COMMENT:

Question time to ministers in Parliament, Tuesdays till Thursdays, can either inform or frustrate. Most of the time they end up doing the latter.

On most days, the questioner implores the Speaker to get the minister to answer the question and is usually met with the response the question was "addressed", a euphemism for avoiding the issue.

Of course that leads to a great deal of frustration for Opposition MPs, like recently when Nick Smith exploded after he didn't get the answer he wanted and accused the Speaker of being, like his Government, soft on drugs. For his outburst he was "named", meaning as a first strike he was expelled from Parliament for 24 hours and had his pay docked.

Advertisement

Today, the Nats will be training their attack on three ministers - the Prime Minister, her Finance Minister and the minister in charge of our spies. They'll be trying to get to the bottom of who told what and when over the Budget "hack"-come-"leak"-come-trickle debacle.

Forget Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf. He was pegged to the washing line right from the start, with his public service bosses looking at how he handled what he wrongly claimed was a hack.

The key questions are those about when Andrew Little passed on information to Grant Robertson and Treasury from the spies that there hadn't been a hack.

Was it before they went public or after? Little has said he passed on the information he'd received from the spies in a "timely" way, which would tend to suggest he told them before they went public declaring the hack. Robertson implored National not to release any more documents because the hacked material was illegal.

But then again, that depends on when the spies told Little. He's conveniently overseas this week. Pity, his view's pretty crucial.

The debating chamber at Parliament, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The debating chamber at Parliament, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Until now Jacinda Ardern's largely used the shelter of the State Services Commission inquiry into how Makhlouf allowed the hack claim to make it into the public arena. She seems to suggest they'll look at what and when ministers were told by the GCSB that a hack did not take place.

But that's not their job. Their business is the public service - not to investigate political actions.

On the eve of the battle in Parliament's bear pit today, there was suddenly clarity from Ardern. She was vehement that neither Treasury nor Robertson knew about the spies' view that a hack hadn't taken place.

Still, it'd pay her to take her flak jacket into the debating chamber today, and the man sitting to her left would to well to wear a suit of armour.

Winston Peters was unequivocal, accusing the National Party of distributing illegally gotten Budget documents, adding he knew that to be a fact.

Given all the conspiracy, the spies and the clandestine phone calls, Simon Bridges was right: this was a Winston Peters Budget.