Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

A bit more order, but still room for some good insults

Speaker Lockwood Smith apologised more than any other MP - at least 85 times in Question Time. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Speaker Lockwood Smith apologised more than any other MP - at least 85 times in Question Time. Photo / Mark Mitchell

United Future leader Peter Dunne has given up on his annual list of worst-behaved MPs, saying Speaker Lockwood Smith's reign has ushered in a new era of dignity and propriety.

However, the Herald was not so sure, and its own trawl through the Hansard record for Question Time the most volatile time of the day found that, while few MPs were kicked out of the Chamber in the past year, the insults still ran thick and fast.

Mr Dunne did honour Labour's Trevor Mallard with a lifetime achievement award in bad behaviour "for services to melodrama, fisticuffs, and generally aberrant behaviour".

However, he said otherwise bad behaviour, judged on MPs being told to withdraw and apologise for insulting others, had "virtually dried up".

The Herald found the usual forms of unparliamentary behaviour accusations of lying and hypocrisy by other MPs abound. MPs also added to the repertoire by giving colourful insults and then having to apologise.

They included Labour MP Shane Jones saying of Gerry Brownlee that "the notion of him and energy is a mathematical impossibility".

Labour's Moana Mackey apologised for referring to Hekia Parata as "Lady Parata" and "her royal highness". National's Paul Quinn was pulled up for calling Labour's backbench "monkeys".

Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader Phil Goff were ordered to apologise to the other for implying they were lying. Mr Key also had to withdraw other insults, albeit unrepentantly, including his nicknames for Mr Goff as "Whack it on the bill Phil" and "Phil who cried wolf" on the grounds the proper title was "Hon Phil Goff." He also had to apologise for implying he was "a racist".

Labour MP David Cunliffe delivered a mock apology to Finance Minister Bill English for calling him "a star" in his appearance in a TVNZ7 promo. It drew the retort from Mr English that he was flattered by Mr Cunliffe's use of the word "because in my understanding that is a description he usually only applies to himself".

It was the Speaker himself who said "I apologise" more than any other MP at least 85 times in Question Time alone. While none was a forced apologies, he did apologise for his own sins, including suggesting Labour MP David Parker "engaged the brain before operating the mouth".

But mostly, he apologised for others' sins. He apologised to Mr Mallard frequently including for "mishandling" an accusation by Mr Mallard that Paula Bennett had made a two-fingered gesture when she had not.

Once he apologised for Mr Mallard, saying sorry to Anne Tolley after Mr Mallard called out "what a clown!"

He apologised for not intervening in time to stop the delivery of insults, including Mr Key's reference to Shane Jones as "the real leader of the Labour Party" and letting things "head down the path to disorder".

He apologised for his difficulty hearing when he had the flu, for having to interrupt MPs to scold them and for rules they did not like.

While in general there was less rambunctiousness in Parliament, outside Parliament it was a different story.

There were at least two grand apologies for general misbehaviour from Act leader Rodney Hide about his use of travel perks to take his girlfriend on overseas jaunts and Hone Harawira for his "white mo'fo" comments.

Another in the roll of honour outside the walls included Tau Henare calling Mr Hide a "buffoon" and a "jerk off" for saying he would resign rather than allow Maori seats on the Super City council.

* Top scorers

Kicked out for refusing to apologise for calling Labour MP Pete Hodgson a "scumbag".

Kicked out after calling "his nose is growing" at Prime Minister John Key. Mr Key asked for an apology at being called a liar. Mr Mallard said he never used that term before the Speaker ejected him for lack of dignity and then told MPs Mr Mallard needed to learn to control his anger and act in a manner more befitting an MP.

National's Paul Quinn, for accusing Pete Hodgson of being "gutless" and referring to Labour's backbenchers as "monkeys".


For suggesting Labour's David Parker "engaged his brain before operating his mouth".

For referring to Hekia Parata as "Lady Parata" (her husband Wira Gardiner is a Sir) and hoping "her royal highness" was not offended.

For saying of Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee, "the notion of him and energy is a mathematical impossibility".

For claiming another "fiddled the books" in ACC and Housing; for wishing the Speaker would use a 90-day eviction order on Trevor Mallard.

For North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams' "madness", for calling Trevor Mallard "the angry one".

For asking who was "frontrunner among those hypocrites" of Labour supporters opposed to knighthoods and now lining up to claim one.

After Jeanette Fitzsimons took exception to the term "Labour-Green government" because the Green Party had never been part of government.

For "cronies" on the Kiwirail board.

For saying "That is so last year" during a point of order about the skills strategy.

For saying National had had enough of Labour's "abuse and lies" while demanding an apology from Clare Curran for abuse.

For heckling John Key about iwi/kiwi billboards.

For claiming Green MP Metiria Turei thought Phil Goff was "racist". She had said his speech was "the worst kind of politics".

Called Pete Hodgson an "idiot".

Judith Collins of Clayton Cosgrove, David Cunliffe of Nick Smith, John Key of Phil Goff.

Paul Quinn, Clare Curran.

"Oiks", Tony Ryall describing a question as "odd" and Paula Bennett using the word "catty" to describe their heckling. Ruth Dyson got away with saying the Maori Party were "sell-outs", Act's David Garrett could call Clayton Cosgrove "duplicitous", and Paul Quinn could not call Pete Hodgson "gutless" but could say he "lacked intestinal fortitude".

- NZ Herald

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