Why Green MPs shouldn’t give their parliamentary questions to National

By   /   March 19, 2018  /   33 Comments

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There are several reasons why it is wrong of the Green caucus to hand over some of their Parliamentary Questions to National.

There are several reasons why it is wrong of the Green caucus to hand over some of their Parliamentary Questions to National.

Firstly, we have to understand the importance of Question Time. It is the main stage on which parties push their policies on the issues of the day through their MPs asking questions of Ministers, and the Ministers replying. The parliamentary press gallery closely monitors the exchanges.

As a small party with eight MPs the Greens only get about one of the 12 primary questions allotted to parties each day so it is never hard to work out a question to a Minister – whether it be a supportive or challenging one. When I was a Green MP (1999-2011) we always had a surplus of possible questions, and big battles between the Green MPs about whose questions made the cut.

Let’s look at an earlier period, 1999-2002, when the Greens had a Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Labour/Alliance government – similar to the Confidence and Supply Agreement the Greens have today with the Labour/NZ First coalition, although the Greens now have three Cabinet Ministers (outside-of-Cabinet). In that earlier time, Labour and the Alliance expected most of the Green questions to be challenging – on such topics as genetic engineering, the war in Afghanistan, welfare reform, free trade and investment treaties and counter-terrorism legislation. We didn’t hand over any questions to National because on many topics (such as those listed above) National was either in Labour’s camp, or to the right of Labour. One of the things that disturbs me most in yesterday’s Green press release is that National is labeled the “opposition”. National is not the “opposition” on the TPPA.  The Greens are. National is not the “opposition” to deep sea oil drilling. The Greens are. National and Labour support New Zealand being in the Five Eyes. The Greens do not. National and NZ First support keeping keep New Zealand troops in Iraq. The Greens do not. It is quite misleading to call National the “opposition”.

For two decades Green MPs have been explaining that the concept of an “opposition” and a “Leader of the Opposition” does not apply in an MMP Parliament.   A particular party’s ally on one issue can be their opponent on another. For example on some issues Labour is closest to the Greens, on others it is closest to NZ First and on others its ally is National.

Conceptually, the Greens are now both part of a governing arrangement, with three Ministers, but also an opposition on several important issues. Green parliamentary questions can legitimately be of several types.

Some can be “patsy” questions to allow a Minister to expand on some new progressive policy.

Some questions can help show what’s wrong with a right-wing National policy. Labour PM Helen Clark and I worked in tandem at Question Time to explain to the public why we needed to get rid of the air combat force. I asked, for example,  how many times the Skyhawks had been used operationally in the 40 years we’d had them. Helen Clark answered: None.

Some Green questions can push Labour to be a bit bolder. Currently, it would be useful to ask the PM or Corrections Minister what they are doing to loosen bail and parole procedures so we don’t spend $1 billion on a new prison.

And finally, there is nothing wrong with friendly but challenging questions on important issues where Labour and the Greens disagree – as on investment treaties and deep sea oil drilling. We wouldn’t be breaking new ground here. This is what we have been doing for years. Having three Ministers outside Cabinet doesn’t fundamentally change what we can do.

Other parties that have had Ministers outside Cabinet haven’t been as cautious as the current Green caucus about challenging the government at Question Time. Just look back at the Hansard from 2008 on and you’ll see that Maori Party MPs like Te Ururoa Flavell and Hone Harawira asked National Ministers a lot of hard questions on the use of tasers, the detention of Maori in the Uruwera raids, gun registration – you name it.  Having Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples as Maori Party Ministers didn’t slow them down a bit.

There is no justification for giving away Green questions to National.

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33 Comments

  1. CLEANGREEN says:

    I left the Green Party in 2002 and were hoping NZF would save our rail system but I see now that Labour are shelling out over one half of a Billion for a new truck road now and NZF have not been active in saving our regional rail after Shane jones lied at the first release of the “regional Development fund” while he was in Gisborne two weeks ago and he is NZF.

    Winston had many times promised to save the rail and reoppen it when in Government but his cousin Shane jones has folded for truck lobbyists and has said he is not considering helping the community to reopen the rail now and may be spending all the funds on building more truck roads so we are seeing that Labour are loosing their green base who are wanting to use rail freight to reverse the freight transport climate change emissions from trucks and we feel that the green party is now feeling as we do that labour need a wakeup call to reverse their truck friendly policy and save our rail.

