Monday, August 28, 2006

Giving the finger to democracy


When Ron Mark was filmed giving the finger repeeatedly to fellow MP Tau Henare in the House, many MPs reacted as if the problem was not Mark's obscene gestures (which would not be tolerated in any workplace in the land) - but the fact that the hoi polloi had been able to see it. Unfortunately, Speaker of the House Margaret Wilson agrees - and so has banned TV3 from filming in the debating chamber for three days as punishment. Talk about giving the finger to democracy...

As I've argued repeatedly, transparency and oversight are vital parts of the democratic process. We cannot effectively judge our representatives unless we know what they are doing in the House. This doesn't just apply to their votes and speeches, but also their wider behaviour. And if someone turns up to Parliament drunk, sleeps on the job, or behaves like a hyperactive child with tourette's syndrome, then the public have a right to know so they can judge accordingly. If MPs are concerned that public scrutiny would "undermine their dignity", then they have a simple solution: behave as if they had some.

(BTW, I am seeking someone who can photoshop Wilson's head onto Mark's body to illustrate this post. Source material here and here)

Thanks to zANavAShi for the pic.


This MP-arrogance is unfortunately nothing new. Remember the infamous MP-superannuation bill passed through all stages in just a few minutes back in the late-eighties?

Wilson is (IMHO) a very, very poor Speaker, and will be remembered as such.


Posted by Anonymous : 8/28/2006 04:27:00 PM


My partner has Tourette S. and has endured some awkward and unfair reactions. Linking to National though? That is beyond the pale. :)

Posted by Anonymous : 8/28/2006 05:27:00 PM

"I am seeking someone who can photoshop Wilson's head onto Mark's body to illustrate this post."

You wish is my command. CYM I/S ;-)

Posted by zANavAShi : 8/28/2006 07:05:00 PM

Anon: apologies - but I couldn't think of a better way to describe their behaviour in the House last week. Unlike your partner, though, they have the option of not behaving like that.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/28/2006 07:20:00 PM

Zanavashi: thanks - that is exactly what I was after.

I wonder if she'll like it?

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/28/2006 07:20:00 PM


Posted by Lucia Maria : 8/28/2006 08:33:00 PM

Great photo!


Posted by Gooner : 8/28/2006 10:02:00 PM

This is a blatant example of how government has the power to control the media in "free" socities like ours. In this case they've punished them by simply banning them outright, but in most cases it's simply a matter of favouring sympathetic journalists/media outlets and denying others.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/28/2006 11:41:00 PM

What cracks me up about the news clip is the guy, Steve Gore, of Parents' Lobby Group, saying, "We all look to our politicians to set a standard of behaiviour, an example for us all."

I can assure Steve Gore that at least one of us does not look to politicians to set a standard of behaivior. God help us.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/29/2006 12:11:00 AM


If Margaret Wilson wants to be strictly legalistic when it comes to the rules, that's one thing but she should at least be consistent about it. We routinely see footage of MPs (particularly the Government front bench) who are not on their feet and speaking but gesticulating and screeching like demented toddlers, with precisely no reaction from the Speaker. Can't have it both ways, Mags.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 8/29/2006 06:45:00 AM

TV3 signed up to the rules when it began covering parliament. If it breaks them and then is punished thats its fault, not the speaker who merely enforces them.

I/S, your becomong more and more strident and whining lately. Maybe you need a holiday in the sun somewhere.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/29/2006 08:51:00 AM

Well I guess we know who the last anon is...

Ron and Maggie have done us a favour. Mags so as we don't forget our place, thank you Maam, and Ronnie so as we never forget him or NZ First at poll time.

Posted by Unknown : 8/29/2006 08:58:00 AM


And one might think Ron Mark also signed up to the rules and conventions governing the conduct of Members of Parliament in the Chamber. Apparently not.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 8/29/2006 09:10:00 AM

While I think Wilson's ruling leaves a nasty taste behind, isn't she sort of bound by the rules here? And TV3 surely knew that. Having said that, I think ron mark should have been censured - as someone else noted you couldn't get away with that in most workplaces, why should MPs be any different?

Posted by Anonymous : 8/29/2006 09:56:00 AM

I think the present rule is probably inconsistent with the Bill of Rights. My analysis is over here:

> LAWS179: "Broadcasting of Parliament"

Posted by Dean Knight : 8/29/2006 10:45:00 AM

Dean: Parliament being a law unto itself and able to act as judge, jury, and executioner in their own cases is probably inconsistent withthe BORA, or at least basic standards of justice and fairness. But I doubt they'll be willing to give up their privileges...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/29/2006 11:00:00 AM

Odd. In that original Wilson appears to be wearing Helen Clark's election campaign top.

Posted by Lyndon : 8/29/2006 12:54:00 PM

I have to agree that while Wilson is a useful figurehead for photoshopping purposes, the rules is the rules.

All in all, I have to say they're bad rules, but there you go.

The weirdness of having this added - as it was at the start of parliament today - to national's weird 'Wilson is a bad speaker' thing, this is a weirdness I don't understand.

Actually, chack that bit of the hansard for a couple of amusing lines from the nats. I think Brownlee complained of the Govt "having the numbers to run roughshod over parliament". That is, a parliamentary majority.

