Claire Trevett looks at the week in which National's Simon Bridges had a run-in with the Speaker's left ear and got a bad review from an 8-year-old, the PM's love of lists became a global epidemic and the Greens had an interesting suggestion for change at Parliament.
Monday: Outbreak of list-itis
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern loves nothing more than a chance to reel off long lists of government "actions".
She now regularly uses Parliamentary questions and the start of her Monday press conferences to issue these lists, but list-itis reached its peak in Ardern's "two-minute" brag (it was actually 2 mins 56) for social media, which got a very wide reach.
Clearly emboldened by its success, on Monday, Ardern got an extra list in using a question about the new Sustainable NZ Party to list off all the actions the Government had taken in the environmental space.
On Wednesday, it became clear list-itis was spreading.
Other ministers have also begun reeling off long lists in response to questions in Parliament.
By Thursday, it had reached a global epidemic.
The First Minister of Scotland, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon tweeted out her own effort at Ardern's two-minute video.
My team saw your video @JacindaArdern - so no harm in some friendly competition 😉.— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) November 13, 2019
Here’s my attempt to get through some of my Scottish Government’s headline achievements in under two minutes. Start the clock! pic.twitter.com/t9rngeV6W1
Hers took 3 minutes 1 second. It was just as tedious.
A vaccination is urgently required.
Family tradition in National Party selection:
The selection of Nicola Grigg as the National Party's candidate for the Selwyn electorate had a historical twist to it.
Grigg's great-grandmother Mary Grigg was the first woman to be an MP for the National Party, and the first woman to be an MP in a rural seat.
Mary Grigg was elected the MP for Mid Canterbury in a by-election in 1942 after her husband, the sitting MP Arthur Grigg, was killed in the war in 1941.
Grigg re-married and resigned at the 1943 election.
Tuesday: Ring the birds
At Parliament, the division bells ring to summon MPs when Parliament is about to start and to call MPs to the Chamber when a personal vote is about to be held.
The "bells" (a strident dinging sound rather than a pleasant chiming) are played at high volume through speakers around the precinct.
The Green Party caucus thinks they could do with some improvement.
In its submission to a review of Parliament's rules – the Standing Orders – they came up with an alternative proposal of using bird song instead.
Suggestions included using the sound of the bird which won the Bird of the Year competition each year, or allowing the Minister of Conservation to pick a bird – "in consultation with the parties of Parliament",
There are some obvious dangers in this approach.
Depending on the bird in question, Parliament could briefly sound like the set for a bad porn movie, or horror flick The Crows.
The kakapo boom emanating at volume from speakers could also lend the impression Parliament was under attack. It could also encourage Speaker Trevor Mallard into song.
The Green Party's other suggestions for modernising Parliament included changing the way the Speaker is elected to a secret ballot, and getting rid of "patsy" questions – the soft questions Government MPs ask their own party's ministers.
The Beehive Diaries is in favour of the latter, given it would help resolve the list-itis breakout.
Wednesday: Moment of truth at National's education document launch
Simon Bridges launched National's education discussion document at the Botanic Gardens at a breakfast attended by several National MPs' children.
Amidst all the spin and jargon was one 8-year-old girl child who decided to tell it like it was.
She first of all informed the café owner that her mother's cheese scones were better than his.
She then told a gathering of MPs, staff and some education sector people that her daddy had "smelly poos".
Her review of the event afterwards was that the muffins were nice, but the speakers - Simon Bridges and Nikki Kaye - were "boring".
Beehive Diaries is withholding the identity of the MP on the grounds set out in the Official Information Act: "to maintain the effective conduct of public affairs through the free and frank expression of opinions."
This would usually be done to preserve the privacy of her child, but in this case it is for the sake of the MP's poor husband, a high-flier in the public sector.
Euthanasia creates strange alliances, but one MP's big moment unacknowledged
Act leader David Seymour found himself the subject of praise and affection from some unusual quarters after ushering the End of Life Choice Bill through into law.
It included NZ First MP Tracey Martin's description of him as "a gentleman of character" who "has made this issue bigger than him".
"It'll be the last time I acknowledge anything like that, Mr Seymour," she added.
It is also a fair bet Green MP Eugenie Sage never thought she would actually join a queue to hug Seymour.
It is difficult for Opposition MPs to get their members' bill into law, but another one who achieved that on the same night went unsung.
That was National's Todd Muller, whose bill passed unanimously straight after Seymour's.
But were there lines of people waiting to hug and congratulate him? No, Muller reported, not even his own colleagues.
The reason might be in the Bill's title - Companies (Clarification of Dividend Rules in Companies) Amendment Bill.
To make matters worse, the next day he was called New Zealand's Barnaby Joyce, courtesy of the hat he wore to a farmer's protest at Parliament.
You can't outrun the left ear of the Speaker
On Wednesday, National Party leader Simon Bridges became a casualty of Speaker Trevor Mallard's left ear.
Bridges was kicked out after he was upbraided for interjecting, and told the Speaker "it does rather seem that your left ear is rather more acute at picking these things up than your right ear".
Given his right ear faces the Government benches, the Speaker clearly took this as casting aspersions on his impartiality – which is banned in Parliament – and booted Bridges out.
But Bridges did have some evidence behind his claim, and could have actually simply been talking literally.
On one of his first days in the job, the Speaker revealed he was very hard of hearing in his left ear, the ear that faces the National Party.
Hansard records six occasions on which Mallard blamed his left ear for mis-hearing something since becoming Speaker in late 2017.* (These are listed at the bottom.)
On November 14, 2017 was the first exchange between Bridges and Mallard about his ear.
Mallard had pulled Nick Smith up for "a guffaw" and Bridges argued that "one man's guffaw may simply be an ahem".
Mallard: "I've pleaded guilty to being slightly deaf in my left ear, and if it was a quiet "ahem" I wouldn't have heard it."
There was also a comment by National MP Chris Penk on November 15, 2017 acknowledging National's gratitude for the Speaker's "mild deafness" in his left ear.
But this happy state of affairs changed when Mallard got hearing aids at the start of this year.
In April, Mallard gave the MPs fair warning, noting: "I'm not sure whether it's the new hearing aids or not, but my left ear is working a lot better than it used to."
The week before Bridges got kicked out, Mallard also revealed he had turned his left hearing aid down, saying it was prompted by advice from National's Gerry Brownlee.
That was when he gestured at Brownlee to keep his voice down, and Brownlee in turn gestured to him to turn his ear down.
Clearly not enough.
*Speaker's references to his left ear:
On March 21, 2018: "I actually had trouble hearing it — notwithstanding my deaf ear being my left ear — over the noise that was coming from left."
On February 21, 2018: "My hearing is much better in my right ear than my left ear, and I heard a lot of barracking from the left, and saw at least four members barracking from my left."
On December 7, 2017: "I've just indicated that my left ear is not the strong one, but I'm having trouble using my right ear to hear that member."
On December 5, 2017: "I have indicated to members that my left ear is slightly deaf — that has mainly been to the advantage of members on my left."
On November 30, 2017: "Sorry, I thought you said "you". Left ear — sorry."
On November 9, 2017 when Chris Hipkins objecting to someone interjecting. Mallard: "I think, as the Minister is aware, I am slightly deaf in my left ear, so I didn't hear any interjections."