    Good for the greens to give labour a black eye over their refusal to restore our regional rail as Jacinda said “Climate change is their “nuclear moment” and jacinda now must re-orginise her cabinet and get rid of ministers that “under’-perform in “climate change emissions reductions from freight transport this year or during this term of a failing Labour Party performance.

    “Labour must be held to account” said Jacinda at the Waitangi day celebrations this year and Greens are doing just that.

    I support the green party Leader for his ruling to give some support to any other party who will hold labour to account”

    • Sam Sam says:

      Ahem. The fact Bill English and now Simon Bridges have stated multiple times that’s it’s not the national parties responsibility to smooth the path for a labour government means that there are zero combinations of National Party questions that can hold Labour to account. ZERO!!!

  2. XRAY says:

    I am quite sure James Shaw is not an imbecile and in fact quite an intelligent man who has seen enough of the National Party to KNOW they can never be trusted.

    So given that and the fact under his guidance the Green Party almost didn’t make it back last time around owing to their breath taking political stupidity you have to begin to wonder.

    Then lets just assume ex PWC adviser to BP, Coca Cola etc, James Shaws number one task is to end the Green Party’s parliamentary presence.

    It’s about then this idiocy makes perfect sense!

    • The Masked Moa says:

      I have come to the same conclusion. The Greens need to get rid of Shaw as soon as possible.

      • Marc says:

        +10000

      • Michelle says:

        yip both the greens and The gnats need new leaders they have 2 years to find one.
        To me giving your questions away is a sign of weakness they need to stand up to the labs themselves and call them out if they can’t do this then they shouldn’t be there it is as simple as that.

  3. richard maysobn says:

    Somewhat lengthy but a most helpful description yet despite this backgrounder the fact remains that inf aw political terms Jame Shaw has given a weapon to National to hit the Govt with. It shows political naivety at its best or cynical collusion at its worst

    • Michelle says:

      Is it naivety, childishness or political suicide or all of these. They had a chance to negotiate with the gnats but they didn’t take it, why ? would they have got more gains? who knows.

  4. Michelle says:

    Based on this weak action of James Shaw the Greens might be the next party gone. It is very weak of the leader to give their questions to the gnats when they should be asking the hard question themselves.
    I am very disappointed in the Greens and I know if Meiteria was still there this wouldn’t be happening.

    • savenz says:

      I have to agree, was not a huge fan of Metiria at the time, but she was at least principled and asked hard questions about things like TPPA which is really going to effect EVERYTHING the Green Party appears to hold dear in their policy.

      Again what is going on in the Green Party? They just look lazy giving away their question’s like they can’t be bothered. If it’s such a chore, maybe step down and let the other Green list members further down the list take over and do the job!

      Now giving away questions to the Natz. Agree 100% with

      “One of the things that disturbs me most in yesterday’s Green press release is that National is labeled the “opposition”. National is not the “opposition” on the TPPA. The Greens are. National is not the “opposition” to deep sea oil drilling. The Greens are. National and Labour support New Zealand being in the Five Eyes. The Greens do not. National and NZ First support keeping keep New Zealand troops in Iraq. The Greens do not. It is quite misleading to call National the “opposition”.”

      • Michelle says:

        I think they don’t want to be wielding the stick they would rather someone else do it but doesn’t this show they have no backbone.

        • savenz says:

          They might as well tell the public don’t bother voting for us instead of Labour, as we are virtually the same and don’t disagree on anything, hence only ask patsy questions???? Weird as how the average person is going to read this.

      • Sam Sam says:

        Ok then why don’t we take a look at 5 things The Green Party did right during last years election ( IMO so you can take it with a grain of salt). This year the most controversial thing to happen to the Greens since some guy stuck there hands down Labour youths pants is Patsy questions. And the right wing conspiracy knew all about it because RWNJ’s can smell sexual assault from hundreds of kilometres away. So bad trolls.

        Any way last time I spoke about the Greens was to rip there strategic vision apart because there are a lot of issues but today I’m going to be a lot more positive and look at everything right during the last election.

