Red Alert

Question watch #2

Posted by on December 22nd, 2009

My post yesterday on John Key’s non-answer to some of my written parliamentary questions certainly got the Key apologists worked up. When Key does finally front up with the answers I’ll post the info here and people can then judge whether they were fair questions to ask.

The Key apologists seem to have forgotten that National MPs used to routinely ask tricky questions of the then Labour government. One of their favourites was to ask about staff Christmas parties and presents. Most government departments do some sort of end of year function for their staff, so National’s questions were basically intended to find examples of where they’d gone a bit over the top so that they could shout from the rooftops about “waste”.

Interestingly, they aren’t so keen to answer now that the shoe is on the other foot. I asked a written question of each Minister that’s almost identical to one Brownlee, McCully etc used to ask and they have all come back with the same answer: “The question the member asks relates to an operational matter which is the responsibility of the Chief Executive.”

Interesting to note that when Labour was the government and National was the opposition the questions were OK, but now that National is in government they seem to think a lower standard of accountability should apply. In 2005 Annette King even went so far as to compile all of the answers into a handy little table for the Nats, so why are they suddenly ducking for cover?


34 Responses to “Question watch #2”

  1. Spud says:

    Good to see you pursuing this :-)

  2. PeteF says:

    Hi Chris

    I agree. What I find saddest is not the little National/JK cheerleader trolls who don’t know any better having a go at you, but the big man himself, one DPF.
    He knows more than anyone having been a staffer all those years that this is what Oppositions do, are entitled to do, nay required to do.
    There’s a word that I know isn’t allowed in the house for that behaviour, but I suggest should be here, and that’s a hypocrite.
    And comparing it to the amount Clark got as though it’s some sort of point is pathetic – they were entitled to as the Opposition, just as you are – its not your problem they were lazy.

    I suggest writing to the Leader of the House, just as the Nats did when the Labour govt were tardy at getting questions lodged in time, then if no joy, taking it to the Speaker.

  3. Exactly how is this childishness helping NEW ZEALAND?
    Just because they did it when your lot were in government does not justify you doing it too.
    This type of nonsense is sixth form point scoring. For gooodness sake grow up.

  4. ghostwhowalksnz says:

    So all the plaudits in the House for Smith as Speaker in getting ‘some’ answers to questions yet for written questions them seem to ignore the rules.
    Vitually every question ‘relates to the CEO’ so whats the big deal. The answers come from the department anyway.

    Looks like they are full of spite and arent going to let what they did be turned against them. Boo Hoo.

    And on TV they wont front up and be in a 3 way debate with the relevant person from the opposition either.

    Could be their spin doctors have become puppet masters?

  5. Monty says:

    Chris – It was Clark who used to seek and exploited Christmas parties for political gain in the 1990′s. In particular (and quite rightly) the WINZ conferences. It got to the point in the 1990s where even a cheese fondue evening got publicity. Now staff work bloody hard all year and the miserable department will not even stump for $50 per head for a end of year christmas party for fear of adverse publicity.

    This culture of fear has been going on for too long. I believe the CEO’s should grow some balls and set aside in their budgets a modest amount for a staff function at Christmas and say that their staff deserve for the Department to pay.

    But make no mistake Clark made an art form of this and National just carried it on – all in the interests of policitcal advantage.

  6. Mel Barker says:

    even the gnats deserve a holiday at xmas chris, filing four thousand questions in one day the week before xmas isn’t on

  7. LabRat says:

    I look forward to details of how much time and money was spent compiling the questions. Expect an OIA request in the New Year.

  8. Trevor Mallard says:

    And just for the record I did cock up a merge of my sample schools to the questions so it said school twice. Very naughty for Edn spokesperson. Just thought I would say sorry before MSM gets onto it.

  9. Gooner says:

    It’s got nothing to do with the non-answers or whether the questions were fair.

    You complained yesterday that you hadn’t received answers after about two weeks: you didn’t like the delay.

    The delay is because your party has lodged 4,000 questions in a day. The delay is your fault!

    Barnsley Bill is right.

  10. Inventory2 says:

    “Very naughty for Edn spokesperson.”

    Also very naughty for Education spokesman to abbreviate “Education” without the use of apostrophes :-)

    Petty, I know, but apostrophe abuse is my pet hate!

  11. Oliver says:

    David at Kiwiblog suggests that we calculate the amount of taxpayer money going into answering each question. $70 per hour, 1 hour per question, 4000 questions, $280,000 tax dollars gone… Is it really worth it?

  12. LabRat says:

    Regardless of which party does it, 4000 questions in the build-up to Christmas is really not the type of behaviour we expect from our MP’s. There will be people who now have to work through the Christmas holidays and miss out on time with their families because of this. I hope as you all enjoy your Christmas holiday and get to spend time with your loved ones, that you spare a thought for the extra burden you’ve put on others and their families. Proud of yourselves still?

  13. David says:

    If there are any parliament staffers who read this blog I think it is a nasty thing to do to you when you are trying to finish up for your Christmas break. I hope you all get to have a few days with your families and retain some Christmas cheer.

  14. DavidW says:

    Chris, for simple comparison sake then why don’t you post here one of the Brownlee or McCully questions and the answer from the relevant Labour Minister of the day.

    That would settle things down now wouldn’t it?

  15. winston smith says:

    So Labour submitted over 4,000 questions in one day just a week before Christmas and is now carping about the length of time it will take to reply to each?

    I pity the poor parliamentary workers who will have to grind out the responses to what is clearly a shrewish and spiteful tactic. This is a shameful waste of the taxpayer’s time and money.

