Government has chewed up $4 million of Parliament's time asking itself questions

The Government has chewed up $4 million-worth of Parliament's time asking itself questions during Question Time. 

ACT has crunched the numbers after taking offence to being accused of wasting Parliament's time doing the same on Tuesday. 

The debating chamber is like Parliament's playhouse, and as MPs near the big three-week winter recess break, it seems a few of them are at their wit's end. 

"Four long years of failure!" National leader Judith Collins bellowed during her general debate speech on Wednesday. 

"We know that the knives will be out!" House Leader Chris Hipkins said in his speech. 

The House has become a bit of a zoo, at least according to ACT MP Nicole McKee, who characterised Hipkins as an animal. 

"You referred to the Honourable Chris Hipkins as working like a mule," she said to House Speaker Trevor Mallard. "I might say, working like an arse."

"I think the member means ass," Mallard replied, as the House erupted in laughter. 

Prior to those speeches was Question Time, Parliament's prime political pantomime - it's the Opposition's opportunity to hold the Government to account.

The Government gets questions too - most of them because it's the biggest party in Parliament. The questions they ask themselves are often referred to as "patsy questions" - Government backbenchers asking easy questions of their own ministers is a classic. 

"What recent reports have you read on the New Zealand economy?" is a question Finance Minister Grant Robertson is asked nearly every day, mostly by Labour MP Duncan Webb.

Even the Finance Minister finds it comical. 

Newshub put the question to Robertson: "What recent reports have you read on the New Zealand economy?"

He laughed.

"I've seen a very large number of reports!"

But Robertson doesn't think it's ridiculous that he gets asked the same question in Parliament all the time. 

"No it's not, I am the Finance Minister, and it's my job to talk about the economy."

But ACT leader David Seymour has whipped out his tax-ulator and worked out that since Parliament costs more than $20,000 an hour to run, all those patsy questions have cost the taxpayer $4 million since last year's election. 

"If they're getting information out about the Government's policies, that could be handy, but a lot of it's frivolous and very expensive, frivolous question-asking," Seymour says. 

National MP Chris Bishop thinks that's hypocritical. 

"He spent 20 minutes yesterday making all of his caucus members ask questions to himself."

Seymour was standing nearby when Bishop made the comments. 

"Chris is probably a bit confused, he's actually a Greek scholar, and I think he meant Hippocrates," he said with a grin. 

Bishop backtracked. 

"I wasn't calling you a hypocrite, I was just saying it showed a degree of chutzpah."

On Tuesday, Seymour's sideshow was him getting all his colleagues to ask him questions for about 10 minutes in the House, costing $3000. 

"It was a complete waste of time, absolutely," said Hipkins.

Labour's Andrew Little took a moment before commenting on whether he thought patsy questions were helpful.

"Ah, sometimes they can be informative..."

Well, that's subjective.