        To start off James Shaws rise from Green Member to co-oeader is nothing short of miraculous, and shows that with the right combination of backstory and powerful donors you can basically run the social justice gauntlet against the bad guys. As cyclone Metiria hit Shaw did a great job quickly assessing the threats before him while the constellation of commercial media questions are imposing they suffer from the same trolling behaviour as RWNJs, they cover questions that are more suited for sticking there hands down Labour youth members pants. And in true dad joke form Jame Shaw just made all those questioning Metiria’s admission look ridiculous. James Shaw was experienced enough to huge Green policy and stay on message long enough so troll like questions couldn’t use its momentum to protect the status quo. After all friendly fire = a lot of paper work.

        While these questions where useless against James Shaw they would have devastated the uninitiated Green Party candidates. So great job taking them out. While losing a co-leader mid election isn’t the right thing to do I would argue that tactically James Shaw made the right decisions to hold an immediate press conference even if he hadn’t fully brief every one. So yeah there was basically a loud group that needed to be silenced.

        Secondly Green Party candidates were initiated and needed more experience and by that point they were mid way through a scandal and had suffered heavy in the polls. Realistically if Shaw hadn’t fronted the media probably would have beaten the Greens down below the 5% threshold which of course Team Leader Frank Mackasy would have never let happen. The Green Party Comms team was already on a suicide mission to take down the status quo and really didn’t fit the tactics of the organisation which relies on economic integrity to create a gravity well of votes and influence.

        The third thing is The National Party did not immediately deploy its dirty politics instead choosing to spend it on leaking Winstons super payments. It wasn’t until Chloe and Golriz were steadying the ship that they finally did something. The point is you have to leak dirt while you’re as far away as possible from the source so the target can’t respond, and has no choice but to resign. According to Martyn Bradbury the Twitter account holder Kermy actually new about the Labour Youth camp scandal but did nothing about it for a whole month. They where just waiting for an order to release a statement. So yeah, going back to the previous political cyclone James Shaw made a split section decision to get ahead of the momentum. And by the time right wing trolls have a chance to catch up to shaw they’ve learnt from there prior mistakes. So they have every sock and meat puppet ready to go with advanced knowledge of a scandal and lay dormant waiting for the order. But they pretty much destroyed The Green Party Campaign and that allowed James Shaw to act decisively as an added bonus and there rookie candidates actually help in many ways. RWNJs probably should have kept at Chloe and Golriz. And while there Comms team should have resigned, admitting to fraud is a big a no no, even if you’re I’ve payed it back already. But Winston showed how you can dump a scandal back on RWNJs head even if your Comms team tactics are terrible. The last thing the Greens needed at this point was more division amongst there ranks. Moral was at an all time low and campaign signage had to be redoubled in order to prevent poll leakage.

        The Green Comms team should have tried to talk things out with Metiria but instead you had things like sitting Green MPs resigning. So they had 2 different factions calling for each to resign while The Greens had much larger factions baring down on them. Luckily Metiria pulled finger and advanced Shaw as Leader of The Green Parties Election Campaign.

        Metiria did the right thing and highlighted the wrongs that afflicted beneficiaries but I do have to add that a few patsy questions probably could have achieved the same results. And also you’ve now just weaponised beneficiaries by throwing there voices into the constellation of media questions with out representation which I think is kind of dumb. But as much as I hate to see Metiria go her final sacrifice allowed Shaw to cement his place as a competent election campaigner.

        The odds are stacked against the Greens. They are surround by consistent and continuous critisms trying to poke leaks in Green Party polling. The Green Party has hastily prepared press releases and the only thing going for them was James Shaw. RWNJs are obsessed with killing the Greens which gave James Shaw enough time for the party to sneak past the Threshold.

        Well that’s my analysis of everything right with the Greens, if you want to see my everything wrong with the greens just read on. If you guys ever want to lynch me because I’m acting a fool then feel free to do that. But just be warned I allways carry a solid object around with me and I’m a danger to myself and others. Anyway if you got this far thanks for reading this and I’d guess you are a Green voter.

  5. Lucy says:

    Unfortunately I think the Greens have completely voided their agreements with the voters. They do not understand Government if they do not understand that not asking Patsy questions is as simple as not asking Patsy questions. Out here we get that why cant they?

  6. Quicksilver says:

    I give up.

    There is no hope.

  7. Takere Takere says:

    Quick! Colmar Brunton take a Poll!

  8. winston moreton says:

    Green Party policies are best advanced in parliament. Means the Greens have to be political and James Shaw is that. We have to trust him to keep his values. Can one ever trust a polly?

