Speaker Trevor Mallard lays down the law in Parliament on first day of National's reshuffled front bench

Speaker Trevor Mallard has laid down the law in Parliament as National's reshuffled front bench tested his patience in an often fiery session of lawmaking. 

It began with Chris Bishop, National's new third-ranked MP, jeering on Wednesday when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern couldn't say how much better off a family with parents earning $60,000 would be after the Government's upcoming Family Tax Credit changes

"Order! I'm going to interrupt right now," the Speaker said. "Standing orders are very clear, and that is when a general primary question is asked, ministers cannot be expected to give specific answers."

Bishop switched seats with National's new finance spokesperson, deputy leader Nicola Willis, and Mallard acknowledged it would be a lesson for Bishop that sitting closer to him meant he could hear more of his interjections. 

"But I will not have criticism of a minister who does not have specific information that that minister has not been asked for," Mallard said. 

Bishop shot back: "I just want to clarify: am I no longer allowed to express my reaction to the answer of a minister?"

Mallard replied: "I ruled it was unreasonably loud."

The Speaker's attention then turned to Willis, who used language in her questioning of Finance Minister Grant Robertson that was not allowed. 

"Why does he keep gaslighting New Zealanders by claiming his stats prove..." she said, before Mallard cut her off to try again. 

"Why does he keep patronising New Zealanders by claiming..." Willis attempted for a second time, before Mallard cut her off again. 

Willis got there on her third try. 

"Why does he keep trying to fool New Zealanders by claiming his statistics prove they're getting ahead under his Government when they know they're not?"

Robertson responded: "I reject the premise of the member's questions and I would point her to the fact that wages have outpaced inflation between 2018 and 2021 and are projected to do so again."

Bishop then brought the attention back to him after accusing Associate Housing Minister Poto Williams of not addressing his question of why rent has increased by $150 per week since the Government came into office and why rent affordability continues to decline.

"What I do accept is there are some people who are doing it tough right now. But we have made a number of changes to support our renters during this time. A married couple, for example, seeking Jobseeker support, now receive $88 more per week in their weekly benefit after tax compared to March 2020," Williams said. 

"The average rent reported by couples renting and receiving the accommodation supplement increased by $38 a week for the same period. An adult working a $40 hour week on the minimum wage saw their income increase by almost $75 per week after tax between March 2020 and December 2021."

Bishop described her answer as "interesting" but "it didn't go anywhere near addressing the question as to why rent affordability continues to decline".

Mallard ruled that because Bishop's initial query had two questions, Williams was only obliged to answer one of them. 

Bishop interjected again - and the Speaker looked as though he'd had enough. 

"The member doesn't comment on my rulings! He's not in the school debating team anymore - he's in the House of Representatives."

Bishop responded: "Oh come on, Mr Speaker! Goodness me."

Mallard suggested Bishop was on the verge of being disorderly. 

"The member for the fifth or sixth time today from a seat very close to me referred to me in his interjection. He knows what the rules are. He's not a stupid member. I can only assume he's doing it deliberately."

The pair clashed again during another squabble involving ACT leader David Seymour, who accused the Prime Minister of speaking about one of his policies incorrectly. 

"There he goes again!" Mallard said of Bishop, who appeared to speak out in defence of Seymour. 

Bishop suggested they get a coffee after the session to talk things out. 

"I'll decline the member's invitation for a coffee date because I have meetings that go on for some time afterwards," Mallard said. "But I will say to the member, just because it's quiet for him, doesn't mean I can't hear it." 

It concluded with an MP yelling, "I'll have a coffee", sparking some much-needed laughter in the House in the final sitting week before MPs take a (necessary, it seems) recess.