Joe Hendren

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Question time is going to be bizarre

As ministers outside cabinet, Winston Peters as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Peter Dunne as Minister of Revenue will answer oral questions on behalf of the government.

Peters now expects to ask supplementary questions of other ministers, while serving as a minister himself. So we could have the bizarre sight of Peters defending the foreign affairs record of the government, only to be followed by Peters later asking a question to the Minister of the Environment attacking New Zealand's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. I would imagine New Zealanders will end up being a touch confused, as will the ambassadorial staff of the various embassies when they are asked to summarise the position of the New Zealand government on issues of interest to their home governments.

Until I took another glance at the Parliamentary Standing Orders I had not thought it was possible for a minister to ask questions of other ministers. But the section entitled "Questions to Ministers and Members" does not seem to prohibit this, given that ministers are also members of parliament. I can imagine that Margaret Wilson, the likely candidate for Speaker, will have to make a fair few interesting rulings in the first few sitting days of the new parliament.

As Green MPs have been appointed as Government spokespeople on energy efficiency/solar panels and the Buy Kiwi Made campaigns will this mean they will also answer oral questions on behalf of the government? I assume standing order 370 would apply.

370: Questions may be put to a member (not being a Minister or the Speaker) relating to any bill, motion or public matter connected with the business of the House, of which the member has charge.

The first few days of Parliament are going to be interesting indeed!

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