National's deputy leader Paula Bennett has revolted against Speaker Trevor Mallard's new system of discipline, walking out of Parliament and saying Mallard's system of docking questions to punish MPs was "unpredictable and dangerous."
Bennett said afterward that her walk-out was not a vote of no-confidence in the Speaker but she was "sick of being treated like a child" and his new penalties system was bad for democracy.
Bennett walked out of the debating chamber during Question Time after Mallard docked five questions from National over something Gerry Brownlee said while she was questioning the Prime Minister. It is unclear what Brownlee said.
Mallard docks questions from parties if they interject while a question is being asked or during a point of order. When he first took over as Speaker, Mallard had deducted one at a time but had since moved to docking up to five in one go.
Bennett said frustration with that had been building for some time because it was unpredictable and impacted on the Opposition's ability to do its job properly.
"It's been coming for a while. To just sit there and be treated like a child and not even actually be able to even put your point forward when you love this place, you love what you do and you just want an opportunity to do your best, it got to the point I'd probably get more work done in my office."
She said she did have confidence in Mallard but was frustrated with the way he penalised MPs and wanted a chance to talk to him about it.
Shadow leader of the House Gerry Brownlee had objected to the questions being stripped, saying the Speaker's job was to keep order and not to prevent the Opposition from challenging the Government.
"Your repeated recall of questions from us does that, and I think that is most inappropriate and bad for our democracy."
Bennett added her concerns, saying it hindered the Opposition's ability to question the Government.
After that, Mallard said in the long run National benefited because it had gained 22 more questions after infringements from Government parties.
Speaking outside the chamber later, Bennett said her beef was that Mallard's rulings were unpredictable and it was hard to plan question lines.
"It's our job to hold the Government to account and Question Time is a really important part of that.
"We walk in, we don't know how many questions we are going to get every day because the rules seem to change every day.
"This taking away and giving of questions for one set of rules one day and another the next is making our job harder."
She said it was unpredictable and dangerous. She said on Tuesday National had had to abandon an entire question because Mallard suddenly took away a whole raft of questions.
"I would like some certainty as to how Question Time is going to go. It's not a way for democracy to run in New Zealand."
Although Bennett told the Speaker she would stay away for the rest of the day, Bennett went back into the Chamber after Question Time to deliver a speech in the Budget debate.
Mallard promptly made her apologise, saying she had made a negative comment directed at him as she left the Chamber. Bennett apologised, but said she could not recall saying anything negative to him. As she left she had said "I'm leaving. What a waste of time."