Take a bow, Lockwood Smith. At long last, the House has a Speaker who seems serious about removing the blight on New Zealand's democracy - the increasing tendency of Cabinet ministers to thumb their noses at the constitutional convention that they are accountable to Parliament.
Smith dropped a bit of a bombshell on the first sitting day of the year when he expressed displeasure with Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson's reply to an Opposition question about the minimum wage, and then instructed her to answer the question again.
Such a practice is almost unheard of. You could see the jaws of National Party colleagues collectively dropping in shock.
For too long, however, the hour-plus set aside each afternoon in the House for MPs to quiz ministers has been much more about political theatre than ministerial accountability.
As the former and very disillusioned National MP Mark Blumsky noted before leaving Parliament last year, question time often descends into
It certainly was refreshing to have rebukes delivered at a somewhat lower octave, and in a far more measured manner than his predecessor, Margaret Wilson. He is certainly less excitable! But as Armstrong notes, Smith is actually going to show a deep respect for the office of Speaker and for Parliament as a whole by calling Honourable Members to account. Parliament was indeed farcical at times during its 48th iteration.
Lockwood Smith has made a highly promising start to his tenure of the role. The true test of course will be how he endures, a point which Armstrong ponders in his conclusion:
Such interventions will not win Smith plaudits from his colleagues. They sat in Opposition for nine frustrating years complaining about
Labour ministers diving for cover when the political heat was on.
Now in Government, they would expect the boot to be on the other foot. That it isn't may be unfair on National. But stopping the parliamentary rot meant someone had to start somewhere at some time. Smith has done the right thing by serving notice that he expects ministers to lift their game. The onus is now on him to continue in the manner in which he has begun.
Still, things will be far easier for Smith with the absence of a certain Member, won't they??!!