the chamber.

The aftermath

“Your arbitrary taking of questions from the Opposition and the disruption to proceedings are seriously limiting our ability to do our job of holding the Government to account,” Brownlee said in the letter.

National is also unhappy with his involvement in a story about National MPs making “sexist” remarks in the House.

Brownlee has been rallying against the Speaker's removal of supplementary rules for some time.

He has been so aggrieved, in fact, that he and other National MPs boycotted a crucial committee which organises the running of Parliament, according to Politik.

But Mallard completely rejects the notion that his style of running question time is undemocratic to the Opposition.

“Any supplementary questions are at my discretion. I've chosen to use this approach,” he said before Bennett left the House.

According to the Clerk of the House, National has had 22 more sups than they would have otherwise had, as a result of him awarding them additional sups, after outbursts from Government MPs.

“The National Party is ahead on it, and I absolutely reject any suggestion that the National Party have not been able to ask the number of questions over this Parliament that they would've been able to otherwise. That's just not true.”

Given the significance of Brownlee’s comments in the letter and in the subsequent press conference, Mallard’s response is now eagerly awaited.

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60 Comments

I’m part way through watching the clip on question time and it’s clear Paula is getting owned by Jacinda. She keeps asking easy questions and getting upset when Jacinda bats them aside.

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I finished watching it. Really lame.

•Paula getting owned on the questions
•Calls labour policy a bribe
•Gets told off
•Jacinda responds using bribe in reference to her own policy
•Paula complains
•Speaker says it’s ok because it was a self reference
•Gerry interjects saying something rude about the speaker
•National get fined 5 questions
•Paula and Gerry complain
•Speaker points out they are up 22 questions for these ruling
•Paula storms out

I think the National Party have been watching too many Mike Pence stages walkouts.

You really have to watch the video. Paula is doing so badly. She clearly wanted a way out of that exchange that saved face.

Gerry Browneye and Paula Benefit are having hunger tantrums. That's all.

That is unnecessary.

A zip would fix most of the issue. Fat chance.

Bennett complains of not being able to ask questions, yet before she turns into a stompy five-year-old, the Speaker asks if she wants to ask another supplementary question .. she declines by walking out and complains to the media the Speaker is making her job hard

National are handling the mirror of truth held up to them by Labour poorly. Every question time Labour points out various messes left by National. National made mistakes, the new government (less than a year old) should be pointing out those faults and explaining their vision - good or bad.

National .. after what, 9 years in government still rabidly blamed Labour for all of New Zealand's woes. The last Speaker of the House was so lax he let the Prime Minister deiced when he was and wasn't to be considered the PM. That was pushing the envelope by everyone's standards - not just National MP's who can't handle their loss of power.

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National assumed they would form the government.

When Winston chose Labour they assumed he would sink the CoL with his own behaviour.

Now Winston is quiet, the people love Jacinda and they are staring down the barrel of 3, maybe 6, maybe 9 years in opposition.

This is intolerable. And to have the speaker be a Labour Party person and to be completely at the whims of his decisions. These rules are only fair when they are in government.

But what I really want to know. Of the National fanboys here, who thinks Paula and Gerry are winners? Anybody?

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I'm in Christchurch and it amazes me the people of Ilam keep voting Gerry in. Paula and Gerry look very childish and unable to work within the boundaries set by the Speaker. These fools don't realize you catch more bees with honey than vinegar.

National are foolishly ruining their relations with the Speaker and digging themselves a deeper hole by writing letters/press-releases demanding the Speaker explain himself .. tragic ..

Bennett: "Nah, I'm leaving, what a waste of time!"
Speaker: "For how long?" LMFAO

Oh, how the midgety have fallen.

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Does National realise yet that they are no longer in power?
And that they have left a poor legacy and low social capital, & weakened so many public institutions.
Let them stomp out - they hardly have a rational argument or thinking critique to add value to a debate in a democratic parliament.

As to Nationals "low social capital " as you call it , maybe you could explain what you mean ?

We are a multi-cultural , multi-lingual , multi-ethnic , multi-religous society made up of a diverse group of immigrants , and the social capital of networks has always been weak

Social cohesion, like we would see in places like Japan for example is simply impossible . In Japan everyone (almost) is Japanese , they speak essentially one language and cultural norms are uniform .

