Thursday, October 15, 2009

Smith undermines accountability

Today in the House Speaker Lockwood Smith decided to dock the opposition of a supplementary question as punishment for misbehaviour.

Quite apart from questions of bias (which is becoming apparent; Smith is very good at forcing Ministers to actually answer questions, but he is terrible at enforcing standards on his own party, and his consistency on this is woeful), this is a terrible way of enforcing discipline. Since Smith has so obviously forgotten, I'll remind him: Ministers are accountable to the people of New Zealand through Parliament. The chief day-to-day mechanism by which that accountability is enforced is supplementary questions in Question Time. By docking the opposition of a supplementary question, he punishes not them, but us.

This isn't good enough. By all means, he should throw misbehaving MPs out. But he should not protect his colleagues from scrutiny and undermine the government's accountability to the public.