  9. Marc says:

    You have stated your points, Mr Locke. Do you still support James Shaw as Greens leader or co-leader?

    In my view he is NOT fit for the job, and must go, the sooner the better. Bring in a leader who deserves that title, as co-leader with a capable and determined female co-leader.

    The longer James is left at the helm, although the Greens do of course discuss matters within their caucus and party, the more likely it is they will not be back in Parliament in late 2020.

    James Shaw is setting all the wrong signals, he is a compromised pro business bean counter, is more of a brake than an accelerator, and has to go!

  10. e-clectic says:

    Give away Question Time. It’s an outmoded, mostly pointless exercise in semantics; a parlour game posing as checks and balances.
    Most of the bad behaviour occurs in QT. Drop it altogether.

    • RosieLee says:

      Yes. This is at the heart of the matter and it is what’s making parliament a circus. A very expensive one.

  11. Dotti says:

    Oh Greens ,
    I thought after you almost did not make it back at the last election, owing to political stupidity, you would now
    understand the importance of confidence !

  12. Michal says:

    The man has gone completely mad, firstly supporting the Waka hopping bill despite many times opposing such a bill in the past. And for thinking his only job is to ask patsy questions.

    The Greens should be asking Labour why they are not doing the things they said they would, e.g. moving housing to a government department as Twyford promised.

    I can see the Greens falling into a great heap, all for the sake of a few of them being ministers.

  13. Pete says:

    A bizarre call. James Shaw seeks for the House and Question Time to be a place and time for civilised adult. A sort of ‘let’s all work together to make New Zealand and the world a better place.’ An ‘I know you’ll try’ sort of place.

    It’s like the dairy owner saying to a mob of face-covered, snarling, desperate, intent on mayhem kids, “Here, hold my gun for me for a minute, it’s loaded and ready to go, but I can’t make you an ice cream while I’m holding it.

    Collins, Bennett and won’t be able to take advantage for a couple of months they’ll still be pissing themselves laughing. Bridges may fall off his feet with excitement but then they’ll all be in like gumdiggers’ dogs.

  14. Priss says:

    I bet anyone $100 that the Nats would not be so generous if they were in government.

    I can see where the Greens are coming from, but handing the Tories another stick with which to beat the Coalition government may be something the Greens come to rue.

    If they didn’t put any value in “patsy” questions, they could easily forego not asking them.

  15. mosa says:

    National can’t believe it’s luck.

    Questions in parliament patsy or not you don’t give your enemy the gun and then fill it for them with gunpowder and ask them to take aim.

    Shit am i missing something here.

  16. I'm right says:

    The Greens are an opposition party, its where their strength lies. Actually being part of Govt (confidence and supply in this case) means their protesting nature is curbed, because anything they protest on the streets about its actually ‘their’ Govt they are protesting against!! Delicious 🙂

  17. tony davis says:

    Explain how this is not a final act of a eunuch, I voted for green I rallied for green now I’m revolted by green while the multinational pillage our water and oil and an out of control tourism and dairy sector pollute everything left, the greens can’t find their tongue or any useful piece of anatomy.

  18. Observer Tokoroa says:

    What shall Labour Do ?

    CleanGreen, I think the Russian this and the Trump that and the bleeding Tppa – and the Bridge guy with snorkel sucking up Oil for his friends – and Teresa May – are just time wasting distractions.

    As for the Green Party – I don’t care if they stand up and Piddle in Parliament during Question time. Their stupidity is usually stupendous.

    Jacinda however must be anxious to shuffle all the distractions off and roundly proceed with her platform of EQuality, of decent LIving Conditions, of AFfordable Rents, of HIgh Wages, of Opportunities. Of ensuring the wealthy don’t gobble up the Health care.

    Of making sure that the State schools get the same resources as the Wealthy Schools.

    Of the provision of Tertiary Education, to students who deserve it.
    And the provision of the same wages for Teachers and Nurses – as Parliamentarians receive.

    Jacinda must get the horrendous lethal trucks off the Roads. Goes without saying.

    It’s not that I despise Russia and Teresa May – CleanGreen – It is that we must put down National like the sick dogs they are – and raise up Mr and Mrs Aotearoa.

  19. Michelle says:

    +100 Observer Tokoroa

  20. Samwise says:

    I don’t get it. I really don’t.