There was an exchange in the House last week that occasioned some media interest and concern from the public.
It took the form of some theatrical antics by cabinet minister Paula Bennett, which prompted a rebuke from the Speaker, Dr Lockwood-Smith. Likening the behaviour of a cabinet minister to that of a three-year-old inevitably caught the attention of the press gallery. I haven’t yet heard a similar disparaging characterisation of a male MP – at least in terms of infantile age, though this would not be for want of evidence.
Much of the behaviour of MPs in the House falls just short of what might be most accurately described as high-school pubescence. This is so especially during Oral Question Time or post-dinner debates. There is a tendency to forget the public is watching, through the eye of the camera lens that never blinks.
Much is made of the shortcomings of House behaviour and I don’t wish to pour oil on the flames. Many tweet from the House, which I choose not to do.
During the last, 49th, Parliament, as a member of the Standing Orders Committee, I prepared and argued the Green submission on review of the standing orders which includes the standards of behaviour expected of MPs in the House.
Here is our submission. Check out recommendations 4 through 7.
None got through.
In the name of ‘vigorous democratic debate’, we tolerate this kind of behaviour and seem intent on allowing it to continue.