Labour has called it the Parliamentary equivalent of spam mail but National is unrepentant about lodging more than 6000 written questions to ministers in the past month.

Opposition MPs can lodge written questions to ministers, with the answers then published online. Since Labour came to power National has lodged thousands, with many asking what meetings a minister held on a specific date.

National's Leader of the House, Simon Bridges, acknowledged a "side effect" of that approach would be to test the new Government and its staff.

"Is part of this around testing the Government more broadly and is that a side effect of what we are doing? Okay, maybe. But the primary reason for doing this is to get substantive answers on what they are doing at this stage of their Government so we can understand their priorities.


"We are not getting answers inside or outside of Parliament. That necessitates us asking more detailed and specific questions. If we were getting answers to what we feel are reasonable questions, we wouldn't have to ask so many."

Bridges said he would likely raise the matter with Speaker Trevor Mallard, but if still unhappy with answers provided the Official Information Act (OIA) could be used.

Labour Leader of the House, Chris Hipkins, said the tactic was the parliamentary equivalent of spam mail, and would not lead to much useful information.

"All New Zealanders, regardless of whether they voted for us or not, want the Government to be effective. I don't think they want a Government that's bogged down with trivialities and time-wasting. If the Opposition want to focus their energies on that, we'll just get on with the job of delivering for New Zealanders," Hipkins told Newshub.

"At the end of the day, questions like this don't really serve the public interest. They simply soak up huge amounts of time, and that's time and money and energy that could be put into serving the public."

Bridges said his party would continue to ask questions, but numbers would drop if "good, basic" answers were provided.

"Ultimately this is the start of a new Government where there is massive uncertainty around what they are doing in housing, in immigration, where there has been changes of policy position…not only do we have a right to ask this, but we also have an obligation to try understand what advice they are getting, who they are meeting and so on."

The argument over written questions comes after Labour and National clashed over another matter relating to the running of Parliament – the number of MPs on select committees.


National eventually forced Labour to back down on its plan to have 96 select committee places, after threatening to vote against the appointment of Mallard as Speaker.