I have no desire to immerse myself in Asian , Maori or Polynesian culture , I dont fit , we are not readily accepted , and we have a totally different view of the world .

I accept our multi-culturalism , and secular views on religion , but it has nothing to do with who is running the Government .

Wow Mr Boatman, that is a dangerous admission. Everyone is required to participate in diversity and enjoy it. All digital communications are monitored and recorded for all time. Now back to your 'agile work space' and make sure you leave no personal belongings on your desk or the cleaners will remove them.
This is a public service announcement from Airstrip One.

You can’t be serious to think that this COL will get back in at the next election???
They are an absolute rabble and Mallard is not neutral and he will be replaced at some stage if he is showing bias to the COL! !!

Considering the Speaker of the House is appointed by the government, how precisely is he going to "replaced at some stage if he is showing bias to the COL"?

If Mallard is not being unbiased and showing favouritism to the COL then it is going to be a very messy parliament isn’t it?
They can not carry on with this ridiculous childish behaviour and clearly Trevor Mallard is not allowing the debate to flow so if it carries on like this the National Party will not tolerate this and the public will see this COL as not being suitable to be able to run parliamentary debate let alone the country.
He will be replaced by a vote of no confidence or something like that if it continues!

Hahahaha, dream on.

Sounds like confirmation bias, you can’t see the truth

@ THE MAN 2 you are 100% on the money . Mallard is a goon of the first order who has been thrown out of the house more times for erratic, childish and looney behaviour than I can recall .

If the tables were turned there would have been an outcry from Labour.

Mallard cannot shield the COL from criticism for the ongoing and worsening chaotic mess they are making of our beloved country.

Every time someone from the COL opens their mouth they put both feet into it , with the result we are simply going nowhere other than bumbling from one crisis to the next .

Education in disarray
Strikes and Industrial Action , nurses , port workers , train drivers , bus drivers the list is endless
Oil and Gas exploration ...... effectively BANNED
Cattle disease epidemic that could paralyse our economy
A raft of new taxes that we cannot afford
Throwing money into short-term make -work schemes in the Provinces that is unustainable
Interefering with institutions they should leave well alone ( like the Reserve bank )
Not allowing robust debate in Parliament
Attacking everyone who does not tow the official line ( Treasury )
Drunken orgy at Labour camp

It can only go on so long .............

It's been going on for decades already. Everything you list is the result of past governments, both Labour and National and of a society with no long term vision.

The behavior of our politicians is merely a reflection of our society, which includes you and I.

As if we had robust debate allowed by the last speaker under National's regime. But that's just me putting my little toe into the string of soundbites your defeated Nats have published .. so tow like a little tug.

I voted for TOP and ALCP

Why wouldn't the 'COL' get back in? Look who they are competing against:

Simon Bridges, Paula Bennett, Gerry Brownlee, Amy Adams, Nick Smith, etc .. pretty sure most informed voters would rather Labour's offerings over the aforementioned lot.

Let us not forget, most voters didn't vote for National. The public did away with two of National's supporting parties (Maori and United Future). Labour had an unprecedented leadership change .. yet still pulled in enough votes. National fostered such poor relations with Winston, NZF voted not to put a ring on it. Every week Labour owns National in-the-house.

How are National going to 'win'? NZF isn't going to jump into bed with National. Do you think the Greens are going to be National's new bedfellow? Maybe everyone will realize Simon Bridges is an inspiring visionary who will lead NZ into a golden age - the masses will unit and give National a first-past-the-post themed victory! The National carcass caucus will then emulate Scarlett O'hara are raise their fists to the darkened sky and cry aloud, "Victorious at Last !!".

Outlook = Doubtful

Dr Smith should really be leader of the opposition, so inspirational. the Nats would romp in next election.

He's a dish lol

Let's not forget that Jacinda will have a bouncing baby by election time to win over voters.

National and Soimon No Bridges are TOAST.

