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I Always wondered Why

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In Parliament every Question Time, the same question is asked of the PM by Simon;

“Does she stand by all her Government’s statements, policies, and actions?”

For context – Question Time is constructed of twelve pre-published primary questions to Ministers, each followed up by numerous supplementary questions (which aren’t known in advance). 

The purpose of pre-publishing the primary questions is to allow the minister to come prepared to answer it in detail. And they are expected to do so. But a broad primary question (like Simon Bridges’ standard one) doesn’t allow preparation, so detailed answers are not expected.

Forcing detailed answers to detailed questions is a key way Parliament exercises   oversight over the government. General primary questions let the government skate over the detail. 

So why do it, and why do it day after day, after day?

There are four possible reasons for these tactics:

The Scattergun

The follow-up questions are meant to follow on from the primary question. A general primary question allows the supplementary questions to cover a wide range of topics rather than be restricted to the topic of the primary question. 

That’s useful if you plan to ask questions about three or four different policy areas. But that scattergun approach doesn’t give you much opportunity to drill down – and you can’t expect specifics. And also, both Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett’s supplementaries sometimes stick with one topic. So The Scattergun is possibly sometimes the reason, but not always. 

The Stall

Primary questions have to be delivered to the Clerk of the House by 10:30 on the morning of each sitting day.  

Asking an identical primary question every day allows you wait until Question Time begins at 2pm to confirm your focus of attack – which might be useful if major events are unfolding (uncommon). The questions are seldom based on breaking news, so this tactic is not the reason. 

That leaves just two options, and it is likely one or both of these.

The Jab and Duck

Jacinda Ardern is good at answering questions. Her responses can turn defence into offence. A key reason for this is strong preparation. 

One way to blunt her effectiveness is by limiting her ability to prepare.  This works because a prime minister’s responsibilities are vast, including the actions and purviews of all of the other ministers. It’s not possible to prepare for all eventualities. 

Recent Question Times showed the impact of preparation. On a Tuesday, Simon Bridges asked a number of supplementary questions about transport projects and received solid answers but there was no clear winner.

But on Wednesday he tried the same broad attack in his first follow-up. The Prime Minister had come prepared. She triumphantly read through a list of projects so long the referee (the speaker) had to intervene.  

In tacit defeat, the Leader of the Opposition asked no further supplementaries.  

Telegraphing attacks only leads to strong counter-punches, so it’s best to hide your punches. 

Winning the Post Match

This final tactic focuses on how the exchanges can be portrayed in social media. It has political rather than parliamentary aims.  

If you ask very general primary questions you prevent your opponent from preparing properly. That means you get lots of answers to the more specific supplementary questions along the lines of ‘if you warn me of the topic I can come prepared to dance or more specifically ‘if the member wants to put a question on notice I’d be happy to answer it’.

So you get sparse answers but you also get a lot of video of the Prime Minister declining to or being unable to answer. And then you have ammunition to suggest they are uninformed, incompetent or bumbling.

Yesterday Simon asked the PM what transport projects her Government has started.

She could only name one: a slow tram down Dominion Road. And she didn’t know when they’d start it. Labour is failing to deliver on transport.

From RNZ politics

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/the-house/audio/2018705751/simon-bridges-asks-questions-on-endless-repeat-why

9 COMMENTS

  1. This is a standard question that Prime Ministers have been asked for years. It is not just a Simon Bridges thing. John key was constantly asked this question, he smiled his standard answer ”yes”, then got down to answer the supplementaries with ease as he knew what he was about, unlike the COL.

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  2. “Jacinda Ardern is good at answering questions.”

    Really?? Because when Bridges was methodically dismantling her about Karel Sroubek she stuttered and stammered and refused to answer questions before she flashed an angry glare to Mallard to save her!…(Check out the footage from late last year- It is quite something!)

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    • Yes, any Minister who has learnt to read at school is good at answering questions when the answers are prepared, by staff, as stated in the “Jab and Duck” section.
      The MSM are really getting to the bottom of the barrel for finding ways to support the PM.

      PS. What has happened on the Stroubek issue? Has National given up on it?

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    • The left are bothered by Ardern’s lousy performance fullstop. There fixed it for you Maggy.

      This article from the ‘Standard’ shows the lefts frustration with their Labour Party is growing:
      ~~~~

      Jacindamania

      Written By: advantage – Date published: 8:01 am, July 28th, 2019 – 109 comments
      Categories: capital gains, child welfare, jacinda ardern, labour, public transport, tax, transport – Tags:

      Despite the babies and the engagements, maybe it’s time to ditch the default Jacindamania.

      Let’s not bother with the criminal waste of tax on hundreds of working groups, existing to successfully suppressing oppositional opinion through co-option.

      Oranga Tamariki has got three investigations underway for removing children, and is being kicked all over the park by the media. Cue another year of paralysis by analysis.

      There is no reform of the justice sector.

      There’s no substantial reform of social welfare, in particular no raise in base welfare levels, so no improvement in poverty levels this term. That’s another generation of 25% of our children.

      Transport remains a fully self-inflicted disaster, with light rail gone from even starting for at least another term, mortality and injury and traffic congestion all soaring, and the only items of note to open this term will be National-inspired motorways in the Waikato.

      There are no new partnerships with Labour-led councils such as Christchurch or Auckland, and the ones there are like City Rail Link and Christchurch rebuild were started under National.

      Tax policy is a full-throated policy wasteland, with no Capital Gains Tax and no other tax reform either as long as Ardern is PM, so National’s tax settings continuing to oppress most of New Zealand.

      Teaching at both secondary and tertiary level is a policy disaster with massive untested reforms to demolish polytechs and removing secondary decile ratings, with little stable to replace them. Great they’re paid better.

      Nothing about water charging, and won’t be in this government. Free money to business.

      A weak-ass carbon reform, with little attempt to change the carbon pollution of the vehicle fleet or farming industries.

      KiwiBuild is largely unrecoverable, although there is indeed sterling work with HNZ building new rentals. Maybe the Urban Development Agency will help, in a few terms.

      And now, intervening via television into an iwi-Fletchers housing partnership, over the top of layers of court and local government mandating, the Prime Minister gets in to stop a Mangere housing development. Few other suburbs in Auckland need new housing more, and she stops it.

      I don’t knock the successes, small though they are. Great to hear mental health, defence, and conservation are getting better funding. I’m also glad we have an emotionally astute Prime Minister.

      But it’s a very partial leadership. It’s not ‘transformational’, it’s not the year of delivery. What is this government?

      This is the weakest leadership on policy of any government since the last term of Holyoake, 60 years ago. That’s on Ardern.

      It’s time, since we are now getting emails to volunteer and donate money on their behalf for the next election, to expect more from Jacinda Ardern.

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  3. “Jacinda Ardern is good at answering questions. Her responses can turn defense into offence. A key reason for this is strong preparation. ”

    Really? Which of her numerous PR people wrote that because it is about as far from the truth as you can get.

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  4. I have hardly ever seen her answer a question properly.
    She usually answering with a smart yes or no and then sits down like a spoiled brat

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