After a rambunctious, anarchic start to Parliament over the election of Speaker Trevor Mallard, National MPs returned for the first day of debate apparently determined to test the limits of Mallard's patience.

National's shadow leader of the House Simon Bridges undertook the preliminary testing of the Trev-O-Meter when Labour's Poto Williams was nominated as an assistant Speaker.

Williams was one of the five MPs who was not at Parliament on Tuesday when most MPs were sworn in. Their absences presented National with the chance to force Labour into a deal on select committee places in return for their support for Mallard as Speaker.

Bridges now wanted to know whether an MP who had not yet been sworn in could be elected as assistant Speaker.


Mallard announced she could indeed, Bridges again queried it and Gerry Brownlee then waded in. Mallard begrudgingly allowed him to, to which Brownlee, eyes big with innocence, observed "I'm sure that your patience wouldn't run out this quickly. I'm perhaps not surprised if it has."

By the time Bridges stood to question whether Adrian Rurawhe could be also elected as assistant Speaker if he was a whip, Mallard had had enough. The Trev-O-Meter needle was heading into the orange.

But Mallard had spent much of the last nine years railing about his predecessor's unsuitability to be Speaker and was clearly wary of getting off-side with National from the start. So rather than take it out on Bridges, he instead released pent-up impatience on NZ First's Darroch Ball.

Even Mallard admitted Ball's main crime was that he was nearest to him - and therefore louder than the other infringers.

Finally Labour put up the list of legislation they intended to carry over from the previous Parliament - all of it bar four bills, of which three were rather dull.

The National Party merrily forced a lengthy debate in strident defence of those four bills - including the Act Party's Regulatory Standards Bill.

This came as a surprise to Act's David Seymour who observed National's sudden solicitousness came after it had sat on the Order Paper for six long years under a National Government, waiting to be passed.

Brownlee finally decided to redeem himself by heaping praise upon Mallard's sagacity and experience. "And that's not meant to be in any way derisory. It is a compliment, and I am sure that you will, as you have sort of started today, put your own mark on the way the House operates and I wish you well in that."

That good work was rather undone by Judith Collins, who observed the Speaker had called for MPs to be "kinder and more caring".

"Well," she said in the cheerful tone of a nurse about to administer an enema to their ex.
"I think it's great, Mr Speaker, that you want us to be kinder and more caring, because everybody knows that there's no one more kind and caring than me."

At one point, Mallard stood to issue an instruction only to be undermined by his own gown falling down.

He promptly sat back down again, grinned as he hauled the gown back up and assured members he would learn to dress himself at some point.

The gown did earn him a rare compliment from Chris Finlayson, who observed how aesthetically pleasing it was compared to that "that very odd fur thing" former Speaker David Carter had worn. He did have a further suggestion for Mallard's wardrobe - a full-bottomed wig.