Precious only when it suits

November 30, 2012

Was it the influence of The Hobbit’s my precious that prompted Trevor Mallard to pretend preciousness over a perceived slight to Jacinda Ardern during Question Time yesterday?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Actually, Limited Service Volunteer is making a difference, and we have seen the numbers—[Interruption] Well, if you want to listen to the answer, then just zip it, sweetie, I am getting there. So what it is is that actually what you have got is you have got a number of people who do fall out in the first few—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you heard what the Minister said.

Mr SPEAKER: I certainly did not hear what the Minister said, because the noise level was too high.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Well, we could hear it on this side, and I suggest that if you had listened you could have heard it. It was exceptionally offensive. [Interruption] . . .

It wasn’t the zip it but the sweetie to which he objected:

. . . Hon Trevor Mallard: No, no, no—she said “zip it, sweetie”. That’s what she said. [Interruption] . . .

. . . Mr Speaker, if that term was used to a member who was not a younger woman member—in that sort of approach—I think you would find it offensive. We certainly found it offensive here, and I ask you whether that term is something that is appropriate. “Zip it” might have been all right but—

Whatever it was Speaker Lockwood Smith took a far more sensible view:

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Look, there is a myth that there are certain terms that are ruled out in this House. It is a myth—there are none. Members should treat this place, this House, with respect and members should treat each other with courtesy. If members interject in a rude manner, they may get a less than perfect reaction from the Minister. The level of interjection was so high that I did not hear what the Minister had said. I accept my hearing is less than ideal. I fully accept that, and I apologise for it. But I believe that if we allow ourselves to get worked up over that, we are just being unnecessarily petty. The solution is simple: do not interject so much. It was not necessary. The member had asked a question and should be interested in the answer. It was difficult to hear the answer, so the Minister felt provoked and said something that was less than ideal, but under the circumstances I am not going to ask the Minister to withdraw and apologise for it.

Quite why sweetie is offensive escapes me but Mallard’s preciousness over this perceived slight contrasts sharply with what could be regarded as far more offensive behaviour at Labour’s conference which appears not to have raised any concern at all from him or his colleagues.

Equal Opportunities Commissioner, Judy McGregor, said:

“We produced sexy, big print bumper stickers which said A king for Miramar and Miramar needs a King. Annette was far too nice to let us use Miramar needs a King not a queen . . .

Keeping Stock asks, is it appropriate from someone whose work requires her to protect and promote equal opportunity?

. . . We accept that Dr McGregor’s comment was intended to be a joke. But so was John Key’s banter about Farming Show hot Jamie Mackay’s “gay red shirt”, and look at the furore over that. . .

If sweetie ranks as offensive on Labour’s preciousness meter and gay red shirt also provoked outrage then McGregor’s homophobic reference would be off the scale – if it came from the right.

But it came from the left and somehow slights, in jest or not, from the proponents of identity politics, don’t register at all.

Perhaps that’s because they’re precious only when it suits.


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