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Opposition’s flurry of questions to law and justice ministers

28 November 2017 - By Craig Stephen

The National Party has sent hundreds of written questions to new ministers holding the justice and related portfolios in the Labour-New Zealand First government since its formation in October.

National’s Simon O’Connor has sent 137 written questions to the Corrections Minister, Kelvin Davis, all of them on 22 November. The former Attorney-General, Christopher Finlayson, lodged 145 questions with his successor, David Parker, on 24 November. Between 1 June 2017 and the dissolution of Parliament before the 23 September election the then Attorney-General fielded seven written questions.

Mr O’Connor’s questions generally ask what briefings the minister attended on a particular day, what meetings the minister attended, again on a given day, and also what meetings Mr Davis declined. Mr Finlayson asks a range of similar questions. As the questions relate to particular days the questions rack up as they begin from late October.

National’s Justice spokesperson Amy Adams has also not been shy at lodging questions with the new Justice Minister Andrew Little and to the Associate Justice Minister, William Sio.   

7617 (2017). Hon Amy Adams to the Justice (Minister - Andrew Little)

What papers, if any, did the Minister take to cabinet or any cabinet committee between 26 October 2017 and 5 November 2017 (both dates inclusive), by title and date?

7615 (2017). Hon Amy Adams to the Justice (Associate Minister - Aupito William Sio)

What papers, if any, did the Minister take to cabinet or any cabinet committee between 26 October 2017 and 5 November 2017 (both dates inclusive), by title and date?

  

Ministers have been responding to the questions, as they are required to do. Ms Adams asked about which events, if any, the minister declined to attend outside of Wellington between 26 October 2017 and 5 November 2017, including location, event description, and who was the minister invited by.

To which Mr Little replied: “To provide the details of all events declined in a comprehensive manner would require my office to contact the organisations who organised the events to obtain further information, and also take substantial collation across a range of systems and invite formats which I do not think is in the public interest.”

A newsroom journalist noted on Twitter that there were 6,253 written questions submitted to Government ministers by National MPs in the month to Friday, 24 November; but just 964 during the equivalent period after the 2014 election.

Media reports quoted one minister as comparing the volume of questions as spamming while noting the processes and time required to respond.

Media also reports that National admits the volume of questions are a test of the new government but it is a way of getting substantive answers from the government on reasonable questions.

Parliament's Standing Orders – Questions to Ministers and members, No.378 states that:

Questions may be put to a Minister relating to —

(a)       public affairs with which the Minister is officially connected, or
(b)       proceedings in the House or any matter of administration for which the Minister is responsible.

Last updated on the 29th November 2017