INDEPENDENT NEWS

Adjournment Debate: Speaker Trevor Mallard

Published: Fri 7 Aug 2020 10:56 AM
Thank you, members. I intend to run through a few statistics to get them on the record and make a few thanks and comments, and I will start off with the sitting days, 245 during this Parliament; 255 calendar days. We have had a total of 1,522 hours approximately, and we've had 168 hours and 41 minutes under urgency. That is about 11 percent, in my rough calculation, and is well under half what used to be the case in proportion before the reforms of the Standing Orders Committee led by that very good Speaker the Hon Dr Sir Lockwood Smith. So we've made some progress, and having extended sittings is a way of doing that. My view is that Parliament has not used them enough during this Parliament, but I think that the changes that we have made to Standing Orders will encourage us to do that more in the future.
The Government has introduced 195 bills and passed 202. There have been 55 members' bills that have been introduced; 15 of those have been passed. One private bill and three local bills have been introduced and passed. There have been 395 petitions, 209 of which have been reported back. Can I say, some of those petitions took a very long time to report back, and I think the new process of the Petitions Committee will mean that people get attention to their petitions in a way which is better than is currently the case.
There have been 2,865 oral questions asked. Of those, five were questions to members—again, something I think the Parliament could use a little bit more than we currently do. I hate to disagree with the Prime Minister, I think she indicated that there had been something like 11,000 written questions lodged, but my figures have it up to 14,000. So whether something's happened during the day-to-day or in the last week, I'm not sure.
I do want to say thanks to a limited group of people, because I think if we ran through the entire list we'd run out of time before 6 o'clock. In particular, I want to thank the cleaners, who have had to do an extraordinary amount of extra work during this COVID period, and they've done it absolutely wonderfully and it's made me really proud that we made early decisions to pay them the living wage. In a similar way, I want to thank the Copperfield's staff, because they have lived through some of the uncertainty that other people have lived through during this time. I want to thank the security staff for a couple of reasons. It hasn't been an easy time to be part of the security staff, but I want to thank that team for the support that they've shown to me, personally, and to members. I want to thank the office staff, both here and around the country. They have had to address, this year, last year, and the year before, issues of the type that one would never have expected staff to have to deal with, and they have dealt with them very, very well—I want to thank them. They do that, I think, partly because they are very well-supported by the Chief Executive—I think this is the first time we've said this—previously General Manager, of the Parliamentary Service and a team of administration people, who I think do challenging work with challenging people particularly well. I also want to thank the Clerk and his team, who give us exemplary service, both in the House and through advice to members outside the House as well.
Those two teams are held together by someone who I believe is the glue of the administration of these buildings, Andy Leslie—Andie Lindsay. Andy Lesley is a very old friend of mine, but—I actually tried to get him to run for mayor of Lower Hutt at one stage, and for some reason Andy Leslie said he'd prefer to be the president of the Rugby Union. I just don't really understand why! Andie Lindsay is a woman who knows an enormous amount about what is going on in these buildings, and, when there are issues, she has some tremendous suggestions for solutions for them, and I do want to place that on record.
I do want to thank the Prime Minister for recognising my independence in this role. I think the only communications I've received from the Prime Minister about what's happening, or what has happened, in the House—in fact, it's only about what is going to happen in the House—have been when she's giving me notice of her intention to make a prime ministerial statement so that I can be prepared for that, and I want to thank her for that.
The communication that's gone the other way was about House matters. The only communication was in relation to the special arrangements we had on 19 March following the massacre, when I took the unusual step of asking an Imran to say the prayer and to be supported on the floor by a group of people who probably technically, according to the rules of this place, shouldn't be here. But I think we ended up with a wonderful statement of unity as a result of that.
There are some other people who I do want to thank. Barbara Kuriger is not here now, but I do want to place on record my thanks to her for her integrity, for her kindness, for the way that she works with members who have issues and always does what she says that she's going to do. That's a measure, I think, of integrity and a very good person. I want to thank the other whips, all other whips, for working together in a positive way. The Business Committee—you know, it's been a little bit uneven every now and again. Sometimes it depends a bit on who's there and who's not there. But I think the place has run relatively smoothly over the term of this Parliament, and the understandings reached at that committee have been important.
The Hon Anne Tolley has referred to the Standing Orders Committee and the changes there. I, too, believe that it's one of—you know, we have some Standing Orders reviews which make a little bit of change and we have some which make significant change, and I think this is one which will be significant.
I want to thank my fellow presiding officers, the three Assistant Speakers that have been there during the time: Adrian Rurawhe, Poto Williams, and the Hon Ruth Dyson. I think it's fair to say that people from my right-hand side, because of the relatively small size of the lead party in the Government's caucus and the relatively large size of the ministry, we were a bit stretched in finding people, and I had some doubts about how the Assistant Speakers would go. But I want to say that those doubts were unfounded, and in my opinion they each did a very good job.
I want to specially thank the Hon Anne Tolley. Members will—well, I suppose maybe they won't all know, but it's fair to say that earlier in our political career we had a relationship which was relatively antagonistic. We had different philosophies of education in some areas, and I think both of us—I'm of the view anyway that Anne cares deeply about education but has a slightly different approach to what I have and for, I think, about two and a half years we opposed each other in that role. So I think the good thing about that was that I could see in her a woman who was, while I didn't always agree, someone who I respected. That is why, when we were having discussions about the other presiding officers, I did make the suggestion that Anne could be the deputy speaker, and I'm really pleased that she agreed to do it. She has led a lot of work coming out of the Francis report, and I can't let this all sound like it's good.
There are some members of this House and some staff members who have behaved disgracefully. I hope we're developing systems to reduce the amount of that sort of bad behaviour. I don't want to get into identification, but I think it's fair to say that there's been one member who has caused me more problems than just about every other member put together. I'm hopeful that whoever is in this chair in the future doesn't have to deal with that member. It's also fair to say that we've had a group of members who've had a bumpy start, but have significantly improved. I'm of a very strong view that coaching and mentoring, especially in regard to working with staff, is something that we must—we must—continue going forward. I think it's also fair to say that there's a relatively small group of members who may not be major offenders, but they are repeat minor offenders. But they do cause issues for staff, which are quite significant and quite unfair. I hope that we can make progress with that group going forward.
But I don't want to overstate it, because the vast majority of members of Parliament are really good people—you know, mainly driven, very hard working, and with high expectations of their staff and good relationships with them. I think that is very, very positive. As a result of that, this is a place that people do want to be.
But I've been reflecting—you know, not everyone who wants to be here is here. The library has pulled some figures out for me which indicate that I've served with 439 other MPs during my career. About 225 of those chose to leave. Some other people left not by choice. I think we want to acknowledge the fact we are going into a relatively tough period, and it will be relatively stressful. One of my requests is that on the campaign we do focus on the issues, because it is the issues that New Zealanders want to debate. I think, going forward, people will thank us for that.
So thank you all for the support that you've shown to me. I want to especially thank members, including a number from my left, for the kind words that have been given to me, especially in the last 24 hours. I do very much appreciate it and thank you for that. Now, I understand that we might be getting a bit of support here, and I'm going to mute the mike.

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