While the PM’s office remains mum on the issue an increasing weight of evidence is pointing towards a July 27th general election date.
Today during Parliament’s question time two points of order were raised by National MPs seeking an explanation from the Speaker for instructions given to them by house officials indicating that the final sitting day for Parliament has been set for June 11th.
If this is the case then Parliament is set to sit for just one final week - the week after next - before the election campaign proper will begin. An election date of July 27th is indicated by the date.
First up today in question time was Roger Sowry, who sought an explanation for why Jenny Shipley had been told that June 11th was the last day she could table her report on a recent Commonwealth Association meeting.
After seeking the advice of the Clerk the speaker first said that no-one in the Clerk’s office had provided the advice alleged.
Later however he explained a misunderstanding had arisen because a meeting had been set on the Commonwealth Association matter, and that while no advice had yet been given to parties on the date of that meeting, this advice was now in the mail.
Meanwhile, his attention aroused by Sowry’s question, and after adding two and two together, Nick Smith’s radar was also giving off election warning beeps. An engineer working on a Private Member’s Bill being considered tonight had been told by house officials that today was the last member’s day of the session. Why he asked?
Leader of the House Michael Cullen replied disingenuously accusing the Opposition of quaking in their boots at the very thought of an election: “Recognising the tremble running through the opposition at the prospects of an election.” He went on to say that if Nick Smith had been talking to his whips he would know what progress would be made with his bill today.
Roger Sowry’s view of today’s events is that attempts are being made to explain away the advice of officials who, while trying to be helpful, have inadvertently given the game away.
He called on Helen Clark to clarify the situation after she returns from Australia and before she heads off for Samoa. “Of course it would not be a good look to announce an election while in Australia.”
Meanwhile Prime Ministerial Spokesman Mike Munro says any discussion of an early election remains pure speculation. “No decision has yet been made on a date for the election,” he told Scoop.
- Extracts from today’s Scoop coverage of Question time follow (See... SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 29 May ):
EARLY ELECTION RUMBLE NO. 1!
Roger Sowry – One of our staff has been in discussion with the Clerk’s office and has been told that the last day for tabling papers will by June 11th. Why does he know something we don’t.
Speaker - The Clerk says he has given no comments to that effect.
Roger Sowry – One of the staff in the Clerk’s office has advised us of this date. If someone has got this wrong then perhaps you could advise us to that effect.
Speaker – I will get back to you on this.
EARLY ELECTION RUMBLE NO. 2!
Nick Smith – I would like to be advised if this is the last member’s day. I want to know what will be happening with my bill.
Michael Cullen – Recognising the tremble running through the opposition at the prospects of an election. If the member had been talking to his whips he would know what progress will be made with his bill today.
Speaker – Staff in the Table Office have been spoken to. No one stated that documents could not be tabled after the 11th of June. If the member will name the person who provided the information I will take further action.
Gerry Brownlee – We are not mistaken about this. Is he implying we are making this up. We should not have to finger someone in the table office. It should be a case of the Government standing up and ruling out the possibility of 11th of June being the last sitting day.