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Gerry: In the House - 24 March 2006

Gerry: In the House
24 March 2006

An Interesting Week

It has been a very interesting week in the House with the unexpected resignation of David Parker. This has highlighted just how thin on the ground Labour's talent pool really is. The Prime Minister has categorised this year as being preoccupied with personal attacks. This is far from the truth and ignores the serious nature of the matters that go before the House.

Offers by National to work constructively on big issues have fallen on deaf ears. At a time when our economy is facing significant challenges, the last thing this country needs is a 'do nothing' government. Helen Clark and Michael Cullen need to see past their self-congratulatory fascination in gaining a third term and recognise that 'go nowhere' governments never deliver better prospects for the people they serve. In the General Debate on Wednesday I set out National's position. I include extracts of my speech below:

General Debate: Wednesday 22 March 2006

I move, ­that the House take note of miscellaneous business. Following the resignation yesterday of the honourable David Parker, this House had a debate about the matter. There were two speeches that were reasonably well quoted by media commentators; one with Jeanette Fitzsimmons, and the other, in part at least, from the Rt Hon Winston Peters, in which a question was raised about whether this House was headed in a direction that was, to say the least, unsavoury and worrying - whether individual members could expect to have their backgrounds raked over, and whether they could expect all sorts of investigations into their past.

I think that those speeches slightly missed the point. It is not muck-raking to ask the Prime Minister how $446,000 of her leader's budget ends up in the Labour Party campaign. It is not muck-raking to ask the Prime Minister how five policemen can end up in the dock with a civilian driver and why she did not notice the speed of the car was 160 kilometres. It is not muck-raking to suggest that misleading Parliament is a serious matter, and it is not muck-raking to ask how the falsification of a document came about. They are the matters referred to in those speeches, and they are not the matters that should be easily swept aside. I say to this House, particularly to the Labour members who have been so sensitive about these issues, that if they want respect they will have to start showing it. If one looked at the way in which Government Ministers dealt with question time today, they would see no desire on the part of Ministers to give serious answers to serious issues.

The rightful role of the Opposition is to scrutinise their portfolios by asking questions. The Prime Minister today refused to say what she thought of the Whangamata decision. She hid behind a pathetic answer, saying that the Minister followed a process. That virtually hangs the Minister out to dry. She accepted no group responsibility whatsoever. Dr Nick Smith decided that he should ask Dover Samuels what he meant when he said he thought the Minister of Conservation had acted inappropriately. We know that Dover Samuels had a heck of a lot more to say, and that most of what was said was inside the Labour caucus room, but publicly he questioned the right of the Minister to make that decision. It is our role to ask why he did that. Why is it that a Minister can make an important public decision, only to be questioned by another Minister? What we got was this idea that because the first Minister had a different coloured hat on at the time he made those statements, he is exempt from being questioned in the House. That is utter nonsense. Is there a point when a Minister walks out of this place during the day or the night and is no longer considered a Minister? I do not think Lianne Dalziel would agree with that. I do not think Ruth Dyson would agree with that. I do not think that poor old Dover himself, if he really asked himself the qestion, would agree with that. So what happens is that a level of frustration brews up inside the Opposition and, of course, we get a degree of disorder happening in the House.

A question was asked of the Hon Harry Duynhoven. It was a simple question: Were there any bids for the latest round of gasfields that were on offer? The answer that came back avoided the reality that no one was interested. For how long will we have commentators writing articles about the way in which the House appears, and the business the House is supposedly preoccupied with, while ignoring the fact that Ministers are not exercising their responsibility to be accountable to the public of this country? It does get us away from considering the big issues that face this nation. The looming energy crisis is right on our back-door step. Australia grows rich while we grow poor. Welfare numbers are on the rise. Education costs grow while quality falls. Waiting lists get longer even though patients are sent back to their doctors. While Labour has no answers, National stands ready to pick up the challenge of giving New Zealanders a better future.

Gerry Brownlee


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