It’s interesting to compare the NZ Herald and Dom Post stories on yesterday’s personal attacks in Parliament.
I think the Herald story has represented the situation much fairer. It mentions the frequency and context of the attacks on Nick Smith:
Yesterday’s jousting was triggered when Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Phil Goff told National MP Nick Smith to “take his medication” after interjecting while the minister spoke.
The Government has frequently insulted Dr Smith with the suggestion, perceived as a reference to the stress leave he was put on by National in the wake of the leadership coup against former leader Bill English.
It also gives a much more detailed account of what happened.
In the Dom Post story, it almost looks like Nick Smith was the instigator. Instead of factually reporting that they had been yelling out “take you medicine” at him for months, they merely reported that he claimed he had been provoked by a campaign of personal abuse by the Government.
I should point out that sub-editors often chop a story about, so this is no criticism of the reporters concerned.
I should also point out that I think it is unfortunate (but understandable) that Nick responded in quite the way he did. He was absolutely right to call the House’s attention to the incredibly nasty campaign that Labour had been waging, but he would have been better to not name specific Labour MPs as examples that National had left alone. He would have been best to just say generally that National has never made issue out of the private alcohol issues certain Labour MPs have had.
But reacting in anger is understandable, faced with what Goff and Mallard had been doing. And the creep of the week award has to go to Phil Goff who with a smirk on his face said that his repeated comments to Nick to “take his medicine” were something he would say to any MP interjecting. Everyone knows that is not the case.
Anyway the whole issue is pretty distasteful, and hopefully the publicity from all this will stop such comments in the future. As I said yesterday, I’m all for a robust, even aggressive, debating chamber. But there are limits, and they have been breached too often in recent times.