How would you rate Speaker Carter’s performance?

Question Time is an important part of our parliamentary democracy. How do you think the new Speaker is going in refereeing it?

Last week Russel Norman raised some questions about the new Speaker of the House David Carter’s performance in an open letter, particularly around his interpretation of Standing Orders referring to Question Time and the new Speaker’s insistence that Ministers need only ‘address’ the question as opposed to ‘answering’ it. I think there is a key difference between answering and addressing a question, as this blog post humorously points out.

As Russel said, ‘we can’t hold the Executive to account if the Speaker does not require Ministers to answer questions.’ Russel and I met with the Speaker last week to pass on our concerns and I see David Shearer met with Carter yesterday too. A week on, and I still have concerns about how Question Time is being handled and it is still, at times, fast becoming something of a farce.

This continued today with Labour MPs Trevor Mallard and Chris Hipkins kicked out of the Debating Chamber for raising a point of order challenging the Speaker to enforce Parliament’s rules on the Prime Minister’s gross misuse of the point of order system. I hope this doesn’t become a trend. Video of the exchange can be viewed at

Speaker Smith’s simple rule that a straight question would receive a straight answer was a good one and saw many more examples of clear, succinct and non-loaded questions being asked and Ministers having to front with real answers. We need bring order back to Question Time and to do this, is to make sure it is also ‘answer time.’

Some might throw their hands up in the air and consider this typical politics and unfixable but I disagree. In a Parliamentary system where checks and balances on executive power are few and far between, Question Time is an important channel through which we can make sure the elected Government is held accountable.

So what do you think?

9 Comments Posted

  1. As I’ve noted before, it’s a far bigger problem than just this speaker, or question time – it’s the whole issue of parliamentarians’ behaviour in the debating chamber. If employees in any other workplace behaved in meetings the way many of our MPs do, they’d be sacked.

    If this was any other group of people – a board, club committee, political group or household – it would be considered dysfunctional.

    It would be good to ask why MPs consider parliamentary debates so trivial that they aren’t prepared to listen, allow others to speak without interrupting, engage with their workmates constructively and non-abusively, and all the other behaviours that are normal among professionals, and everyone else who needs to make collective decisions.

  2. On the plus side, David Carter is doing his darndest to stop Key’s snide little asides at the end of his answers which don’t help. However, Mallard’s behaviour on this occasion deserved being kicked out. The House is hardly the best forum for challenging the Speaker, given he always gets the last word.

  3. “Norman raises his objections with decorum, as does Peters.”

    Perhaps Russel and Gareth should have asked Winston to join them when they saw the Speaker.


  4. I would say that he is not as good a Speaker as Lockwood Smith. On the other hand the Labour parties neanderthals, like the mad Mallard are simply trying to disrupt the house and deserve to be slapped down.
    How does he compare to past Speakers? He is better than Jonathon Hunt, who was bad, and much, much better than the unlamented Margaret Wilson. She was really terrible. I was in the House one day when she insisted that she would expel the next person who interjected when she was on her feet. There was a very loud interjection from Helen Clark and Wilson had to do it. She looked positively petrified with fear, probably being worried about H2’s retribution. She hurriedly found a reason to toss Don Brash, who hadn’t done anything out as well.
    Is Carter bad? No. Are the Labour opposition bad? Certainly.

  5. Carter gives me the opinion that someone has told him ‘to earn respect you must command it’ – sadly they never told him how to go about doing that. He does not have the type of personality that is necessary for the job, and certainly appears to have a few points short of the sense of humour that Lockwood had. Generally his performance reeks of bias. He didn’t want the position but didn’t have the guts to turn it down – speaks volumes about a man not prepared for the job he’s been given. Clearly a ‘YES’ man – which is obviously what John Key wanted.

  6. why does this surprise us? He is just another puppet (or guard dog?) owned by John Key…
    I didn’t even think Smith was being particularly good , but now we have a completely uesless one…
    If opposition MPs don’t stand up and fight…we might as well close the parliament debating chamber

  7. I’m thinking that a good speaker has to be rather like a mixture of lawyer and judge. Could this one have been chosen deliberately for inability?

  8. I have been watching Mr. Carter for some weeks now and, in my view, he doesn’t hold a candle to Lockwood Smith. He looks perpetually grumpy and is constantly on the defensive. He acts as if he sees his job as defender of Government ministers, trying to ensure that they are not put on the spot too much – and they are clearly loving it! He looks out of his depth frankly…..maybe he’s just learning, but I won’t hold my breath. He behaved the same when he was a minister.

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