The Herald reports:
The committee often known as the “powerful” privileges committee has an unusually full agenda owing to some blatant breaches of parliamentary standards by the Labour Party.
Labour leader Andrew Little has led a mini-revolt against the established protocol of showing respect to the Speaker, or at least not demonstrating disrespect.
The problem with the leader instigating such a revolt is that it leaves no place for the party’s wiser heads to go.
Little has dragged Chris Hipkins, chief whip, and Grant Robertson, shadow leader of the House, into the fray with him.
They must back up Little publicly or leave the leader out on a limb. There is really no choice. Instinctively they back him.
With all three on the case of the Speaker, it leaves Labour looking petty, always arguing the toss, not concentrating on the issues that matter, blaming the referee.
They may have convinced themselves their attacks on the Speaker define them as fighters to the core, but they often come across as bullies.
It’s a good way to view it. They are picking on the only MP in Parliament who can’t fight back – the Speaker. His job doesn’t allow him to respond to their jibes. They can’t actually win against MPs who can answer back, so they go for one who can’t.
There has been one egregious error by the Speaker this term, in letting the Prime Minister get away with claims that Labour supported murderers and rapists.
But Labour and Little’s constant clash with the chair smacks more of frustration that the party is not making gains where it wants, in hits against the Government or its own policy triumphs.
The matter that has the Labour leader and senior whip, Little and Hipkins, before the privileges committee is even more serious than Dyson’s.
They suggested widely in media interviews that the Speaker had acted on the instructions of National to postpone a private member’s bill in the name of Little from being introduced, after it had been drawn out of the ballot.
It went further than a general allegation of bias to a specific suggestion he had taken instructions from the Government.
It’s one thing to make a general accusation of unfairness or bias, but Little just invented a conspiracy theory that is defamatory.
The rules clearly state that a bill that is substantially the same as another cannot be introduced again in a calendar year – and Little’s bill on a warrant of fitness for rental property was virtually the same as his colleague Phil Twyford’s that had been tied 60-60 on a vote taken before Winston Peters won Northland and brought in another list MP for the Opposition.
Little wanted to have another go with a similar bill in the hope of embarrassing National with a 61-60 victory for the Opposition after Peters’ win, excepting his bill was not different enough.
The Government agency in charge of WoF standards would be the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, not Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, as in Twyford’s bill. The policy was the same.
Labour deserved to be annoyed and disappointed. Its staff had sought advice from the Office of the Clerk on the bill and had been assured by someone in the Tables Office (where members’ bills are lodged) that Little’s bill would be acceptable.
But straight after it was drawn, the new Clerk of the House, David Wilson, decided otherwise.
He told me this week he became aware of the Tables Office advice only on the day it was drawn from the ballot: “I did not agree with the advice. Since all staff of the Office of the Clerk act on behalf of the Clerk, if they make a mistake, it’s up to me to correct it. It was on that basis that I advised the Speaker [to postpone the bill to the next calendar year].”
Instead of accepting the Clerk’s word, Little and Hipkins went straight for the Speaker’s jugular with no evidence of wrongdoing.
So unless Little is claiming the Clerk of the House is lying, then he should withdraw his allegation against the Speaker. The Speaker merely acted of the advice of the Clerk.