Back Benches on Wednesday was a change to the normal routine – Wallace Chapman was MIA, rumoured to be presenting evidence to the Bain Trial in High Court, and was replaced by Damian Christie, who made a reasonable fist of representing the formula Chapman has been running as a template.
The panel comprised Grant Robertson (L), Sue Kedgley (G), Peter Dunne (UF) and Aaron Gilmore (N), and answered questions on the rapid passage of the Auckland Supercity legislation – both Robertson and Kedgley slating the process under urgency, Kedgley calling it ‘abuse of process’, both criticising the lack of consultation.
Then the topic moved to the pork industry, with Mike King’s video footage of the pig-farmers’ sow crates getting another once-over; again, both Robertson & Kedgley were condemnatory of the status quo that allows such practices, with Kedgley adding that it stretches credulity for the Minister of Agriculture to say he ‘did not know of’ the practice of intensive pig-farming using sow crates; Peter Dunne waded in to say he thought this practice was probably illegal, to the amusement of the crowd, and was swiftly corrected by Kedgley, who informed him that it was precisely the legality of the practice that was so unsavoury, and chastised the MinAg and previous Labour Government for not removing the right for farmers to continue to use sow crates (previously, much had been made of her experiences campaigning against such practices since 1999). After a sally by Aaron Gilmore in defense of his Minister, Dunne suggested that all this publicity would ‘damage our pork exports’, to which the rejoinder was ‘we are net importers of pork, and all our production is consumed here, not exported …’, another own-goal to the member for Ohariu.
Further topics included the costs of jury trials, and the windfalls to lawyers that these represent, which scored another few goals against Dunn, and lawyers in general; and the ubiquitous Christine Rankin – vox pops in Auckland were in favour of keeping her on the Families Commission (sample size = 10), but the mood in the Bar was more judgmental, especially in light of her media behaviour in past days – Kedgley calling her ‘divisive and partisan’, Robertson saying John Key must take responsibility for her appointment to the Commission, and Dunne very much against her, saying her personality made her unsuitable, and her tendency to comment, ad nausea, to the media on any topic made her a liability to the Commission.
The final question – Is the honeymoon over for the National Government? – led to to a stirring statement that ‘our PM is the most popular PM we’ve had in a generation’ from Aaron Gilmore, which was lost in catcalls from the assembled audience members.
Full footage of the show here.