John Armstrong: PM a hard target to hit in House

Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Greg Bowker
Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Greg Bowker

Labour was truly firing in Parliament yesterday - with the accuracy of an antique blunderbuss.

The major Opposition party is aiming all its barrels in John Key's direction in the hope something hits. But the target has suffered only the occasional flesh wound and otherwise seems to be functioning normally.

Labour's current parliamentary tactic is to turn ministers' question-time into New Zealand's equivalent of Prime Minister's question-time in the British House of Commons.

The party devoted its allocation of five questions solely to going after Key.

But be it the cost of repainting Premier House or money for promoting the Maori tourist industry, Key was sufficiently well briefed yesterday to make mincemeat of his interrogators from Labour's more junior ranks.

Trickier to handle was the question from Labour's deputy leader, Annette King, asking how an $11-a-week tax cut got anywhere near compensating a $25-a-week increase that a family faced in its basic food bill.

This question on the cost of living was designed to show Labour is tackling the "real issues", rather than just trying to exploit ephemera like the rising costs of ensuring the Prime Minister's security.

The said family had appeared on the previous evening's Campbell Live, however. Key responded by saying he did not know the family's personal circumstances, before adding he had learned not to trust King's numbers.

Key makes such parting shots at Labour at the end of almost every answer.

Yesterday's taunts included advising Labour leader Phil Goff not to let his caucus pack his parachute the next time he jumped out of a plane.

He also noted the resemblance of the Labour caucus to characters in Coronation Street.

Before he could develop the latter theme, Trevor Mallard, Labour's shadow leader of the House, was on his feet complaining to Speaker Lockwood Smith.

The Speaker was not without sympathy. He was "not very happy" with the Prime Minister. But he thought it unfair to the Opposition to ask the Prime Minister to leave the Chamber. He said there were further questions that he was sure the Opposition wanted Key to answer.

Such was the Speaker's dilemma. When question-time becomes Prime Minister's question-time, there is no show without Punch.

- NZ Herald

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