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Peters and the Speaker’s discretion

  • August 27th, 2008

Try this Hansard transcript for a sad illustration of a Speaker not up to the task. She accepted being bullied into rulings that diminish Parliament and its role as the last place in the country where free speech will be impaired by abusive lawyer power.

Rule 111  preserves the supremacy of Parliament over the courts. It reads

Subject always to the discretion of the Speaker and to the right of the House to legislate on any matter, matters awaiting or under adjudication in any court of record may not be referred to –

(a) …

(b) …, or

(c) in any question including a supplementary question –

if it appears to the Speaker that there is a real and substantial danger of prejudice to the trial of the case.

Every one in Parliament knows that Peters files defamation actions to kill further discussion.

Now the Speaker has ruled that he can exercise her discretion, by holding that she can not question his claim that it should not be exercised. it is not as if she had no help. Gerry Brownlee urged the right point.

Why did the Speaker not ask Peters why the question could prejudice the trial of the case? Without having asked that question, how could she know whether the rule applied at all?

Why did she not ask for an indication of the timetable for the case, and what interim rulings had been made?.

Without that knowledge how could she even exercise an informed discretion?

Weighed in that exercise should have been the need  to let the House and the country cleanse itself of the stench there’s been since the Simunovich/scampi corruption allegations were first raised.


  • Paul Williams
  • August 27th, 2008
  • 8:22 pm

Surely most of the matters you note are matters for her to consider and give a ruling on rather than to try to determine it on the fly? Stephen, I’m sure you know Standing Orders better than I, but there’s a risk in the approach you advise which is that the Speaker relies only on the advice available at the particular point of time. Alternatively, she can seek additional information, take time to consider the matter and issue a ruling. This latter approach, the approach adopted by the Speaker, is less likely to risk creating a poor precedent

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