The protection of parliamentary privilege

March 9th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

In my blog at Stuff, I look at :

One of the privileges members of Parliament have is they they can’t be sued for defamation for statements they make in Parliament. This privilege has existed for hundreds of years and is generally regarded as desirable as it allows MPs to expose wrongdoing without being silenced by injunctions and lawsuits.

However, there is a great responsibility on MPs to get their facts right, and to apologise when they get it wrong. They can defame people under the protection of parliamentary privilege, and their victims have no legal recourse.

Winston Peters has a long history of making allegations under parliamentary privilege, and having the vast bulk of the allegations turn out to be without substance. I had hoped that these days were behind us, but this week we have seen two serious allegations made by Peters under parliamentary privilege.

I conclude:

Perhaps one of Mr Peters’ caucus colleagues could ask their leader whether or not he has any proof of his allegation that Mr McKenzie received free overseas travel from Deloitte. And if he is unable to provide them with the proof, implore him not to turn the House of Representatives into a Star Chamber.

Maybe iPredict could do a stock on whether Mr Peters will provide said proof of his allegation, and whether he would apologise for his allegation. I suspect both stocks would sell for under 5c.

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10 Responses to “The protection of parliamentary privilege”

  1. gump (1,553 comments) says:

    Star Chamber is the wrong metaphor. The defining characteristic of Star Chambers is that they operate in secret.

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  2. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    Rather a patronising tone .

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  3. Nick R (500 comments) says:

    The problem is that the House of Representatives doesn’t often hold MPs accountable for things they say in the House. How often to MPs ever end up in the privileges committee? Although there is a procedure in the Standing Orders for getting a right of reply put into Hansard, it’s a pretty poor substitute for being able to sue.

    Whatever they might say, most of the time, MPs seem to be pretty relaxed about using parliamentary privilege to attack other people.

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  4. Nick R (500 comments) says:

    You could also run an iPredict stock on the likelihood of anyone in Parliament complaining about Peters’ statements in the House, or of the privileges committee upholding a complaint and imposing a penalty. 2 cents?

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  5. XChequer (350 comments) says:

    Winston is loves the shotgun approach – fire out both barrels in every direction hoping something will hit. He truly is a disgrace

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  6. Nigel (515 comments) says:

    I wonder if there should not be an escape clause on Parliamentary Privilege, call it the “Peters Rule”, because frankly he has consistently made a mockery of the intention of Parliamentary Privilege.

    If 80% of the house vote in favour an MP can be excluded from Parliamentary Privilege for the rest of the current Parliamentary term.

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  7. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    But he is there isn’t he? and that is what is ticking you all off. Lots of ticked off farmers out there too..all ex Nat voters.

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  8. DJP6-25 (1,310 comments) says:

    Nigel 11:45 am. Good idea. Perhaps it would be possible to get rid of an MP who is abusing Parliamentry Privilege. Use the referendum process. If there were 50,000 signatures, the offending MP is gone. They get replaced by the next highest candidate on the list.

    cheers

    David Prosser

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  9. orewa1 (428 comments) says:

    “The problem is that the House of Representatives doesn’t often hold MPs accountable for things they say in the House. How often do MPs ever end up in the privileges committee?”

    Exactly. The problem is not Winston, nor any one MP. It is the Ruling Class looking after its own.

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  10. William J (44 comments) says:

    Good post David. The problem is, Winston Peters is now a member of the Privileges Committee – so that makes the whole committee a complete joke (especially when the only person who has had to appear before it in recent years is Winston Peters himself).

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