The role of Speaker is fundamental to our Parliamentary Democracy.
The choice of Speaker is of great importance – it is a significant event.
It would be churlish not to acknowledge the departing Speaker and his contribution to this House.
Inevitably, from time to time we have disagreed with his judgements.
But that is in the nature of a mature and robust democracy.
Whilst we wish the Rt Honourable Lockwood Smith well in his new appointment representing New Zealand in London, we nevertheless have to place on record our disquiet that in an unprecedented time of so many career trained diplomats having lost their jobs in foreign affairs, that yet another political appointment has been made to supersede their lifelong commitment to the service.
There is another aspect of the transition that cannot be overlooked.
Given the importance of the role of the Speaker as being Parliament’s man or woman, we were deeply disappointed that the Government chose not to involve all political parties in any of the background considerations regarding the selection of a new Speaker.
New Zealand First is committed to a well organised and effective democratic parliamentary process.
We would have contributed constructively and thoughtfully to a dialogue around the selection of a new Speaker.
We want this House to work – and to work well in the interests of our democracy – so in our view it would have been consistent with the values and spirit of our democracy for the Government to engage with other parties over the appointment of a new Speaker.
That was not done – and there yet remains outstanding any explanation as to why it was done this way.
It makes the new Speaker’s job doubly difficult which I’m certain he is already regretting.
If the Government wanted cooperation then it needs to understand that cooperation is a two-way street.
The manner of this selection evinces arrogance, and a poor understanding of the need for political neutrality in this post.
In short, in our view, it reflects poorly on the Government.
So here we have an appointment which belies all the grandiose statements of aspirational cooperation and positivism and in this one act, exposes them for being the shibboleths that in National’s mouth they have most regrettably become.