A bad look

It is part of our constitutional conventions of that people can give evidence to select committees without fear of retribution for what they say. Therefore I regard it as a bad look to see the story:

After Bart Birch, Uaea Leavasa and Satish Prasad criticised how Auckland Central Remand Prison was run under private contractor GEO between 2000 and 2005, Mr Garrett weighed in.

“You say that you don’t want to go back to working in this environment – to the private [sector]. You’d be aware that given your submission here, you wouldn’t get offered a job anyway, would you?”

Fortunately other MPs intervened:

Other MPs were visibly disturbed by the remark and National’s Shane Ardern was quick to reassure the men that they should feel free to speak their minds. “Can I say, from my own party, you can sit here without fear or favour,” he said.

The committee’s acting chairman, Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove, added his support to Mr Ardern’s remark.

’s comment was most unwise. You could defend it as saying he was stating the obvious, but in that case there was no need to state it. And at worst it looks like trying to warn people off criticising private prisons.

Questions at select committee should focus on the submission, the bill and related policy issues. If I made a submission arguing that (for example) Kiwibank should be sold, I would not expect to have an MP tell me that I should not expect to ever get any work from NZ Post.

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