Statistics Minister David Clark accused of 'making a mockery of serious questions' with 'lame dad jokes'

ACT MP Damien Smith has accused Statistics Minister David Clark of "making a mockery of serious questions" in Parliament by responding with "lame dad jokes".

Smith asked on Thursday if Clark had confidence in Stats NZ's calculations of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and its publication of 1.5 percent inflation, given companies like PlaceMakers say log prices have increased 75 percent in the past year. 

PlaceMakers, the retail trading arm of Fletcher Building, said in a recent email distribution that one of its suppliers commented that, relative to July last year, log prices had increased by more than 75 percent and were expected to increase further. 

"As the current high demand and rising costs of freight/raw materials are ongoing they are continuing to put the squeeze on our industry," the email reads. "We're still getting a lot of price increases through from our suppliers and we wanted to give you a heads up on these to help with your planning."

Smith, after he raised his concern in Parliament, was met with an interjection from Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, who lightheartedly declared that the Statistics Minister was "the only minister who counts!"

Clark, after telling Smith it is "not for politicians to decide what is and isn't measured by Stats NZ",  jokingly thanked the ACT MP for asking him a question in his capacity as Statistics Minister, the first time since the election. 

"I do want to thank the member for asking a stats-related question; the first in this portfolio since the election: 250 days, 64.11 percent of the year, two full CPI quarters!"

Smith, not having a bar of the lighthearted response to his line of questioning, asked Clark why "everyone is noticing higher prices and inflation, except for Statistics New Zealand?"

Clark appeared unfazed by Smith's serious tone. 

"I can't answer for the member's perceptions, but I do want to thank him again for raising issues of statistics in this House - as one member has already introduced to the debate, it is the only portfolio that truly counts!"

Smith was scathing in the aftermath, accusing Clark of making "lame dad jokes" during what he considered to be a serious probing of the CPI. 

"In Parliament today Minister David Clark responded to questions from ACT about middle New Zealand being squeezed in every direction by making lame dad jokes," Smith said. 

"This is the first question Clark has been asked as Statistics Minister, his answer was so pointless, he might as well have been out for a bike ride instead of showing up to Question Time," he added - a nod to Clark breaking lockdown rules last year

"The Statistics Minister has shown how out of touch the Government is with middle New Zealand by making a mockery of serious questions in Parliament."

Clark said it was "appropriate that an independent agency decides what is and isn't measured" in terms of the CPI, and that "people use the index for the appropriate purpose".

"Stats New Zealand's calculation of the CPI follows international best-practice set out by the International Labour Organization. It's a world-renowned agency that we should all be proud of. I believe following best practice is the best way for this to happen."

Stats NZ has noted that housing costs, food costs, petrol and travel costs and tax on alcohol and cigarettes, contributed to inflation across the country.