Pity we didn’t hear what Nick had to say

Dunno what Nick Smith thought he was up to in Parliament yesterday.

David Bennett was doing splendidly, giving away bugger all in response to Labour’s best efforts to winkle out information about formalities surrounding the sacking of Ross Wilson as chair of the ACC, the appointment of John Judge, and Smith’s appearance in place of Judge at a select committee hearing.

As Alf noted the other day, Bennett is like a barnacle, bloody hard to dislodge. A barnacle, come to think of it, would be much more loquacious.

The Herald helps set the scene:

Labour alleged Dr Smith misled the House by saying on March 12 that he had appeared before the committee that same day because Mr Judge was not available.

Labour says Dr Smith had been told by the Labour Department on March 11 that he had not correctly sacked Mr Wilson. That meant Mr Wilson was still legally chairman and Mr Judge was not appointed.

Hence the Labour larrakins seem to think they are on to something big deal, when they try to establish who instructed whom to do what and when, although personally, Alf finds it all constitutionally tedious.

But to cut to the chase, at Question Time yesterday Trevor Mallard was again rebuffed by the steadfast Bennett – chairperson of the Transport and Industiral Relations Committee – as he tried to get answers.

Example:

4. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee: When he agreed with the Minister for ACC that the Minister appear before the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee for the financial review of ACC on 12 March, did he do so on the basis that he understood that John Judge was the chair of the ACC board and that the Minister was replacing him?

DAVID BENNETT (Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee): I was aware that the board was in a state of being reconfigured, and it would have been presumed in the public arena at that time that Mr Judge was the chairman. But it was agreed that the Minister would attend that meeting, and that does not necessarily mean that the Minister was replacing Mr Judge.

Well done.

But then – so help me – Smith had a rush of blood and determined to protect his party colleague, who palpably did not need protecting.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Did Dr Nick Smith inform him before the meeting of 12 March that because of an error on Dr Smith’s part, Mr Wilson was the chair of the Accident Compensation Corporation board at the time of the meeting?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member’s assertion is quite incorrect. It is contrary to Crown Law opinion—

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise for interrupting the honourable member, but that is not a point of order.

Hon Dr Nick Smith
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it is important that you know when a member’s question makes an assertion of fact that is incorrect. A member cannot ask a question of another member when something is—

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: It’s a debating point.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: No, it is not debatable. It is a matter of record. I made the announcement on the Monday, and the assertion made by the member is incorrect.

Hon Trevor Mallard
: This is actually very important. We were told by the chief executive at an open session of the committee today that—

Mallard at that point was ordered to resume his seat.

The Speaker invited him to be careful when asking his question not to make assertions that are “unfair.”

But Nick – extraordinarily – wanted to spill his guts, or something.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Did Dr Smith inform the member before the meeting of 12 March that Mr Wilson was the chairman at the time of the meeting?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to make a personal explanation in respect of the assertion that has been made by the member asking the question.

There were more points of order, the Speaker put the request for leave to make a personal explanation, there was an objection. And that was that.

Alf was pissed off. He had been keen to hear what Smith was so desperate to tell us.

But then it was back to Mallard bowling his googlies to Bennett, and Bennett handling them magnificently.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Did Dr Smith inform the member before the meeting of 12 March that Mr Wilson was, in fact, the chairman at the time of the meeting, as the committee was told this morning by—

DAVID BENNETT: It was agreed that Dr Smith would attend the meeting. I think the Labour Party members would have got a lot of value out of his attendance at that meeting.

More appeals to the umpire.

Then the next ball.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Did Dr Smith inform the member before the meeting of 12 March that Mr Wilson was, in fact, the chairman at the time of that meeting, as the chief executive told the committee this morning?

DAVID BENNETT: In the public arena at that time, Mr Judge would have been expected to be the chairman, as has been noted. The Minister agreed to come to that meeting and he attended it. The transcript of today’s meeting will provide further details on the member’s question, I am sure.

End of the day’s play.

The bugger won’t be bowled, caught or stumped.

Dunno why he isn’t playing for the Black Caps.

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