Wednesday, June 06, 2018

(Not) Privilege and contempt

See update below

Back in February, dirty old racist Bob Jones wrote a column so racist that the National Business Review - hardly a bastion of liberalism - pulled it from their website. In response, Renae Maihi organised a petition to Parliament calling for Jones to be stripped of his knighthood. Now, Jones has sued her for defamation over it:

Sir Bob Jones has filed defamation papers against a filmmaker behind a petition to have his knighthood revoked after a controversial newspaper column.

More than 68,000 people signed the petition, which was delivered to Parliament in March, in response to Jones' February 2 column in the National Business Review calling for a Māori "Gratitude Day" instead of Waitangi Day.

Filmmaker Renae Maihi started the petition and presented it to Labour MP Kiritapu Allan with the support of Waikato University Professor Pou Temara, an expert in te reo and tikanga.

The petition read: "In signing this petition we urge you, our Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern, to take his knighthood away from him. It is in your power. Set a precedent for the country and a message that this will not be tolerated and hate speech of this type is not welcome here."

Jones is obviously being a bullying arsehole here. But his case also seems to be doomed. The reason? A petition to Parliament is very clearly a "proceeding in Parliament" under the Parliamentary Privilege Act 2014, and therefore no case can be brought about it. And as telling people about the petition to get them to sign it is an act done for the purpose of transacting that business, that's covered too.

But that's not Jones' only problem with Parliamentary Privilege. Because pretty obviously what he is trying to do here is punish someone for petitioning the House about him, and incidentally discourage others from doing so. And that seems to be contempt of Parliament, in the same way and for the same reasons that punishing or threatening a select committee witness is. Hopefully someone will be informing the Privileges Committee of this...

Meanwhile, this simply confirms that Jones is not the sort of person kiwis should ever have given a knighthood to. I'm in favour of abolishing all feudal "honours", but starting with his would be richly deserved.

Update: So, it turns out that while the petition was presented at Parliament, it wasn't a petition to Parliament, which means Parliamentary Privilege and associated protections do not apply. The lesson in this is clear: protect yourself from bullying arseholes like Bob Jones, and always petition the House rather than the PM.