Sunday, February 21, 2010


Incredulously, I watched on Parliament’s TV last week, Education Minister Anne Tolley stumble without thought into a trap. It was sad. It was pitiful. Politics is a nasty game. A patsy question, who are the members of a review group to give advice on the implementation of national standards, was easily answered. And then things went wrong. Trevor Mallard asked did the minister understand the inter-moderation of standards between schools.

‘Yes’ said the Minister. The fox was in the poultry pen. Mallard followed up with a series of questions which revealed the minister didn’t have a clue. Her attempts to quantify were laughable. Nimbleness is not her characteristic. There was glee on the Labour benches as she floundered around.

Someone must have given her a message. When Mallard put another question she raised a point of order with the Speaker. The supplementary didn’t arise from the original question. The Speaker pointed out his dilemma. The Minister by answering ‘yes’ had opened the door to such questions. He allowed the question to stand.

Gerry Brownlee, rose to his feet, rule book in hand. Quoting Speaker Algie [who held the position during the fifties] he raised a further point of order. Too late, the damage was done. The Minister was left suggesting Mallard come to her office to seek clarification. An invitation I do not see him taking up.

Last year I watched the Minister being questioning about cuts in night school classes. She just repeated the mantra about Moroccan cooking and belly-dancing classes. Now Stephen Joyce has the tertiary education portfolio. His argument is logical. The Government is in favour of such courses and acknowledges they do good. But the cupboard is bare and priorities have to be made. These programmes unfortunately cannot be supported. I may disagree and argue but I have to accept the rationality of the case. I see few questions from the Opposition on this topic this year.

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