If there were any concerns Labour's former bovver boy Trevor Mallard would be partisan in his work as Speaker, they would have rapidly switched from National to Labour after Mallard made a confession during Question Time.

That confession was "I'm slightly deaf in my left ear".

National sits on Mallard's left side.

The confession came after Labour's Leader of the House Chris Hipkins had questioned why Mallard had not pulled National up for interjecting given he had already punished Labour twice for their interjections. Mallard's answer was that he had not heard them.


It was the first Question Time for the new Government and everyone was in an unfamiliar position. For the first time in nine years, Labour was answering the questions and National was asking them.

As if there was not enough to adjust to, Mallard had decided to celebrate his election as Speaker by introducing a new rule and a new disciplinary system.

The new rule was that MPs were not allowed to interject while a question was being asked. And rather than simply issue a warning and eventually kick an offender out, Mallard turned the number of supplementary questions a party gets into a form of currency.

Supplementary questions are the follow-up questions each party gets to ask of Ministers, allocated on a proportional basis.

Under the Mallard Regime, if an MP is naughty one of their questions is taken away and given to the other side.

Within minutes, Labour (on Mallard's right side) had lost two supplementaries to National.

On at least one of those occasions, a National MP was also squeaking - gleefully undetected by the Slightly Deaf Left Ear.

Labour did not appear overly concerned. In fact, such was the largesse of being in Government that at one point they even gave one of their questions to Act leader David Seymour, who only gets two questions a week.

As the poor Clerk of the House rattled away on his abacus trying to keep tally of the questions, Ministers tried out their new roles. After nine years of taunting Labour by telling them they would simply have to wait to see numbers, National got a taste of its own medicine from Acting PM Kelvin Davis and Finance Minister Grant Robertson. When English demanded Davis reveal the targets Labour would hold themselves to, Davis' response was that those would be revealed "in due course".

Finance Spokesman Steven Joyce then demanded Robertson tell him how much those things revealed in due course would cost. Robertson told him he would just have to wait to see the Half Yearly Fiscal Update in December. "And if he can't wait I'll make up a special Advent calendar for him that he can count down to the half-yearly update with."

Economic Development spokesman Simon Bridges took on Regional Development Minister Shane Jones, who has developed the rather startling habit of booming like a kakapo every time he says the word "billion", which is often given he has a billion-dollar fund to pay for things like planting a billion trees.

Bridges wanted to know how successful Jones' $1 billion fund for the regions would be. He rather asked for what he got in response. "I can assure the member that the success will surpass the 10 bridges in Northland that he promised," replied Jones - a dig at National's promise to upgrade 10 bridges in Northland during the 2015 by election.

However, Jones then became the victim of Mallard's first order for an apology - for describing Joyce as "Slim Shady with a bald head".

Bridges' day did not get much better - he fumbled with his questions and was allowed to reword them. When Green MP Jan Logie was later refused the same chance and objected, Mallard pointed out that she was used to asking questions whereas Bridges was not. "I was treating him a little more like a newer member," Mallard said, putting Bridges neatly in his place.

After Question Time National MPs praised Mallard for his even, balanced approach- although it was unclear whether this was down to his new disciplinary system or his uneven, unbalanced hearing.