Wednesday, February 14, 2007



I am in contempt of Parliament

Parliament has voted to uphold the Privileges Committee's judgement of Matt Robson and demand his apology to both Peter Dunne and the House, with not a word raised against. By doing so, they have proven conclusively that they are self-serving sacks of shit, unwilling to live under the same laws as the rest of us, and willing to restort to arbitrary tyranny to suppress their critics. I would expect such behaviour from the government of Singapore, or the dictatorship of Fiji, not from the Parliament of New Zealand.

The absurd claim that elected representatives should have special protection of their self-proclaimed "dignity" strikes at the heart of our democracy, and our egalitarian society. Their ability to use their own Star Chamber to enforce it and punish "infractions" against themselves strikes at the heart of the rule of law. It is one thing for Parliament to be master of its own house. It is quite another for them to claim the right to drag one of us in there for imagined infractions which do not meet the test for being an offence in law.

If an MP feels public criticism is unfair, they have a clear course of action available: they can respond, front up to the voters, and explain why a perfect record of supporting the tobacco industry has nothing to do with the unfailing financial support gven to them. They can meet speech with speech, rather than seeking to suppress it. Or, if they feel criticism is false and damages their reputation, they can sue for defamation. The ability to suppress critical speech undermines MPs accountability to voters, and the freedom of speech on which our system of government rests.

We have just had a clear demonstration that an absolute Parliament is as dangerous as an absolute monarch. Over the last four hundred years, we emasculated our monarchy, limited its power, and finally locked it away in its little doll's house where it couldn't bother us. It is time we did the same to Parliament. We have a Bill of Rights Act affirming fundamental freedoms; it is time we made our MPs subject to it.

8 comments:

"We have just had a clear demonstration that an absolute Parliament is as dangerous as an absolute monarch."

Should read: "We have just had ANOTHER clear demonstration that an absolute Parliament is as dangerous as an absolute monarch."

Have you forgotten the foreshore and seabed act and the restrospective legislation to declare legal the criminal pledge card spending?

We need a proper Surpreme Court able to overturn legislation passed by corrupt governments like Clark's.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/14/2007 10:51:00 PM

anonymous - the validating legislation specifically left open the possibility of criminal sanction against those involved.

Posted by Graeme : 2/14/2007 11:03:00 PM

"We have a Bill of Rights Act affirming fundamental freedoms; it is time we made our MPs subject to it."

They are subject to it.

New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, s 3(a):

"3 Application
This Bill of Rights applies only to acts done—
(a) By the legislative, executive, or judicial branches of the government of New Zealand; or..."

Posted by Graeme : 2/15/2007 01:41:00 AM

Graeme: while it says that quite clearly, separation of powers means it effectively stops at Parliament's front door. The courts will not intrude, leaving MPs to be the judge of whether they are adhering to one of our most important constitutional documents.

That is not good enough.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/15/2007 01:53:00 AM

I'm sure there are a number of ways to advance the rule of law in New Zealand, but I wouldn't have thought abolishing a key plank of the separation of powers would be one of them.

Posted by Graeme : 2/15/2007 09:13:00 AM

Graeme: I don't think the rule of law is strengthened by having this sort of privilege (literally "private law") still extant - particularly when it can be used in such an abusive fashion.

If they want to set rules inside their house barring MPs from accusing each other of corruptionbecause it makes the House difficult to manage, that's one thing. But they shouldn't purport to regulate any such speech by the rest of us. That's what defamation law is for.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/15/2007 11:41:00 AM

I think the current government has been working hard to push the boundaries for sometime. They were certainly the first government to legislate themselves out of a lawsuit that hit them personally.

I also note that they want to deregister charities that criticise them. Hardly shining beacons of democracy.

Posted by Oliver : 2/15/2007 01:58:00 PM

"I also note that they want to deregister charities that criticise them"

Bullshit. They may want to deregister PR agencies disguising themselves as charities or "research institutes". No reason why Prebble and his mates should avoid paying the taxes the rest of us pay for advertising. These organisations to a real disservice to real charitable outfits.

NZCSS, the Sallies, etc. etc. criticise all the time, nothing is going to stop them.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/15/2007 03:47:00 PM