'Shambles': Parties blame each other for cancelled meeting

Fifteen submitters didn't get a chance to speak at Parliament today. Photo: Getty Images
Fifteen submitters didn't get a chance to speak at Parliament today. Photo: Getty Images
A parliamentary select committee meeting collapsed this morning with Labour and National MPs blaming each other for the mess and wasting submitters’ time.

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.

David Carter
David Carter
During the standoff, about 15 submitters who had travelled to Wellington to have their say on the Government’s Budget Policy Statement and the Pike River Recovery Agency waited outside the meeting room - and were eventually told the meeting had been cancelled.

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.

Michael Wood
Michael Wood
“Standing virtually next to the National members were about 15 submitters who had come in from around the country to speak on the Budget Policy Statement. Their day has been completely wasted.”

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

 

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