The National Party is accusing Parliament’s new deputy speaker Greg O’Connor of being ignorant of the details and shutting down discussion prematurely of a proposed law around ACC cover for birth injuries and firefighters who get cancer from toxic fumes.
An exasperated National MP Michael Woodhouse was kicked out of the House by O’Connor yesterday after loudly exclaiming “what a load of s***, Greg!” and refusing to withdraw the comment and apologise.
ACC Minister Carmel Sepuloni’s bill was going through the Committee stage in Parliament – in addition to boosting ACC coverage for birth injuries it will also make it easier for firefighters to get ACC coverage if they get cancer from toxic fumes.
But when National MP Maureen Pugh began talking about the toll cancer takes on firefighters, O’Connor interrupted her and told her to “keep it narrower, we’ve been on firefighters now for three minutes, so unless there’s a specific question”.
When Pugh asked Minister Sepuloni for more details around the firefighter aspect of the bill – O’Connor closed the discussions.
Pugh told 1News today that, “personally I don’t think (O’Connor) had even read the bill that we were debating, he seemed confused about the content”.
Woodhouse, the shadow leader of the House, meanwhile, was livid that O’Connor shut down discussion before MPs had a chance to talk to multiple supplementary order papers.
“This is outrageous. I’m out of here. What a load of s***, Greg,” Woodhouse said, before refusing to withdraw and apologise.
Woodhouse told 1News that it was “not a moment I’m proud of by any means but reflected my frustration at the examination of a very important Bill being shut down prematurely”.
“There were still many issues to be addressed including the Government’s own amendments to the bill.”
Woodhouse said he expected there would have been another hour of discussion on the bill.
O’Connor told 1News today that “a whole pile of factors” go into deciding when to move a closure motion on a bill.
Asked repeatedly if he understood that firefighters were included in the bill, O’Connor would only repeat that many factors go into deciding when to move a closure motion.
Here’s the Hansard transcript of the incident
Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Chief Whip—Labour): I move, That the question be now put.
CHAIRPERSON (Greg O’Connor): The question is—
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Come on, Mr Chair. We haven’t even spoken to the Supplementary Order Papers. Point of order.
CHAIRPERSON (Greg O’Connor): All those in favour—
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Point of order, Mr Chair.
CHAIRPERSON (Greg O’Connor): The point of order will not be on my decision to actually take a closure motion, will it?
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Well, if we don’t have a conversation, the Speaker may well be recalled. And I think it’d be good to avoid that.
CHAIRPERSON (Greg O’Connor): We’re going to actually carry on with this motion.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: This is outrageous. I’m out of here. What a load of s***, Greg!
CHAIRPERSON (Greg O’Connor): That member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: No, he won’t.
CHAIRPERSON (Greg O’Connor): The member will leave the House.