Posted by Lyndon : 8/29/2006 02:53:00 PM

I think the media needs to show a bit more respect for what goes on in parliament. With TV1 and TV3s coverage you could be forgiven for thinking that all politicians do is bicker or score cheap points at each other's expense. Until TV stations start reporting on issues that really affect people I'm fine with the Speaker putting restrictions on them. Anyone who's seriously interested in what's going on can read Hansard.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/29/2006 03:40:00 PM

Anonymous #2:

With all due respect, perhaps Ron Mark is the one that needs to show Parliament a little respect. IMO, it was quite a fascinating insight into how his behaviour lines up with his hardline rhetoric on law and order policy. While it might not be 'relevant' to you, I'm highly interested in how our legislators react to pressure. After all, Mr. Mark is in a position to influence highly contentious legislation that could profoundly affect the lives of real human beings for years to come.
I'd rather he do that without further hysterical acting out - and if he's been shamed into switching to de-caf, that's a positive outcome.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 8/29/2006 11:31:00 PM

"Dean: Parliament being a law unto itself and able to act as judge, jury, and executioner in their own cases is probably inconsistent withthe BORA, or at least basic standards of justice and fairness. But I doubt they'll be willing to give up their privileges..."

Parliament being a law unto itself is among the fundamental principles of our democratic system.

Parliament (particularly its minority members) should not be accountable to judges appointed by the Head of State on advice of the Government

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 8/30/2006 12:03:00 AM

Graeme: which means that in practice, they are not accountable to the law, and have the potential to abuse citizens with impunity. Which is exactly what is happening here.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/30/2006 12:38:00 AM

I personally want to have a media presence which shows me how my elected officials conduct themselves in parliament.

I don't care what the rules are for behaviour inside the chamber, if these guys are displaying rude or childish behaviour that would be considered unappropriate in a school playground then they are not fit to be running our country and we should know that about them before we come to vote.

I echo the sentiment that "If MPs are concerned that public scrutiny would "undermine their dignity", then they have a simple solution: behave as if they had some."

Posted by zANavAShi : 8/30/2006 01:32:00 AM


1) politicians in parliment are only doing work relevant to us when they ae speaking (because they can't be filmed otherwise) or voting (in theory).
2) at any one moment, the vast majority of MP's seem to be doing no work.

as a result if we alow filming of parliemnt the most exciting things will be sleeping people, nose picking and "flipping the bird".

Worse yet, even when people are speaking the TV coverage just shows us people obviously talking to the media trying to score points against each other with leading questions they already know the answers to.

One has to wonder why we don't just leave everyone at home (working on local issues or researching laws etc) and vote by mail and have questions answered in statements the next day.

I suggest we have a system problem here.

Posted by Genius : 8/30/2006 07:42:00 AM

I agree it might be interesting to get an insight into Ron Mark's psyche, but this sort of thing gets 6 o'clock news focus and the hard work that goes on in the public sector gets ignored. A lot of things are going on that have a much more direct effect on people's lives, but TV's not interested.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/30/2006 11:43:00 AM

And Ron Mark and others undid ALL the perception of good work.

I don't know what has a more insidious affect on peoples lives than hypocracy and abuse of power, do you?

Posted by Anonymous : 8/30/2006 12:39:00 PM

I had to laugh at DB on the radio this morning suggesting that the PM was remiss in allowing TPF to undermine the reputation of parliament (which he is doing) Politicians have spent the last 20 years doing just that.

Craig, perhaps "gesticulating and screeching like demented toddlers" is considered to be "speaking" for the rules to apply? Perhaps if Ron had said something witty like "sit and spin mo'fucker" it would have been OK for TV3 to broadcast?

Posted by Anonymous : 8/30/2006 12:51:00 PM


No, and if Mark ever wants to get in my face and suggest I might enjoy getting digitally sodomised by my mother I'll slap the black off him. My point is that if Madame Speaker wants to enforce the rule that broadcasters should only show footage of members who have the call - and that doesn't apply to anyone interjecting from their seats -, then she should enforce it consistently. What's so hard to understand about that?

Then again, Madame Speaker and her deputies would enhance public respect for Parliament if they were energetic in enforcing the notion that interjections should be 'rare, reasonable and preferably witty'. I've been in the chamber and seen members from all sides of the House rendered inaudible by a wall of noise, literally as soon and they stood up. Again, I/S is quite right: If MPs are concerned that public scrutiny would "undermine their dignity", then they have a simple solution: behave as if they had some.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 8/30/2006 02:39:00 PM

Craig, hard to believe, but I am with you on this. They act like utter children (actually, my kids act better than that and they are toddlers) and their inability to see that they have contributed to their losing the respect of the voters is laughable. Another example of MPs making the rules flexible enough to have their cake & eat it.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/30/2006 05:36:00 PM

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator. Posted by Craig Ranapia : 8/31/2006 08:45:00 AM


Up to a point, but I'd also note that the Speaker also has very wide discrection how she (or he) enforces those rules and the penalties handed down for transgressions. That's why I've tried to make a clear distinction: Historically, we've had Speakers who've been snarling martinets and others who were human doormats. Now, you can respectably argue that a good Speaker must find a happy medium between those two extremes for themselves, and that strictly perscriptive standing orders cause more problems than they solve.

My counter-argument is that no competent Speaker can allow the perception (fair or not) to exist that any standing order is applied inconsistently or on a whim. Just as all MPs have a responsibility not to encourage the perception that all politicians are blathering hypocrites who preach one standard of conduct to the hoi polloi, but apply quite another to themselves and their mates when it's convenient to do so.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 8/31/2006 10:44:00 AM