A new low

I meant to get to this earlier, but it is appropriate to deal with it now, with the House about to resume. The Herald on Sunday covers what happened:

A former First staff member branded a “paedophile” in Parliament last week is demanding an apology from the MP responsible, after more mud-slinging over the secretive Spencer Trust.

Rex Widerstrom, who last week alleged the trust was a slush fund for Winston Peters’ legal battles, has written to MP Ron Mark challenging him to repeat the underage claim outside Parliament – or at least have “the guts” to apologise.

Widerstrom has also claimed it was “a bit rich” of Mark to make such an allegation when the MP had a conviction for unlawful with a 15-year-old. In 2001, it emerged that Mark had been convicted 30 years ago of unlawful sex with a minor. He was fined $150.

During heated at in the House last week over to NZ First, Mark accused Widerstrom of being a “paedophile”. Mark yesterday declined to comment.

I’ve always had a lot of time for Ron Mark. Even though I think it is misplaced, I respect his loyalty to his leader. So it saddens me to make this post but nothing justifies using parliamentary privilege to label a critic a “paedophile”.

The fact that Ron actually has a conviction for under-age sex, should mean he should be especially prudent about his language. Now Ron was 17 when he was convicted of sleeping with a 15 year old and personally I don’t think that is anything particularly unusual or immoral, even though technically illegal. But Ron would not appreciate having his opponents label him nasty things on the basis of that conviction.

It would be the honourable thing to do for Ron to withdraw his remark and apologise when the House resumes, by way of point of order.

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