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Barry Soper: Nick Smith rekindles bitter history with Speaker

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Thursday, 9 May 2019, 6:31a.m.
The pedantic Nick Smith came in and soon wracked up a formidable record himself for getting offside with the Speaker where there's always just one winner.
The pedantic Nick Smith came in and soon wracked up a formidable record himself for getting offside with the Speaker where there's always just one winner.

COMMENT

The late Jim Anderton, a formidable scrapper who didn't mince words, once described what's known as Parliament's bear pit a brutalising arena, it wasn't for the faint-hearted.

At the time he made the statement the place was dominated by males.

It was a place where the Grand Hall, an ornate, panelled, expansive room in the old building was closed off to the public.

The glass domes and windows were blacked out to keep reflection off the eight full-size billiard tables where men with RSA badges on the lapels of their three-piece suits and dangling chains from fob watches were commonplace as was a cigarette attached to their lips. They'd bash the billiard balls around for hours on end.

With a belly full of Bellamys beer, they'd swagger into the debating chamber and throw abuse at each other.

Back in 1984 Parliament's current Speaker Trevor Mallard was a new boy around the traps from Hamilton.

Winston Peters had already spent three years in Parliament, had been voted out, and was beginning a second term.

As the years progressed these two became something of record holders, for being thrown out of the debating chamber more than others.

Six years later the pedantic Nick Smith came in and soon wracked up a formidable record himself for getting offside with the Speaker where there's always just one winner.

And that was the case yesterday when Smith was getting stuck into Police Minister Stuart Nash for apparently giving him a public assurance last year that a discussion document on drug driving had been signed off by Cabinet.

Nash denied it and after a lot of argy-bargy, with the mother of a young man killed by a drugged driver in 2017 calling out from the public gallery, the Speaker's blood began boiling.

Smith sought leave of the House to have his private member's bill on drug driving moved to the top of Parliament's business in a couple of weeks' time.

Like the school master he's allowed to be, Mallard said he was far from happy with Smith's behaviour and took it upon himself to deny him leave which is a most unusual course of action.

Usually the MPs vote on it and not the Speaker.

Chances are he wouldn't have got the leave anyway, but the Speaker was being the boss and that riled the fiery Smith, who interrupted and was ordered to leave.

As he was gathering his papers to walk out, he yelled out that Mallard was soft on drugs.

Well the poacher turned game keeper ordered him back to his seat and named him for grossly disorderly conduct.

Naming means he's banned from parliamentary work for 24 hours, a second offence in this session would see him out for seven days.

These two grizzlies frequently clash swords in the bear pit so you can imagine harmony on the recent Speaker's tour which saw them both in Rwanda where Mallard took time out to see gorillas, they're much more amenable.

And to think Parliament is better behaved today than it used to be!

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