14 Dec 2016

School's out for MPs after merry old ding-dong debate

7:02 pm on 14 December 2016

The parliamentary year has ended not with a string of tinsel, but with a string of resignations.

Craig Foss announces that he is stepping down from Parliament.

Craig Foss announces his decision to quit Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

Craig Foss today became the second government minister in as many days to announce he will quit and not seek re-election next year, as Parliament rose for 2016.

Sam Lotu-Iiga announced yesterday that he would stand down.

Mr Foss, the Minister of Small Business, Statistics and Veteran's Affairs, and MP for Tukituki, was among those who could have found himself on the demotion list during new Prime Minister Bill English's Cabinet reshuffle.

He said the events of the past week and a mind "drifting to home" proved to be the final straw and he decided it was time to go.

Meanwhile, Parliament held its last question time for the year, with Labour leader Andrew Little adopting a Christmas theme in his question to Mr English.

"Given he has four ambitious amigos, three resigning ministers, two brooding rivals - who's going to rescue Nick Smith from the pear tree?"

Mr English hit back by pointing out the National caucus still well outnumbered Labour's.

"And it doesn't matter what presents he gets for Christmas, that's basically not going to change."

Sniping back, Mr Little then referred to one of Mr English's former contenders for the leadership.

"Will Judith Collins finally get more police in her stockings or is it a merrier Christmas for burglars who now have a 95 percent chance of just getting away with it?"

Mr English assured him Ms Collins would be getting a "lovely" Christmas card from the Police Commissioner.

Mr Little's deputy Annette King then singled out Mr English's other unsuccessful rival for the leadership, Jonathan Coleman, asking him about his approach if he kept the health portfolio.

"Will he stop being a grinch and a grouch of Parliament?

"Will he lighten up instead of lighting up, and will he spread a little bit of joy for those who've been waiting all year for some services from the health system?"

Dr Coleman said the problem for Labour was there was no one else in its caucus who could take up that portfolio.

"That's why Mrs King is still stuck there 30 years after first assuming it."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters was not going to miss out on the action.

"Exactly what sort of Christmas will it be for a bunch of egregious, self-serving careerists..." he began, before being drowned out by roars of irony from the government benches.

He briefly resumed his seat, even looking sheepish - but then had another go.

"How will a bunch of egregious, self-serving, ambitious careerists, who've been given the 'Don't come to caucus Tuesday' message and certain tiresomely useless Cabinet ministers get on this Christmas, when they know they've been given the boot!"

"Given it's the season of goodwill," replied Mr English, "the member has seen many Christmases - I must say he is a very well-dressed, self-serving, egregious careerist."

Parliamentary business is not quite finished for the year, however.

Mr Little will announce a small reshuffle of the Labour caucus on Friday, and Mr English will reveal his new ministerial line-up on Sunday.

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