    Call yourselves the worker’s party? Shame on you! You have clearly learned little from your last election defeat.

  16. NeillR says:

    If you think these tactics are going to get you re-elected then you haven’t learnt the lessons of why Laboru was dumped in the first place.

  17. [...] Hipkins just doesn’t learn and continues to misrepresent. He blogged today: My post yesterday on John Key’s non-answer to some of my written parliamentary [...]

  18. Gary Lindsay says:

    I think all the Labour staffers who did this should be made to pair up with the Ministerial staff over Christmas to help them answer the questions.
    With stunts like this, it will be decades before Labour form a government again.

  19. Doug says:

    Chris Roy Morgan has Labour at 27.5% in the latest poll if the News Media run with this waste of time and taxpayer money I can see the polls drop further.

  20. Monty says:

    Seems like your gloating and finger pointing has somewhat mis-fired Chris. You may think you are being smart and clever, but the reality is that if this gets picked up in the MSN then it will be Labour and yourself in particular who will look quite silly and nasty.

    It seems to me that David Farrar has given you a good fisking and exposed this little stunt for exactly what it is.

  21. Mac1 says:

    @ Inventory2
    You are released from your red-inking of apostrophical abuse..
    Edn requires a period to abbreviate it, not an apostrophe. Rest easy.

  22. Spud says:

    “With stunts like this, it will be decades before Labour form a government again.” LOL LOL LOL :-D yeah the voters will really be put off by this post (not).

  23. It’s not unusual for there to be a surge in the number of written questions lodged in the final few weeks of the House sitting. It is an MPs last chance to ask written questions until the House resumes in Feb.

    For example, in 2003 1,844 questions were asked in December (around 14% of the total number of questions asked for the year). In 2009 we have asked around 5,000 questions in December (around 21% of the total number of questions asked for the year). It’s an increase in % terms, but not as dramatic as some commenters would seem to think.

    Perhaps some of the National Party apologists are struggling to get to grips with what a hard-working opposition looks like after 9 years of National coasting along…

  24. mjwkiwi says:

    Labour should be congratulated for holding the government to account! Kiwiblog is lit up like a Christmas tree with the National Party contributors…

  25. Kiwireader says:

    “Perhaps some of the National Party apologists are struggling to get to grips with what a hard-working opposition looks like after 9 years of National coasting along…”

    Hard-working perhaps, but not very smart-working. You have just been taken to school Mr Hipkins, best be hoping your Labour colleagues create plenty more threads above this one in the blog so your post dissapears into oblivion.

  26. Bea says:

    Chris, lets think about patronisingly labelling potential swing-voters “National Party apologists” when they are quite rightly questioning the value to New Zealand of the written equivalent of filibustering.

    It’s not going to make them swing your way. Perhaps you should go see that young fella on the mountain about some spare boots.

  27. SHG says:

    It’s just this sort of childishness that turned me away as a Labour voter.

    Language warning – not on Kiwiblog now. Trevor

  28. Pascal says:

    I agree with David. My sympathies goes to the people and their families who, in the lead up to Christmas, have to deal with the fallout of this type of spiteful politicking.

    Overwhelming the system just so you can claim the government is hiding the truth / afraid to give answers / slow to give answers?

    How much more pathetic can you get? There’s nothing about being “hardworking” about it. It’s pure and Primary School type of point scoring.

    Utterly disgusting that you feel the need to waste money that could have gone to other, worthwhile causes in New Zealand.

    Next time, consider your questions and ask questions that have a value. Group them together. You’ve been given some good examples of how to get the useful information you seem to “need” (:laughs:) without wasting.

  29. Inventory2 says:

    So Chris, you admit that 5000 questions have been lodged in December – 21% of the annual total. That’s a deviation of around 250% to the average monthly output. Nor do you DENY that 4000 of these questions were lodged in one single day – around 16% of the annual total, and double the average monthly rate. It begs the question – what have you guys been doing for the rest of the year, and do you need Time Management training?

  30. SHG says:

    I’m sorry for the workers who will miss time with their families this week because they’ll be stuck at work wading through this rubbish.

  31. @Pascal & @SHG – As others have already pointed out, I used to work as a ministerial advisor and used to prepare draft answers to written parliamentary questions. We were used to getting them in big blocks, that’s just the way it is. MPs are in Wellington 3 days a week, they might turn their attention to written questions on one of those days, so that’s the day they would all come in. That situation has always been compounded at the end of the year when there is a cut-off before Christmas. That cut-off is designed specifically so that people do get a break over Christmas.

    Where a complex answer is required, I’m fine with ministers saying they need more time. But for simple questions, there is just no excuse. A blanket brush off till after the holidays is anti-democratic and irresponsible. Ministers (and many of the staff who work for them) are paid very good salaries. Why shouldn’t they be accountable for their actions?

  32. Pascal says:

    Chris, what is the largest block of questions lodged for the Labour government on a single day under similar circumstances?

    Like Inventory pointed out. You lodged 16% of the annual total in one day. Double the average rate. And in the two weeks before Christmas. Now you are baying as if there is some vast conspiracy against you.

    Do you REALLY think people are so stupid that they won’t see through this stunt of yours? No matter how much you protest to the contrary.

  33. Spud says:

    Well if there’s a cut off day then they still get their holiday. :-D

  34. The Gnat Exterminator says:

    ‘xplaining is losing, Chris. Your best defence is 4000 questions in one day by you versus 1600 in one month by the entire National Caucus four years ago? Not convincing.

    What will really sting is if thousands of answers came back tomorrow – Labour researchers will have to work through the summer break to decipher them all or you will be trumped by the media.