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Parliamentary corruption and our useless privileges committee

  • June 3rd, 2009

NZ Parliamentarians congratulating themselves for not being in a British style swamp should thank Rodney Hide. He was loathed in Parliament when I arrived in 1999, for his dogged pursuit of MP rorts. He’d broken the cosy club rules. Nevertheless he did create a climate of caution and forced Johnathon Hunt in particular onto the defensive.

That does not mean Hunt as Speaker was vigilant against fraud and corruption. I’ll never forget him declining to investigate after we found out that Donna Awatere had tried to sell her vote to Bill Birch in exchange for money to the Pipi Trust. Hunt said the complaint had not been raised soon enough.

In this area we owe nothing to our media. Being programmed by their idealogy to associate the Right with privilege, they never understood or reported the ACT party’s consistent targetting of unearned privileges, so unlike the UK media now, they simply did not follow up stories of Labour sleaze, and usually turned our exposes into attacks on our alleged "muck-raking.

For example, they dropped the story of Marian Hobbs and Phillida Bunkle’s claims for out of Wellington housing allowances as soon as Labour’s investigator suggested the rules were confusing, and gladly reported that "finding" as "clearing" them. They did not seek out other cases.

It took a mammoth effort to get Winston Peters exposed, for which Phil Kitchin and Audrey Young deserve credit, but years earlier other journalists did not follow up on our own "cash for questions" scandal over fisheries, in stark contrast to the determination of the UK press.

That brings me to the serious attack on free speech now sponsored by the Charles Chauvel chaired privileges committee. Their recommendation  would tighten the prohibition on mentioning matters before the courts. It would play into the hands of ruthless people like Peters. His abuse of defamation law should have resulted in the opposite recommendation.

There is no reason for Parliament to allow the courts and the lawyers additional respect. The Courts should have instead been told to clean their stables before Parliament allows them any more power to stifle free speech.

In the face of ballooning trial times, out of control cost, huge delays, the failure to create effective sanctions against abusive exploitation of process, the witless use of name suppression,  the arrogant gagging of media on matters of public (intenet) knowledge in a pretended concern for the integrity of trials, the absence of disincentive to gagging writs, the committee has put one of our few free speech safety valves at risk.

This post was corrected after Phil Kitchin pointed out words that left him and Audrey Young in the category of journalists from which I intended honourable exclusion


  • Kokako
  • June 3rd, 2009
  • 5:51 pm

Parliament shouldn’t just be a rogue’s gallery for every redneck member of the ACT party who, frustrated at not being able to persuade the rest of parliament to adopt super-punitive criminal and sentencing laws, tries to wreck fair trials by commenting on matters before the courts. Good on Charles Chauvel for protecting the right of ordinary kiwis to a fair trial, and for protecting fair reporting by the media two issues which you ignored in your time in Parliament. To describe the curbing of the rights of 121 people to prejudice the fair trials of potentially 4 million as a ‘free speech safety valve’ shows what an elitist you are. You need to let go of politics given your rejection by the people at the polls last time. Is legal practice specially slow at the mo?

  • peterquixote
  • June 3rd, 2009
  • 7:25 pm

good post dude, that kokako squawk dribble

  • Dan
  • June 6th, 2009
  • 2:02 pm

Kokako is a complete twit.
Parliamentary priveliege exists to allow the representatives of the people to say without fear or favour anything they like.
It is not their, priveliege, it is hours.
In other words there is one place in New Zealand where a person can tell the absolute truth on behalf of the voters.
This is necessary to prevent government, parties, police or anyone stopping the truth being said.
Any elector can bring a matter to the attention of an MP and that MP can raise the matter in the house.
The last Government were a biased controlling lot in the house and the time available for MPs to speak in general debate has been curbed.
It has usually been used responsibly.
I say this as a person who has been libelled in the house.

Its your freedom to speak that is being defended.

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