Hipkins continues to question Speaker impartiality

Labour’s Shadow Leader of the House Chris Hipkins is to appear before Parliament’s Privileges Committee along with leader Andrew Little due to a complaint against the rule that “it is a potential contempt to make a serious allegation against the Speaker that reflects on his or her impartiality”.

Andrew Geddis has detailed this in Can bias be in the eye of the beholder – and can you call it like you see it?

in addition to complaining to the Speaker in the House, Little and Hipkins went to the media with allegations that the Speaker’s decision was taken purely to avoid the National Government suffering an embarrassing legislative defeat.

Here’s Chris Hipkins:

“[National] have clearly done the numbers and worked that out, and now the Speaker is interfering on their behalf to ensure the Government does not face that embarrassment,” Hipkins said.

“This is massive political interference in the parliamentary process by the Speaker.” 

And here’s Andrew Little:

“Instead of helping to push the legislation through quickly National has clearly had a word in the Speaker’s ear, leading him to make an unprecedented decision to stop the bill being read this year,” Mr Little said.

“The ruling raises serious questions about political interference.”

Standing Order 410(o) says that the House may treat (and punish) as a contempt statements “reflecting on the character or conduct of the House or of a member in the member’s capacity as a member of the House”. In other words, if you say something publicly that may lower the estimation of Parliament or individual MPs in the public’s eyes – assuming such a feat is possible – then the House may choose to punish you for doing so.

Furthermore, it traditionally has been accepted that this rule applies with far greater strength in respect to the Speaker of the House, whose ability to function depends upon everyone accepting (or, at least pretending to accept) that he or she does his or her job in a non-partisan, even-handed, quasi-judicious fashion.

This traditional understanding was spelled out by the Privileges Committee (P3C!) in a report issued just this September:

Reflections against the Speaker or other presiding officers, and in particular any comment that alleges that they have been biased in performing their duties, are among the most serious reflections that can be made about members. The rule that it is a potential contempt to make a serious allegation against the Speaker that reflects on his or her impartiality derives from the longstanding practice and tradition of the House of Commons. The rule serves to protect the reputation of the office of Speaker and the institution of Parliament.

Reflections on the Speaker have been censured in New Zealand on only six occasions, the last of which was in 1998. Standing Order 410(o) has therefore been used only on rare and serious occasions. The rules about reflections on members have constitutional significance, and there is no evidence that they are being misapplied to inhibit the free speech of members, the media, or the public. Accordingly, we believe that the rules should be retained in their current form. 

Note that this report was signed off by members of the National, Labour, Green and NZ First Parties … including by one Chris Hipkins!

Hipkins has said he will stand down when the complaint against him is heard.

For those interested, yes I am a member of the privileges committee and yes, clearly I will step aside. Clayton Cosgrove will replace me.

Remember Clayton? The MP you have when you don’t see any sign of the MP.

But Hipkins has continued with his criticism of the Speaker. Today he has tweeted:

This week Parliament has become a farce. OK for PM to tell lies and hurl personal abuse, but MPs who complain about it will be disciplined.

Question Time an essential check on govt power. But it should also involve answers!

Question Time is a farce. Specific questions go unanswered while ministerial insults and abuse go unrestrained.

Newstalk ZB’s chief political reporter responded:

Felix Marwick@felixmarwick
Felix Marwick Retweeted Chris Hipkins

adding to the charge sheet??

Open defiance of the Speaker is probably not wise from Hipkins with a complaint already under way, especially as he is Shadow Leader of the House.

Use of social media in Parliament

Last year the use of social media in Parliament was referred to the Privileges Committee.

In May 2014, the Speaker referred to us as a general matter of privilege the implications for Parliament of people using social media to report on parliamentary proceedings and to reflect on members of Parliament (including the Speaker).

The committee has now reported back – Question of privilege regarding use of social media to report on parliamentary proceedings

In general social media is seen as a useful means of engagement.

We consider the growth in the use of social media to communicate about Parliament in recent years to be a positive development. Parliament has an active Twitter account and is exploring increased use of Facebook by select committees. A healthy democracy relies on public participation, and all communication channels need to be fully used to promote the work that occurs in the House of Representatives.

For many members of Parliament, social media has become an essential tool for engaging with people and constituencies. At the time of writing, 105 out of the 121 members of the 51st Parliament had Twitter accounts. Members’ use of social media can provide a useful and interesting parallel commentary on what takes place in the House or in committees.

Given the value of social media for popular engagement and its enduring presence in our lives, we have no intention of questioning whether members and others should use it to report on parliamentary proceedings. Rather, our focus has been on appropriate behaviour when using social media, including assessing the relevant rules currently in place.

It is good that a number of MPs are happy to engage with the public via social media.

Guidelines for the use of social media from Parliament have bee proposed:

SocialMediaGuidelines1

SocialMediaGuidelines2

Believing Winston Peters is like believing in Santa

The Privileges Committee report has slammed the David Henry inquiry into who leaked the Kitteridge Report – and despite overreaching and seeking and obtaining information in a “totally unacceptable” manner the henry Inquiry failed to find evidence on who leaked the report.

Winston Peters became involved when he accused Peter Dunne of leaking the report under protection of Parliament. After Dunne resigned Peters maintained his attacks, accusing Dunne publicly and making salacious insinuations about Andrea Vance.

Despite insisting he had evidence Peters eventually had to concede he had none.

Peters has resumed his accusations via Twitter and through a media release.

Privileges committee report ‘no comfort for Dunne’

Rt Hon Winston Peters says the Privileges Committee report on the Henry Inquiry again points the finger at Peter Dunne for leaking the Kitteridge report into the Government Communication Security Bureau.

