Former MP Matt Robson has been referred to the Privileges Committee over a comment he made in his "Robson on Politics" newsletter that
The liquor industry’s support for Peter Dunne, as with that of the tobacco, has always meant that he has faithfully delivered his vote for their interests.
The comment was made in the November 1st issue; the reason it is not there now is because Robson apparently had it deleted the same day he posted it. That however was not enough for Peter Dunne, who laid a complaint that it had breached Parliamentary Privilege, claiming that it had breached Standing Order 400(N) which gives as an example of contempt of Parliament
reflecting on the character or conduct of the House or of a member in a member's capacity as a member of the House
According to the Speaker, this exists "to protect members going about the business of the House from unfounded, scurrilous allegations of serious impropriety or corruption". She has therefore referred the matter to the Privileges Committee.
This is an abuse of Parliamentary Privilege which threatens our democracy. Robust criticism and oversight of our representatives is a vital part of democratic government, and not something we should allow to be undermined by self-interested politicians. If a politician feels that their character has been impugned by "unfounded, scurrilous allegations" from a political commentator, they already have a perfectly good remedy available: they can sue for defamation. What they should not be allowed to do is convene a private kangaroo court and hold a show trial for what is effectively lese majeste. Absolute monarchs did that, and its one of the reasons we emasculated them. If Parliament wants to stay in the same business, then maybe its time we emasculated them too.
Note that I am not questioning the right of Parliament to conduct its own affairs and regulate what is said in the House - I am questioning their right to regulate what members of the public say about them, and to do so privately rather than under the same laws the rest of us operate under. This power has been abused in the past, and it is being abused now. It is long past time we ended it.