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The Nation: Transcipt - Chris Hipkins

'The Nation'
Chris Hipkins
Interviewed by RACHEL SMALLEY

Rachel Question time was plunged into chaos this week with claims the new Speaker was giving government's ministers an easy ride. Opposition party say David Carter is failing to pull up government ministers when they don’t answer questions or when they add a few political jabs to their answers. They claim Prime Minister John Key is the worst offender. Here's what happened this week when Labour Leader David Shearer tried to get a straight answer out of the PM.

'David Shearer: If the member is saying we should go and back her then that’s a pretty high standard and actually not one he held himself to account to.

Speaker: Point of order.

That latter part of that answer was well off the question and actually was wrong in addition to that.

Speaker: I think the question has been very adequately addressed.

We probably all have made mistakes. I mean this member can't remember he's got in a bank account ……

Speaker: Order.

What specific action will be taken to give the public an assurance that their personal and private details are safe?

Speaker: Right Hon Prime Minister.

John Key: Well I'm attempting to speak and say tell the Leader of the Opposition he doesn’t tell anyone about his private details.

Speaker: Point of order.

Shearer: If the Prime Minister thinks that this is somehow some trivial matter that he can palm off he's wrong and I would appreciate it if he could answer the question.

Speaker: I invite the Leader of the Opposition to reask that question.

JK: And yes I knew Ian Fletcher I went to school with his brother, his brother was way brighter than Grant Robinson…..

Speaker: Order. And that answer does not assist the order of the House.

Trevor Mallard: Six times yesterday you ruled against the Prime Minister for making comments which were out of order at least, Mr Speaker earlier when the Rt Hon Winston Peters made an out of order comment he was required to withdraw, you have never done that to the Prime Minister and I just want to know is it gonna be even both ways.

John Key: Mr Speaker I can't be expected to withdraw that Grant Robinson's not as bright as Alistair Fletcher …

Speaker: Order. Order. Order. The Prime Minister addressed the question and then added a remark that was not helpful to the order of the house. I moved immediately to stop him, I have now moved on, does the member – order – does the member have a further supplementary?

Mallard: Are you going to deal with the now, with the wasting of time. You did not deal with the Prime Minister.

Speaker: Order. I have dealt with the matter. Order. The member will stand and withdraw the comment.

JK: I withdraw, thank you.

Point of order Mr Speaker.

Speaker: If it's a fresh point of order will entertain it but if it's a continuation of the other then I will be asking the member to leave the chamber.

The point of order is whether you have rewritten standing orders or Speaker's rulings …

Speaker: Sit down till I'm finished. The member will now leave the chamber. The member will leave the chamber. Point of order. Mr Hipkins.

Chris Hipkins: Mr Speaker I'm now going to raise with you the point of order that Mr Mallard was going to raise …

Speaker: No that is now relitigating.

Chris: Point of order Mr Speaker. Point of order Mr Speaker.

Speaker: The member will now leave the chamber.'

Rachel I think I've seen better behaviour to be quite honest, in a kindergarten than we saw in the House, Labour's Chief Whip Chris Hipkins joins me now. Thank you for coming in.

Good morning.

Rachel Gosh what would have been the best way to resolve all of this rather than all the sparring we saw this week. Would it not have been better to have a private meeting with the Speaker to address your concerns?

Chris Hipkins – Labour Chief Whip
Oh look it wasn't a great week for anybody in the parliament, but I think ultimately it comes down to the leadership that’s shown by the Speaker and by the Prime Minister as well. When the Speaker allows the Prime Minister to get away with having digs at the opposition with absolutely no penalty if you like, and then it's very hard on the opposition turfing opposition members out of the House, that is going to lead to a certain amount of frustration.

Rachel Lockwood-Smith was considered a very good Speaker but he was something of an exception wasn't he, because he did give opposition MPs a fair hearing. Margaret Wilson though some would argue was more like what we may have seen from David Carter this week. Is it a reality when you have a government appointed Speaker that there is going to be some bias there?

Chris Well it's easy to look back on Lockwood-Smith with rose tinted glasses. In fact when he was appointed the Speaker the opposition has some concerns about him as well. He was kinda put through his paces and tested a little bit and over time I think he earned the respect of the opposition. So David Carter was elected without the support of the whole parliament, it was a contested election and we didn’t necessarily support him in the first place, but he's had an opportunity to earn the opposition's respect, just as Lockwood-Smith did.

Rachel Does it worry you that you know the public looks at things like we saw in question time and the public thinks look MPs we're paying these people, they're acting like children?

Chris Oh absolutely I do and you know I think that the Speaker can certainly change the tone of parliament and I think Lockwood-Smith did change the tone of parliament. You know he implemented some relatively straight rules you know so if you ask a straight question you'll get a straight answer. If you ask a political question well you can expect a political answer. That’s not what we're getting any more now. Nobody sees David Carter has to be Lockwood-Smith, he can be very different, he can have a different style and a different approach, but some basic rules still need to apply.

Rachel Do you think David Carter wants to be Speaker?

Chris Um look he didn’t seem particularly keen on the job, he said right from the outset he was going to find it very difficult to move from being a very political actor in the game to being the impartial referee and certainly I think the first few months that he's been in the job, that that’s been the case.

Rachel Okay, so what can Labour do then if it continues to feel frustrated at David Carter's governance if you like?

Chris Well this is one of the really frustrating things about the parliament is actually the opposition has very little ability to do anything, we rely on the Speaker to be the impartial referee and in New Zealand's constitution arrangements we don’t have an upper house, we don’t have a court that can strike down rules. You know the parliament really is supreme, parliament has the ultimate power, and the only thing the opposition can do is question the government, hold the government to account and we rely on the Speaker to do that.

Rachel Given that Trevor Mallard was thrown out and given that he has aspirations if you like for that Speaker position, that probably didn’t help him a lot did it?

Chris Oh look, I mean I think I can understand Trevor's frustration, you know I got very frustrated as well, I think that you know it would have been much better if that whole situation had been avoided.

Rachel Alright we have to leave it there, Chris Hipkins appreciate you coming in though. Thanks very much for you time this morning.

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