Spotlight: PM faces media after Gourav Sharma sacked by Labour caucus.Video / Mark Mitchell
National is trying to use a mysterious motion at the end of question time on Tuesday to schedule an extra question time and an extra debate this week.
The motion could be big news for newly independent MP Gaurav Sharma, who will be given time to speak in the House of Representatives under the privilege of allowing him to talk about his former Labour colleagues without fear of being slandered. Sharma was sacked by the Labour caucus this morning.
The motion is believed to be related to Speaker Trevor Mallard’s widely-publicized announcement that he would be leaving the speaker’s seat on Wednesday.
Mallard has already announced that he will step down as Speaker and withdraw from Parliament entirely. He will travel to Europe, widely considered to be Ireland, to take up the post of ambassador. He is widely expected to leave this week – a decision unrelated to the Sharma fiasco.
The current Deputy Speaker, Adrian Rurawhe, will then be elected as Speaker. Under the rules of procedure, the rules governing parliament, the House of Representatives adjourns the day after the election of a new speaker.
That means Wednesday’s question time and general debate will be canceled. National is keen to ensure that doesn’t happen, as it means the prime minister will only be present at one question time this week – with leaders typically skipping Thursday’s meeting in favour of their deputies.
It’s also important to cancel the general debate because it’s an opportunity for MPs to speak more freely on any topic they choose.
Seats for the general debate are allocated to parties based on their representation in the House of Representatives, but parties can give up their seats if they wish.
It is understood National has at least considered giving newly independent MP Sharma a seat. The party had previously offered former Labour MP Louisa Wall a speaking seat on the suicide debate after Labour rejected Wall’s chance to speak.
MPs who speak in the debate room are protected by parliamentary privilege. This means MPs can make defamatory remarks without taking responsibility for what they say.
With Parliament wrapping up question time on Tuesday, National’s shadow leader Chris Bishop “will hold a House general debate after the dinner break on Tuesday night in light of other events”, which will follow the usual format for Wednesday’s debate.
There was opposition to the motion, meaning it was unsuccessful.
Bishop then took leave to allow the House of Representatives to hold a second question time on Thursday, again “in light of other events this week.”
This question time will replace the question time lost on Wednesday.
This was also rejected.