The Woman’s mags will be filled with Royal progeny over the next few years. Taxinda’s offspring is yesterday’s news as the sheeple have more to focus on like the Kiwibuild failure, petrol prices through the roof and a National lite budget the screwed left union members like teachers.

She's a political star! She's at the top for 9 years. Think about it. National has no friends at all.

Reality is that. Atonal does not have to be much to get back I !

The COL are an absolute shocker and their policies that they had are not being implemented and I believe if there was an election tomorrow people will vote differently to what they did, as this MMP is a shocker and did not give the voters what they wanted by having to combine 3 losers together to get into so-called power!
You can beleive what you want but 2 terms of this shocking lot will be the death knell for nZ and Ardern will not stay as leader for 2 terms, as she has other things on her mind.
Bear in mind that she didn’t want to be leader of the Labour Party in the first place.

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@ THE MAN 2

Didn't the National Government amalgamate TWO now extinct parties (Maori and United Future) with the charity-case, ironically called the 'Act Party' to form their beastly government? That's 4 losers to the 'COL's' 3.

Before the 'COL' won, National weren't even acknowledging NZ's housing crisis and frankly the news headlines concerning the health sector and social services were and continue to be shocking. Labour are no prize pig but National were DOA.

Trying to talk sense to a special needs person. Well, good luck.

... ha ... that's exactly what the mother-in-law says to the wife ... any time she visits us ... shaking her head at me with a look of wonder ...

As far as acronyms, you could have chosen better. GBH was rampant on The Sweeney if I remember rightly. Still, Gerry has the first two in place as well.

That would be an insult to those with special needs. Keep it above the belt.

You are out of touch with the rest of the country on this, Labour's support has grown since the election

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_next_New_Zealand_g...

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/103169090/stuff-poll-of-polls-...

would be interesting to see whether the Greens or NZF get over the 5% threshold, if either do then Labour would have a large majority with a single partner.

I note also that Jacinda receives 37% in the preferred Prime Minister poll, even stronger than the impressive 'don't know' at 32%. Bridges is at 10%.

http://www.colmarbrunton.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/7-11-Apr-2018_...

Being non-tribal , I'm in a good position to slag off at both sides of the political divide ....

... and in this case , Trevor Mallard is being unconstitutional in withdrawing supplementary questions from members whom he has deemed to breach the standing orders ...

I can understand and wholeheartedly agree with his desire to raise the tone of the debate .... but this is not the way to do it ... this is a blow to free speech within the house ...

... its called a debating chamber for good reason... for warts and all , for the members to cross examine one another ... for the opposition to hold the government to account ... anything less than that is an incremental blow to our democratic process ....

Pull your head in , Trev !

Couldn't one argue that these National members are destroying the democratic process by not obeying the standing orders?

... neither did Labour and the Greens , when they were on the opposition benches ...

Trevor Mallard is a fine one to tell the Gnats how to behave : Pot - Kettle - Black , Trev !

Labour were reasonably happy with Lockwood Smith but no so with Carter. Quite the opposite in fact. So fair to say some pay back was always likely. It is time for Brownlee to go. He is acting like a maxi Muldoon. Personally I believe it is fitting he is aggrieved, there are many in Canterbury that have been aggrieved by him.

Mr Brownlee in the Christchurch Press is quoted as asking The Speaker for a “full explanation.” During his reign of EQC minister, and as CIC therein, of misinformation and disinformation he would be more equipped than most to understand that full explanations are both undesirable and portentous. Hard to walk with boots on the wrong feet isn’t it.

Sounded to me in the video of the earlier session that it was most likely Brownlee who made the "Stupid little girl!" interjection toward Jacinda Ardern, though no one has been willing to own their words as of yet.

Personally, I'm less keen on the new model of awarding and docking questions. Easier on some of these occasions just to eject the person from the house and put them in time out when they're acting childish. At least Paula put herself in time out to cool down from her tanty.

your guess as the author of the letter being the utterer may well be shrewdly correct. “........doth protest too much, methinks.”

Trevor Mallard is being unconstitutional

Unconstitutional?
...Wouldn't that have to imply that we had a constitution in the first place?

Someone has been watching too many movies.

... its called a debating chamber for good reason

Exactly the point Trevor Mallard is using this technique.
They are not getting penalised for debating, at all.
They are getting penalised for petulant and disrespectful behaviour.

