Barry Soper: Ardern vs Collins on the convening of Parliament

Author
Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Mon, 30 Aug 2021, 8:41PM
(Photo / Getty)
(Photo / Getty)

Barry Soper: Ardern vs Collins on the convening of Parliament

Author
Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Mon, 30 Aug 2021, 8:41PM

Parliament's bear pit will be in session today, but Covid has cleaned out the grizzlies and their chest beating will echo around the chamber. 

Parliament's Speaker Trevor Mallard is convening a skeleton Parliament where the level of scrutiny will be severely constrained given in the 120-seat debating chamber there will be just ten MPs, five from Labour, three from National and one each from The Greens and Act. 

The Press Gallery won't even be able to watch proceedings from above. Mallard's ordered closed signs on the access doors. 

At least it's a step up from the Prime Minister suspending Parliament again, which she said in a tetchy letter to National's Leader Judith Collins, was never her intention to repeat. 

Jacinda Ardern wanted to continue with last week's virtual select committees where ministers were quizzed, but under the direction and at the acquiescence of the Labour chairs. 

Under the new arrangement they may have to battle with Mallard but even he's more amenable than the cantankerous and controlling Labour Party chairs. 

But it's the high dudgeon Ardern expressed in her letter yesterday to Collins that gives a good insight to her thinking. She told her she was extremely disappointed that the select committee arrangements "have been deemed to be unsatisfactory" to the opposition parties and that Collins had insisted Question Time's convened in person. 

So, in the absence of consensus Ardern said she agreed to it but would only allow Ministers in Wellington to take part. 

Well, that ain't half bad considering Ardern's in town, so is Grant Robertson and Chris Hipkins, so the echo in the bear pit should be quite entertaining. 

But attempting to justify why she didn't want the House sitting, Ardern said they shouldn't expect of others what they aren't willing to do themselves, like adapting to new working environments. She reckons Parliament and our democracy should be nimble enough to do the same. 

Ardern told Collins she was disappointed the Nat leader didn't share her view, and at least she's right on the mark about that. 

Collins says she was more than willing to adapt by reconvening by Zoom the Epidemic Response Committee, a hit during the last significant Level 4 lockdown. 

What's more, she agreed with the Prime Minister that they shouldn't require others to do what they weren't prepared to do themselves.     

As essential workers Collins says they shouldn't put themselves in a privileged position above others, like cops, supermarket workers and bus drivers who are expected to go about their jobs. 

In her hissy missive to Ardern, Collins told her the government's got to be held to account for its broken promises on vaccination and protection of the border. All Kiwis are paying for that failure, she wrote, which she says demands parliamentary scrutiny. 

After all Collins observed, Ardern doesn't have a problem appearing in person to deliver her daily announcements to the Press Gallery. 

Touche!