Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire: That's right Sunshine, MPs back at work

12 comments
John Key and Andrew Little are  in the House.  Photo / Mark Mitchell
John Key and Andrew Little are in the House. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The plump green upholstery of the parliamentary debating chamber puckered with terror this week, as the backsides of our elected representatives nestled in after a couple of months away.

The year began, as ever, with the stage-setting statement from the prime minister and an interminable debate. Unless you happen to be a political journalist, a jelly-brained, bloodshot-eyed parliamentary anorak or a niche bookmaker in the Indian subcontinent, you did not watch them. Chances are you glazed over even during the few seconds of television news coverage.

What did you miss? Here is a very short and not completely unreliable digest of the first eight.

John Key, leader of the National Party and Prime Minister of NZ

I'm back! Everybody dance now. What great days these are for ordinary hardworking New Zealanders, especially ordinary hardworking New Zealanders in the National-led government.

This is a government of results, a government that beat Australia in the cricket, won the rugby sevens and continues to lead the world in women's golf.

This is a government bursting with vision, energy and new ideas, all of which can be summed up in five words: The Labour Party is rubbish.

Andrew Little, leader of the Labour Party

Yeah but you've got more flip-flops than a jandal factory. Speaking of factories, the world of work is changing. Speaking of work, the Mondayisation of Waitangi Day was our idea. Speaking of fresh ideas and original thinking, did you hear the one about Planet Key? Speaking of Planet Key, I bet they have lots of flip-flops up there. Nailed it. Nurse!

James Shaw, co-leader of the Green Party

I've only been here 18 months and I'm already thinking about retirement. Here is the data, and a joke about boneless meat products. This is the desert of the real. Near a tree by a river there's a hole in the ground, according to figures supplied by the OECD. Furthermore, it's silly, no, when a rocket ship explodes, and everybody still wants to fly? Thank you.

Winston Peters, leader of the NZ First Party and tropical cyclone

Same old garden path, same old balderdash, that's right, I'm talking to you, and you, and you better believe me, Sunshine, if this is the brighter future then God help us all, the regions have gone belly-up, you mark my words, act your age not your shoe size, come and fly that flag at the Dargaville Field Days on the 3rd, the 4th, and the 5th, that's right, this drongoistic abomination of a government is on the brink of collapse and I'll tell you why: it is demonstrably untrue that I have gone fishing in my fishing boat.

Te Ururoa Flavell, co-leader of the Maori Party

I never meant to cause you fullas any sorrow. But there's no use being on the sidelines when you could be on the field looking a bit lost while being shouted at by people on the sidelines.

Peter Dunne, caucus of the United Future Party

Would you like to hear a little anecdote?

David Seymour, caucus of the Act Party

Just what is it that we want to do? We want to be free. We want to be free to do what we want to do. And we want to Netflix and chill.

Steven Joyce, minister for a range of things

I've been busy. Horse riding. Growing vegetables. And someone threw a sex toy, a little red courgette, at my face. But anyway, what John said.

Plenty of ways to pay the Brits back

The umbilical cord linking New Zealand with the Mother Country was dealt another blow over the weekend with news that Britain will be lumping an annual healthcare surcharge on those visitors from its old colonial outposts Downunder who stay for longer than six months. The shift in policy prompted a mild public outcry (we remain very British when it comes to most outcries) and afforded media the opportunity to use the word "reciprocity" a lot.

This breach of reciprocity, reckoned John Key, was "pretty cheap and not really in keeping with the history of the two countries", a response which, I strongly suspect, led the British ambassador to think seriously about having the PM removed from office, before remembering it no longer works like that. In any case, Key has said he won't be retaliating in kind. And quite right: much better to retaliate in another, more entertaining fashion. But how?

As a citizen of both fine nations, I humbly suggest some alternative non-reciprocity reprisals.

A quick riposte, or "sick burn", could do it. Key, of course, is good pals with his counterpart in Downing St, David Cameron, and could fire off a text with a wicked joke about Boris Johnson, Brexits and dirty gossip that Lord Ashcroft told Judith Collins. Or send the Queen for her next birthday a card with her name misspelled and a watercolour of Helen Mirren.

The Brits have pointed out there isn't in fact pure reciprocity as it stands, given that UK visitors have to, along with everyone else, pay to see a GP.

In that spirit, we could decide to level up the playing field in other areas, such as obliging visitors from Blighty to queue for 20 minutes at Post Offices, 40 minutes at airports, and wait for several months before being permitted to speak to any local council official.

That, and you're banned from accessing natural light in winter between the hours of 4pm and 9am.

Alternatively, we could conjure up novelty punishments as a condition of the visa waiver. New Zealand might oblige visitors to watch a full day of Parliament TV, attend a cricket game at Seddon Park in a Steve Smith mask, endure an afternoon on the beach listening to Gareth Morgan's big ideas, or play a round of Friesian Roulette, in which you have to take a dip in a randomly selected freshwater swimming spot.

Extreme measures, no doubt, with a range of potential human rights implications. Better for everyone we just draw a line under it all, and amicably agree to disagree. On one condition: the UK agrees to tweak its flag, and replace the top left quadrant with a replica of New Zealand's.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire is a Wellington bred, Auckland based journalist. He writes a weekly column for the NZ Herald, the NZ Listener's Internaut column, blogs for listener.co.nz, and contributes to the Guardian. From 2000 to 2010 he worked at the Guardian in London, and edited the 2012 book The Arab Spring: Rebellion, Revolution and a New World Order.

Read more by Toby Manhire

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 28 May 2017 22:07:30 Processing Time: 906ms