Parliamentary questions are meant to be one of the ways in which the Government and its Ministers are kept accountable to Parliament, and through those of us who are privileged to serve as its Members, to the people of New Zealand.
So I am pretty disappointed when I get replies like these to written Parliamentary questions I have asked to Minister of Social Development and Employment Paula Bennett:
How many people were receiving the unemployment benefit in Christchurch on February 22nd 2010?
Hon Paula Bennett (Minister for Social Development and Employment) replied: To meet the public interest in benefit uptake the Ministry of Social Development releases quarterly benefit factsheets. I am not prepared to commit resources to releasing daily or weekly information to respond to written parliamentary questions as this is not well suited to establishing firm trends. The quarterly factsheets for the end of March 2011 will be available shortly. This is also my response to written parliamentary questions 2032, 2033, 2034 (2011).
I suspect that one would have taken someone about one minute of access time to the Ministry’s computer to obtain the figure.
What guidelines, if any, does the Ministry of Social Development’s Work and Income Service have for the issuing of warnings under section 4 of the Trespass Act 1980?
Hon Paula Bennett (Minister for Social Development and Employment) replied: Work and Income takes guidance from the Trespass Act 1980.
How much did it cost to administer the ReStart package?
Hon Paula Bennett (Minister for Social Development and Employment) replied: It is not possible to isolate an exact cost because the work was absorbed within business as usual activities.
Further to the answer to written question 02534 (2011), can the Minister provide a specific web link to the Ministry of Social Development’s Output Plan 2010/11 and guidance as to which sections address key performance indicators for student job search?
Hon Paula Bennett (Minister for Social Development and Employment) replied: As I have already advised the Member in my response to written parliamentary question 2534 (2011), the Ministry of Social Development’s Output Plan 2010/11 is publicly available at www.parliament.nz.
Minister Bennett has replied in a similarly evasive manner to many other written Parliamentary questions I have asked her. She appears to treat the questions as some sort of role-playing game in which her role is to make it as difficult as possible for Members of Parliament to scrutinise her performance and that of her Ministry. That defeats the whole purpose of what Parliamentary questions are for.
Now the House has risen and we move into campaign mode, I get a break from the frustration of asking Parliamentary questions of Minister Bennett and she gets a break from having to answer them. Given the quality of her answers, I’m hoping her break might be a permanent one.