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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard



Question No. 4 to Minister

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’m asking you to have a look, before we get there, at question No. 4—in particular, as to what responsibility the Minister of Justice has for another Minister’s opinion.

SPEAKER: It is a question which it will not surprise members to know that I looked at quite carefully. The member will be aware it is a question that has been adjusted somewhat from the way that it was originally presented to the Minister of Justice’s office.

Where something is within a Minister’s area of administrative responsibility, he can be asked whether he agrees or not with anyone’s opinion. It might be a media commentator’s opinion. It might be a fellow Minister’s opinion. It might be the leader of a political party’s opinion.

It is, because of the independence of the Electoral Commission, something that I have considered very carefully, but my view is that the Minister does have responsibility in the area, and, if he does, he can be asked whether or not he agrees with opinions, even if he is not responsible for them.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. So if it should be, in the case of another political party, a matter of agreeing with the prosecution or the defence lawyers, which opinion is the Minister of Justice capable of saying he agrees with?

SPEAKER: I think he’s probably absolutely capable of saying that it’s not something which he wants to opine on, as he can in this case if he wants to.

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister for Children): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just with regard to the same question, the Electoral Commission has in their statements—and I’ve seen the letters that have been sent back to parties that are involved—said that they have formed a view, not that they have made a finding. A finding would suggest that there was an investigation, and the reason that the Electoral Commission has passed this on to the police is that they have no investigative powers. So I’m just wondering around the wording of “finding”, when it is actually in writing—and I could table the document if it would help the House—where they have formed a view.

SPEAKER: I think that is a very good point, and, if that had been raised with me by any person at a point before 2 o’clock, I would have had the opportunity to adjust the question in order to meet what is, in my opinion, a valid criticism of my approval of the question.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Speaking to the point of order.

SPEAKER: No. There’s currently no point of order. Is the member going to make a separate and new point of order?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I was going to note the change that you’ve made in the question.

SPEAKER: No. It’s not your responsibility to raise that with the House.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: You seem to have a difference of style to different members.

SPEAKER: The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise. [Interruption]

SPEAKER: The person who made that comment will stand, withdraw and apologise. Well, I’m not going to repeat it. It began with “s” and ended in “e”.

Hon Grant Robertson: I withdraw and apologise.

SPEAKER: It’s not helpful.