Thursday, November 22, 2007

Access to Parliament

At the beginning of Question Time this afternoon, Gordon Copeland raised an incident yesterday in which a member of the public was denied access to the public gallery because he had participated in yesterday's protest against the Electoral Finance Bill. Apparently, a Speaker's ruling bans anyone protesting in Parliament grounds from entering the House for 24 hours. Copeland (backed by Keith Locke) asked the Speaker to reconsider this ruling, on the grounds that security has been improved in the last year, and access to Parliament should be the right of all New Zealanders.

I agree with Copeland. The ban seems to be a purely punitive measure, aimed at punishing members of the public for taking their concerns to the heart of our democracy. And this is simply unacceptable. In a democracy, we have a right to protest, and a right to observe the proceedings of our government. We should not be punished for exercising one by the prevention of the other.

The Speaker is apparently considering the issue, and is seeking submissions from Members of Parliament. I suggest that we, the public, also have an interest, and that we should voice it. If you'd like to, you can email her here.