Southern MPs in select committee musical chairs

Photo: ODT files
If you cannot make it into Cabinet, there is always the chance that you might score a portfolio outside of Cabinet, or a parliamentary under-secretary’s role.

If none of those are left, the next step down Parliament’s rungs of hierarchy are the select committees, and just who gets what is always closely watched as an indication of who on the backbenches might be on an upward trajectory.

There was mixed news for our southern MPs when placements were announced this week.

Rachel Brooking
Rachel Brooking
Those who might feel the hardest done by are Dunedin’s two Labour MPs, but in the case of both Rachel Brooking and Ingrid Leary there are mitigating factors.

The main one is Labour’s dismal performance on election night. Select committee positions, like most things in an MMP parliament, are decided on a proportional basis, and Labour no longer has the same generous proportions it once had — National faced the same dilemma after the 2020 election.

Take finance and expenditure for example, generally regarded as the most important select committee because it examines where the money goes.

Ingrid Leary
Ingrid Leary
Ms Leary was formerly the chairwoman of the committee and would have had legitimate hopes of returning to it, but Labour now only gets three seats on the select committee, and once Grant Robertson and his finance team sidekicks Barbara Edmonds and Ginny Andersen have sat down, the tune stops for any colleagues playing musical chairs.

Her compensation is not a bad one though, a seat on health.

The new Dunedin hospital project is a huge issue for the South and Ms Leary is on the right committee to ask probing questions about the project’s progress — or lack thereof.

Todd Stephenson
Todd Stephenson
Ms Brooking started her parliamentary career on the environment select committee and she is back again, this time in Opposition.

As a former associate environment minister and now spokeswoman in the portfolio, she is in the right place for a productive three years.

Queenstown Act New Zealand list MP Todd Stephenson, on the other hand, did make it on to finance and expenditure, and got a seat on justice to boot.

Add in whip duties as well and Mr Stephenson has a busy term ahead in which to show what he can do.

Mr Stephenson will be joined on justice by former Labour Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene and the man who displaced Mr Tirikatene, Tākuta Ferris from Te Pāti Māori, which should make for lively debate.

Rino Tirikatene
Rino Tirikatene
Last but not least of the Opposition MPs, Green Party Taieri list MP Scott Willis has landed on the economic development, science and innovation committee, one which should suit his interests and skill set nicely.

Over on the government backbench, Waitaki MP Miles Anderson too has ended upon just the right select committee for him, on primary production and as deputy chairman what’s more.

The Southburn farmer was on the Federated Farmers board and was chairman of its meat and wool industry group, so mustering a select committee should hold few fears.

Southland MP Joseph Mooney, a lawyer, spent eight months on the regulations review committee during the last term, and is back for more. He also spent a month on social services and community and returns as its chairman: it is an interesting appointment given his portfolio mix was very different in his first term, but given some of his speeches in the House it is one he will likely find suits him very well.

Team player

The three MPs from Taieri — one electorate, two list — have all spoken about their desire to work together, and in his contribution to the Address in Reply debate on Tuesday, New Zealand First’s Mark Patterson spoke about how this is already happening, both conventionally and unconventionally.

Scott Willis
Scott Willis
"Ingrid and I have already started on lobbying for some extra funding for a forestry school in Milton," he said.

"Scott [Willis] and I have already started on a much more serious matter. He had to bring the suits up from Dunedin that I’d forgot on Sunday, when I headed up to Gisborne. So thank you, Scott."

Well worth waiting for

Joseph Mooney had the task of asking the all-important Question 12 on Wednesday, to Social Development and Employment Minister Louise Upston, about the jobseeker support benefit.

However, at the same time, Leader of the House Chris Bishop also wanted to raise a point of order with Speaker Gerry Brownlee.

Miles Anderson
Miles Anderson
"Were you going to call the end of question time?" Mr Bishop asked.

"No, I was going to take Joseph Mooney, who was on his feet," Mr Brownlee replied.

At which point Mr Bishop decided he might as well press ahead anyway, but Mr Brownlee told him to sit down and wait his turn ... which did not take long, as the speaker immediately ruled Mr Mooney’s burning question out of order.

Career opportunities

He has not yet given his maiden speech but Mr Willis has already made several contributions to the House on the repeal of the clean vehicle discount scheme. One of them earned glowing praise from Transport Minister Simeon Brown, although Mr Willis was probably not best pleased.

Joseph Mooney
Joseph Mooney
"I thought they were very good questions from Scott Willis, very concerned about our rural communities.

"It’s not long till he’ll be joining the National Party."