Greens backtrack on question-time statements over patsy questions

The Greens decision to hand over their questions to National because they believe that “patsy questions don’t add quality to democracy” didn’t last long.

Less than a month to be precise. Newshub reported at the time:

The Green Party is handing over most of its allotted question quota in Parliament’s Question Time to the National Party.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw says “patsy questions” don’t add quality to democracy.

“The purpose of Question Time primarily should be to hold the Government to account,” he told Newshub.

“Patsy questions generally get used to make announcements or defend the Governments’ position, and we actually have plenty of avenues to do that.”

The party has been critical of the way Question Time runs for years.

“We felt it was important now that we’re in Government to act consistently with what we said in Opposition.” End of quote.

Until yesterday that might have been the case. Then with Question 1 they threw their principled stance out the window with patsy question after patsy question from Marama Davidson. Far from holding the government to account the questions were designed to attack the opposition.

Yet again, the Greens have been shown to be fickle liars whose word cannot be trusted.

Marama Davidson was clearly seeking some attention after she became co-Leader of the Green party. So, their highly principled holding of the government to account by gifting questions to National was thrown out the window. James Shaw’s comments at the time appear highly cynical now: Quote.

“I think one of the purposes of the Green Party has always been to experiment and push the boat out. This is just another way we are taking a bit of an experimental approach and we’ll just have to see how it goes: it may become standard practice, it may not.

“I hope the National Party uses these questions to test us at least as much as they test any other MP in Government. And frankly, that’s what Question Time ought to be for.” End of quote.

James Shaw needs to explain how asking six patsy questions to attack the opposition in any way supports his claims that these questions should be used to hold the government to account.

Transcript of question 1:

1. MARAMA DAVIDSON (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Ka tū a ia i runga i tana kōrero mō te iti rawa o te mahi haumi i roto ratonga tūmataiti, ā, nā runga i tērā, “we didn’t know it would be this bad” ā, mēnā kua pēnei rawa, ka pēhea te nui o te iti rawa o te mahi haumi nei?

[Does she stand by her statement on underinvestment in public services that “we didn’t know it would be this bad”, and if so, how significant is this underinvestment?]

JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, absolutely, and much of that we could see from Opposition, as could New Zealanders in everyday life, as they saw individuals sleeping in cars or being unable to access health services. But what we are seeing now is in almost every portfolio I can find other signs of under-investment.

Marama Davidson: Does she agree that the state of the books she inherited from National represents a moral and fiscal deficit, which we see every day in our homeless and unemployed, in our impoverished families, and in our threatened species?

JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, and being in Government obviously is about making choices and about priorities. The last Government decided that the priority, rather than investing in issues around unemployment and homelessness, was tax cuts—a huge amount of which went to the top 10 percent of income earners. This Government has different priorities.

Marama Davidson: How significant is the under-investment in health in light of revelations that there is sewage and mould running through the walls of Middlemore Hospital, as a direct result of it?

JACINDA ARDERN: I would say Middlemore Hospital is emblematic of a much wider problem. District health boards are telling us that 19 percent of their assets are either in a poor or a very poor state. If you add to that the fact that they’re running what will be an estimated up to $200 million deficit, I think it’s fair to say New Zealanders in every walk of life will be experiencing issues with their health services.

Marama Davidson: Has there been significant under-investment in other areas of Government spending, and has that impacted on core services, as we have seen in our health system?

JACINDA ARDERN: As I say, health, I think, is emblematic of what’s gone on in other areas. You’ll hear today, for instance, the Minister of Education talking a little bit more about the under-investment in early childhood education, which, essentially, has meant that parents have been picking up the tab from a lack of investment from the last Government. I’m happy to share the numbers.

Marama Davidson: What plans does she have, if any, to restore investment in public services to urgently help those who are struggling the most, such as the 10 to 20 homeless people I spoke with who were sleeping outside the City Mission yesterday morning?

JACINDA ARDERN: As I say, we identified from Opposition that this was an issue. We made a very deliberate decision to cancel the tax cuts. The second decision that we made was to run a slightly longer debt track than the last Government, because we wanted to prioritise investing in housing and making sure that there wasn’t the scale of homelessness we saw under the last Government. As I say, Government is all about priorities, and ours are very different to the last Government.

Marama Davidson: Will the Government consider any new taxes in the future to help solve these problems, given that it has ruled out any new revenue streams this term?

JACINDA ARDERN: As we’ve said, there will be no new tax regimes in this term of office, from this Government. Of course, we do have the Tax Working Group under way, but they may very well produce an outcome that could be fiscally neutral as well. Ultimately, we have budgeted and set out a debt track that allows us to make the investment that is the priority, and we did things like cancel tax cuts, so we could reinvest in health, education, and housing.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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