New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters may be in London with the Parliamentary Rugby Team but according to Parliament’s rules he’s actually within the precincts of the House in Wellington.
Mr Peter’s whereabouts became an issue during Question Time in Parliament yesterday.
The Leader of the House, Gerry Brownlee, had asked the Prime Minister if he would speculate on whether higher competition for livestock in New Zealand might lead to higher prices for farmers.
This exchange then unfolded:
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, can I say that that is the best question I have had in the House all—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just answer it.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I will answer. The answer, in a word, is yes. I could hold up a sign that would say that, but the expert at holding up signs is in London at the moment—
(Mr Ley’s comment was a reference to Mr Peters’ response to a series of journalists’ questions in 2008 about whether he’d been given money by Owen Glenn. Instead of answering he had held up a large sign with “no” written on it.)
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
RICHARD PROSSER (NZ FIRST): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do believe that it is against the Standing Orders to refer to the absence of a member.
And at this point Mr Brownlee struck again. As Leader of the House he attends Parliament’s Business Committee which is chaired by the Speaker and where leave for MPs is granted.
“Well, unfortunately for that member, the member who is being spoken of is actually considered to be in the precincts of Parliament during this 2-week period, while in fact he is in London swanning around as the media- “
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Had Mr Brownlee been allowed to continue he would have said that Mr Peters was the Media Manager for the Parliamentary Rugby team in London.
Mr Brownlee told POLITIK the leave had been granted to the team on the basis that they were furthering inter Parliamentary relations by playing teams from other Parliaments.
And he said it paid to remember that MPs did not actually get leave at any stage during the year.
Asked why he then described Mr Peters’ activities in London as “swanning around” he said he had been going to tell Parliament that since it was 2.30 in the morning in London when Question Time was taking place it would be possible to call Mr Peters and get an update from him, a suggestion that Mr Peters’ was pursuing the same nocturnal habits in London that he did at the Green Parrot cafe in Wellington.
Unfortunately though Mr Peters was technically in the Debating Chamber he was in reality in London, unable to enjoy the speculation about his activities.
However former Labour Party MP, Darren Hughes, now based in London, did run into Mr Peters at a function at New Zealand House and helpfully posted a picture of the pair on Facebook.