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National MPs walked out of the meeting in protest, accusing Labour of failing to get out of bed on time, while Labour says National MPs were being childish by standing outside the door and refusing to take part.
Under Standing Orders, the meeting cannot take place unless a quorum of at least half the members are present within 10 minutes of the starting time.
“They scheduled a meeting at 8am. National was there with its MPs at 8am. Government is there with four out of seven members at 8am,” senior National MP David Carter told The New Zealand Herald.
“At 8.10am, they had five members there, not seven. This is a regular occurrence. We get out of bed to do our job. They can get out of bed and do their job.”
Labour MP and committee chairman Michael Wood said one of Labour’s committee members was sick, and Labour MP Jo Luxton was found to be a substitute about 30 seconds after 8.10am.
But that shouldn’t have mattered, he said, because National MPs could have just come back inside the room.
“We had four National members standing outside who could have come in and allowed the meeting to proceed,” Wood said.
Due to appear before the committee today were Finance Minister Grant Robertson on the Wellbeing Budget and Pike River Minister Andrew Little on Pike River.
Other submitters included Pike River Recovery Agency boss Dave Gawn (on Pike River), and the Mental Health Foundation, the Equality Network, Child Poverty Action Group and the Human Rights Commission (on the Budget Policy Statement).
“They chose to disrupt parliamentary proceedings and give up the opportunity to hold the Government to account,” Wood said.
“It’s exactly the kind of thing that makes people angry about how politicians behave and how Parliament works. They’ve given up that opportunity to score a political point.
“There were enough members for a quorum. They were literally standing outside the door.”
Carter said National could have come back into the room to allow the meeting to go ahead, “but it’s not our job”.
“It’s the Government’s job to maintain a quorum and be organised.
“They called the meeting. They are expected to get out of bed and start at 8am.”
Asked if all the committee members were just being childish, Carter said: “The rules are quite clear in Standing Orders. Call a select committee. Have a quorum. If you’re not there within 10 minutes of the start time, the meeting does not take place. It’s not a surprise tactic. Labour did it to National.”
Wood said the submitters were not impressed, and while Labour MPs invited them in to the meeting to listen, their voices would not have the status of an oral submission.
Carter countered: “Labour went straight out to the submitters and told them to be pissed off at us.”
National MP Andrew Bayly said it was Labour that wasn’t respecting submitters by being short of numbers at 8am.
Committee MPs then clashed on Twitter. National MP Andrew Falloon said it was a “shambles”, while Labour's Kieran McAnulty said National MPs were being “pathetic”.
"Bull****. You stood outside the meeting. If you were inside it would have started. You chose to play games. Pathetic. " tweeted McAnulty