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Green Party announces significant change to Question Time

The Green Party has today announced that, from this week, most of its allocation of questions for Question Time will be handed over to the Leader of the Opposition to use, in order to limit the prevalence of “patsy questions” in Parliament and to strengthen the ability of Parliament to hold the Government of the day to account. 

The only exception is if the Green Party wishes to use a question to hold the Government to account on a particular issue, consistent with the party’s Confidence and Supply agreement with Labour, which acknowledges the ability for the parties to agree to disagree on certain issues.

“The Green Party has long advocated the importance of Parliament having the powers to hold the Government of the day to account. Question Time is a key avenue for the opposition to interrogate the Government, so this move is a small step we can take to live up to the values we stated in opposition now that we are part of the Government,” said Green Party Co-leader James Shaw.

“Using Question Time to ask ourselves scripted, set-piece patsy questions does nothing to advance the principles of democracy and accountability that are very important to us as a party. We expect the opposition to use our questions to hold us to account as much as any other party in Government.

“We think patsy questions are a waste of time, and New Zealanders have not put us in Parliament to do that; we’re there to make positive change for our people and our environment. 

“We don’t expect any other party to follow suit – this is about us leading the kind of change we want to see in Parliament.

“The Greens are committed to doing Government differently and doing Government better and this change, along with our voluntary release of Green Ministers diaries to increase transparency, will hopefully spark more of a debate about how we can bring Parliament’s processes and systems into the modern age.

“We will also make a submission to the Standing Orders Review, which kicks off next year, to advocate for further changes to Question Time. This review is where all parties in Parliament make decisions about how future parliaments will operate and is the best place for all politicians to discuss any long term permanent changes to Question Time.

“The Canadian Government has recently trialled changes to Question Time after Justin Trudeau campaigned to do so. This shows parliament systems are not set in stone and should be open to regular review and change to ensure our democracy is healthy and well-functioning.

“We have reserved the right to use our questions when we have a point of difference with our colleagues in government. Our Confidence and Supply Agreement with Labour allows us to agree to disagree on issues, and the occasional respectful questioning of the Government from within is also an important part of democracy.

“That we can occasionally disagree with each other highlights the strength and flexibility of this Government,” said Mr Shaw.