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Shipley's hiding from parliamentary scrutiny

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Labour Leader Helen Clark said today that National was manipulating Parliament's rules and procedures to shield the Prime Minister from scrutiny during parliamentary questions in the run-up to the election.

"During the past few weeks of the parliamentary session, the government has repeatedly forced Parliament to sit under urgency. Sources around Parliament say we will again be forced into urgency for the few remaining weeks left before Parliament rises for the election.

"Under the rules that apply when the House is sitting in urgency, question time is usually lost. Question time enables the opposition to subject Mrs Shipley and her ministers to scrutiny. There have been few question times in this current three week session and few are expected in the next, and likely final session.

"National does not want question time because all too often it leads to blundering performances from the Prime Minister. As we have seen repeatedly this year, when under pressure and unprotected by her minders, Mrs Shipley is error prone.

"Recently she has resorted to the device of not showing up for question time, even on the rare occasions it does take place. She was AWOL on Tuesday at 2pm, despite having no notified public engagements until 6.30pm. Today she became so flustered over her answer to a supplementary question that she sat down without blurting out a full response.

"Question time has the important constitutional function of providing a forum in which the government can be held to account by the opposition. This is a corner-stone of Westminster-style Parliaments."

Helen Clark said that another result of Parliament's present manic sessions in urgency is that the laws which National is ramming through are bound to be error-ridden.

"Legislation, such as the various producer board restructuring bills which have major implications for New Zealand's primary industries, should be debated carefully and subjected to intense scrutiny, not rushed through in haste," Helen Clark said.

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