Claire Trevett's weekly catch-up on the things that entertained her from the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

This week featuring a woebegone Shane Jones, Winston Peters' 'scientific utilities' and how many men does it take to replace PM Jacinda Ardern?

MONDAY: Behind every great woman, there has to be .... three men?

With Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Paris, it took no fewer than three men to fill her shoes back home.

First up was Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, who was acting Prime Minister for two days before taking off to Fiji.

He was helped by Grant Robertson - Robertson and Peters split Ardern's usual Tuesday morning media slots between them.

Robertson did the two television appearances while Peters took on the two radio interviews.

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After Peters left, Labour's deputy Kelvin Davis turned into Acting PM until Saturday when Peters returns to take over again.

Davis spent his first days at the tangi of Sir Hec Busby, where he was spotted peeling kumara to feed the mourners.


On the domestic travel front, Regional Development Minister Shane Jones took a journey to Self-Pity City.

He held one of his semi-regular briefings for media on the Provincial Growth Fund.

An uncharacteristically woebegone Jones spent much of it bleating about people like the Auditor General and media picking on him and his billion dollar fund. He went on to lambast himself for the "unnecessarily loud" advocacy of that fund, which had invited the scrutiny.

He also moaned about being given a paltry 2.5 in NZ Herald political editor Audrey Young's rankings of Ministers' performances .

Young corrected him - he got 4. Out of 10. So much better.

Follow that straight old line:

After a some hand-wringing about the "sad day" on which Tip Top was sold (back) into foreign hands, and some arguing about whether "unreported" crime could be measured given it was not reported, the hot topic at Peters' post-Cabinet press conference was drug-driving tests.

Peters was asked if he would be comfortable legalising marijuana if there was no way to test somebody was impaired while driving.

Peters said the answer was out there somewhere in the world of "scientific utilities".

As the old tusker looked to the future, on Q+A later that night the young Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick said the answer lay in the past.

She said the test that was best was the old test for drink-driving: whether somebody could walk straight.

TUESDAY: Rockin' Robertson

Delivering his annual pre-Budget speech to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, Finance Minister Grant Robertson made sure to mention that HSBC Australia's chief economist Paul Bloxham had again described the New Zealand economy as a rockstar.

Bloxham used this term in 2014 when National was in charge. National wore it as a badge of honour. This time round, Bloxham had said it was "still rock and roll" but running up against constraints.

Robertson has invested significant energy in trying to build up his own store of economic credibility, but he clearly needs lessons in how to take a compliment.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson shows the size of the savings Government has found during his pre-Budget 2019 speech. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Finance Minister Grant Robertson shows the size of the savings Government has found during his pre-Budget 2019 speech. Photo / Mark Mitchell

He described it as "flattering" but he went on to say he did not want to be called a rockstar: "many New Zealanders" had found it "jarring" when applied in the past because it did not tally with homelessness, child poverty and inequality.

By "many New Zealanders" he possibly meant Grant Robertson and Labour MPs.

Robertson also presented the news of a nip and tuck by Government ministers of departmental spending, revealing they had uncovered $1 billion in money that could be better used elsewhere.

Much of the attention went on the $200 million left over from the lower than expected uptake of the fees-free policy for post-school education and training. It is not yet known where the other $800m has come from.

When that information does come, expect it to be labelled "reprioritisation" rather than "cuts."

WEDNESDAY: Keeping up with the Joneses

Jones has stopped sulking and found someone else to rail at: farmers.

In an interview with Newstalk ZB's The Country, he said dairy farmers need to "show leadership and stop just bitching and moaning".

"I grew up on a farm, my dad was a farmer, I know what farmers are like and if they're not milking cows or chasing cows, they're moaning."

Focus Live earlier: Shane Jones - Farmers Need to Stop 'Bitching & Moaning'

Jones then went on to bitch and moan about those farmers, questioning their apparently blind allegiance to National.

It can only be assumed Jones is trying out a bit of reverse psychology as an election strategy, given NZ First is targeting votes in the rural and regional areas.

In normal circumstances, abusing your potential vote base might be seen as counter-productive.

Thursday: With-paw and apologise, Mr Speaker

Speaker Trevor Mallard's dog Violet is on her second strike. After becoming Speaker, Mallard gave staff and MPs' dogs visitation rights to Parliament.

He occasionally brings in one of his own three dogs to visit.

Chow Elsa - the dowager of his pack - is always impeccably behaved, but Australian shepherd Violet can get a tad over-excited.

This time she left a large puddle bang smack in the middle of the corridor of the Press Gallery's offices.

Violet being dispatched to the naughty corner of Speaker Trevor Mallard's office at Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Violet being dispatched to the naughty corner of Speaker Trevor Mallard's office at Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell

It was not her first offence. Last year she did a wee in Mallard's office while meeting police dog puppies.

Mallard has been under fire from some media for his refereeing of Parliament, including accusing National MPs of "barnyard noises" and behaviour behoving primates.

Where do you stand on barnyard smells, Mr Speaker?

FRIDAY: Into the lion's den

The Voyager Media Awards are on tonight and politicians helping present the awards include Finance Minister Grant Robertson and National Party leader Simon Bridges.

Bridges' award presentations do not come up until about 9pm, by which time journalists' already healthy heckling talents will have been well lubricated.

On the bright side, Bridges could get thanks from several of the finalists given his annus horribilis of 2018 provided the fuel for their entries.