Parliament and contempt orders

The Privileges Committee tabled a report at the end of last week titled:

Question of privilege relating to the exercise of the privilege of freedom of speech by members in the context of court orders

And they make significant recommendations to the House:

Matters awaiting or under adjudication in any New Zealand court may not be referred to in any motion, debate, or question, including a supplementary question, subject always to the discretion of the Speaker and to the right of the House to deal with legislation on any matter or to discuss delegated legislation.

This would make it a contempt of Parliament for an MP to breach a supression order in the House.

They also recommend to the Government:

The recommends to the Government that it introduce legislation to amend the Legislature Act 1908 to provide that
• the live broadcast of Parliament’s proceedings, including select committee hearings, is protected by absolute privilege (p. 25)
• delayed broadcasts or rebroadcasts of Parliament’s proceedings, including select committee hearings, that are made by order or under the authority of the House of Representatives are protected by absolute privilege (p. 26)
• a fair and accurate report of proceedings in the House, or summary using extracts of proceedings in the House, by any person is protected by qualified privilege (p. 27)
the broadcast and other publication of extracts of Parliament’s proceedings, including select committee hearings, that are not made by order or under the authority of the House of Representatives are protected by qualified privilege, in a manner consistent with the provisions of the Defamation Act 1992 (p. 28)
• the criticisms made of the decision in Buchanan v Jennings be addressed so that a Member of Parliament, or any other person participating directly in or reporting on parliamentary proceedings, who makes an oral or written statement that affirms or adopts what he or she or another person has said in the House or its committees will
not be liable to criminal or civil proceedings (p. 22)

The extension of parliamentary privilege is useful, as it will include Internet broadcasts of the House.

The Buchanan v Jennings is a case when MP Owen Jennings was able to be sued because he said outside the House that he stood by or affirmed what he said in the House. Up until then it was thought you only lost liability if you actually repated what you said.

The Committee also turned down a suggestion by Andrew Geddis that the broadcast feed of Parliament have a five minute delay to allow the Speaker to bleep out any words that breahc a supression order. Thank God they turned that down – it would be ridicolous to have Parliament broadcast with such a delay.

I will be very interested to hear the debate, when the report is received by the House.

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