It is ridiculous to run around saying ‘this system is biased, this system is biased.’ When you are up 22 questions the only way it can be biased is towards you.

The best part was:
Paula:I'm leaving, it's a waste of time.
Trevor: for how long?
Paula: I'm not returning to parliament...hahaha ( I wish)

No doubt she went out to the garden to eat worms.

It's politics what do you expect.

Pualas capers was a headline grapper, or worsted for her a tap out. She's no a strong intellect in opposition or debater.

Jacinda is a first rate debater. That's why Peters likes her so much. She's got gas!

Aye, I learnt that in the lab at school. That is, there is a lot of difference between hot air and gas.

I cant take this new Government seriously any longer ......... its becoming more like Zirka with each passing say

We need to get rid of these clowns as soon as possible .

And replace them with a bigger set of clowns?
Good try

Boatman -
You and the other grizzlers could run off to America and help even up their run-aways coming this way.

I understand the Westminister System and all, but surely it is rolling past its used by date especially in terms of debates and questions. I would be in favour of a more open system of question time. Less in person crap. Have questions framed to the government who then has 24 hours to reply. Their response is published in an interactive portal online where their answer can be supported by evidence of PDF's Reports, Video blogs. Errors or mistruths could then be handled in the appropriate select committee.

Similarly, Debate speeches in the house need to be published with the MP supplying supporting evidence for claims. These could all still have the protection of Privilege. The way Parliament processes information is now way behind society. Time to tune things up.

speaker is neutral , give me a break, apart from lockwood smith none of the past ones have been very even handed, always favour their own party, some worse than others carter for the nats and wilson for lab come to mind.
as for mallards system of taking and giving questions, i do not like it one bit, the loser should be free to question all they like and the winners should be able to say lalalalala we are in control now and we will do it our way
and when someone goes over the top kick them out

Maybe the Speaker position should be someone from outside government?

Maybe a time out room and detention?

What about a fine and dock their pay - might reduce the need for new taxes?

Someone from outside government? ... doubt there would be many, if any, takers. It's a really tedious job - first, having to be familiar with the hundreds of Speaker's rulings (such that you can on most occasions rule correctly on points of order) and second, having to try and HEAR both the questions put, but more importantly the answers given over the noise/interjections of others in the House.

A Speaker (and the public!!!!!!) should able able to listen to questions, and even more importantly, the answers given by the Ministers in silence!

All the shouting and interjections are totally unnecessary... we the public can form our own opinions without the help of other members. But we can't if we can't HEAR what people are saying!

Seems to me that Mallard is just trying to give the public a fairer go at HEARING what is being said. I hope he continues with the docking of supplementary questions and finally QT becomes informative for those trying to listen to it!

I was thinking along the lines of neutrality and as someone who doesn't vote for either of them I could be suitable. I'm guessing the remuneration might make up for the tedium. I've done worse jobs for less pay :)

Sounds like it could be time for the rules to be simplified.

There needs to be a harder line on the shouting and interjections, both are rude and disrespectful, and I would suggest those responsible are ejected immediately. Maybe old tribal customs could be introduced such as the talking stick.

I do wonder how effective question time really is. Is government really going to change their policies after it's been implemented just because the Opposition doesn't agree with it or because it wasn't their idea? Does it really inform the public in any meaningful way? Current practice certainly doesn't show any leading by example.

As someone who has regularly watched question time (on demand), I recommend that all those who comment remember back to the last speaker. Carter would allow National ministers to stonewall until the opposition ran out of supplementaries. Getting a meaningful answer was nigh on impossible.

I'm afraid that Gerry has an overblown sense of his own importance (remember Christchurch airport) and has not yet appreciated that he should have followed his former colleagues out of the door.

The 'honourable' doctor should also be gone. I know who I'd be questioning first about unparliamentary comments.

Not to mention how he would allow Mr key to just smirk with a one word reply, opposition could never get a decent response from key

... and, of course, dear Paula has to attempt to make herself relevant in preparation for the next change in leadership. Poor Simon wont make it through to the next election.

She was kicked out today