Mr Peters says it is truly astonishing that Mr Dunne is deluded into thinking he has been absolved of any responsibility for leaking classified material.

“Two wrongs have never made a right. Of course Henry botched the inquiry and we said that the moment he was appointed.

It’s nonsensical claiming to have known the inquiry was botched before it had even started.

“The privileges committee inquiry into the Henry inquiry processes, or rather lack of them, in no way excuses Peter Dunne from his serious guilt as a serial leaker with a number of cases taken to the media from the security intelligence committee, which he was a member of.”

Serious allegations repeated by Peters. He has never produced any evidence to back up his claims.

Mr Peters says the whole affair has been a shambles and reflects poorly on both Peter Dunne and the Prime Minister who tried to organise a snow job.

Peters tried to organise a political hit job, and he is trying to resume his baseless attack. That reflects very poorly on him.

“The Henry inquiry was incompetent and the privileges committee inquiry terms of reference specifically ruled out getting to the truth of the matter.

“The Prime Minister is very foolish to even consider reinstating Peter Dunne as a minister in future.

“To do that without being certain no other information exists around Mr Dunne as the leaker shows a dangerous lack of judgement.

That’s highly hypocritical. Peters leaked information about the Henry Inquiry. Peters is a serial leaker. Does that mean any Prime Minister or prospective coalition partner would show a dangerous lack of judgement if they considered working with Peters?

“What will the Prime Minister say when more comes out?” asks Mr Peters.

The Prime Minister would probably faint with shock if Peters actually fronted up with evidence to support his accusations.

Peters is discredited as a leaker. He makes serious accusations, often under Parliamentary privilege, and fails to back up his bluster with evidence. Time and time again.

With a continued lack of evidence I think that Peters looks like he is making things up. That’s lying. Unless he really hopes that ‘more comes out’ of his Christmas stocking.

Believing Winston Peters is like believing in Santa, except that Santa is a jolly old fellow.

 

Henry inquiry cluster muck

The Privileges Committee investigation on the David Henry inquiry into who leaked the Kitteridge report confirms what was already known – it was a cluster muck up.

The Henry inquiry and Parliamentary Services have been strongly criticised.

Inquiry methods heavily censured

An investigation by Parliament’s privileges committee slammed as “unacceptable” the inquiry being handed information including emails, phone records, and swipe card records when it had no formal powers to demand them.

Parliamentary Service was also heavily criticised.

The committee’s report centred on Parliamentary Service, and also the Henry inquiry for over reaching its powers.

“It is clear from the evidence we heard that the inquiry’s persistent pressure on the Parliamentary Service and approaches to third-tier and more junior staff had a part to play in the releases which resulted,” it said.

Privileges committee chairman Chris Finlayson said the way the information was handed over was “totally unacceptable”.

There had been no consideration given to the special status of both MPs and journalists.

Despite overreaching it’s powers the Henry Inquiry still failed to find any evidence of anyone leaking the Kitteridge Report.

Despite failing to find any evidence Henry made it clear in his report that he thought Peter Dunne was guilty in his report. His investigation was very narrow, severely flawed and failed.

If Henry’s inquiry had not overreached it’s powers Dunne would not have been put in a position where he felt compelled to resign as a minister.

Dunne yesterday claimed he had been vindicated by the report, which had upheld his belief that MPs should not be compelled to hand over their private communications.

He was forced to resign as a minister after refusing to hand over his emails to the inquiry to prove his innocence.

“In accessing my electronic records without my approval the Henry inquiry grossly exceeded its authority and acted quite improperly.”

Journalist Andrea Vance

Fairfax group editor John Crowley said the media group took some comfort from the committee’s finding.

“The committee found that the release of confidential information relating to the work and movement of one of our senior parliamentary journalists, simply going about her job, was unacceptable. We have known that from the outset.”

The rights of Vance and the role journalists played in a democracy had been trampled over as a result.

Andrea Vance was collateral damage with both her work as a journalist and her personal reputation being severely attacked.

And Winston Peters is still making insinuations he has never backed up with any evidence.

This has been a cluster fuck of muck and injustice.

Dunne back as Minister?

The Privileges Committee report on the Henry/GCSB inquiry has said that the inquiry acted improperly in seeking data and getting data without permission. Peter Dunne has responded:

Response to Privileges Committee Report: Hon Peter Dunne

“On the basis of the Privileges Committee’s findings it is now clear that I was entirely within my rights to decline access to my emails, and that in accessing my electronic records without my approval the Henry Inquiry grossly exceeded its authority and acted quite improperly.

“In hindsight, it is also clear that the pressure which led me to resign as a Minister, for failing to comply with the Inquiry’s improper demands, while perhaps understandable in the heat of the time, was both unfortunate and a hurried over-reaction.”

And (from Parliament?)  @patrickgowernz

John Key says Peter Dunne could be back as a Minister

It was inevitable, just a matter of time.

Peters says having phone records was 100% wrong

On Firstline on Friday Winston Peters talked about his sources for his accusations against Peter Dunne “from Fairfax, the institution itself” and “the second one was in, ah, the Beehive”.

There are some important issues raised here, along with some typically dubious claims by Peters.

You’ve been talking about these phone records for a while. Were you leaked those?

Peters (after a pause) : I know what’s in those records.

How do you know what’s in those records?

Peters: Well it’s my job to know.

And how, but, you know, it’s your job to know…

Peters: Well, you’re a journalist, you don’t tell sources and nor do I. You can’t surely be offended by the fact that sources are being attacked by means of improper acquisition of someone’s phone records like a journalist, and then demand an MP give you his.

No, but I’m just trying to…

Peters: This were it all started.

I’m trying to establish whether there has been a second leak of the GCSB report, and also the actions surrounding, whether there’s been any leak from the Parliamentary Service as to how that inquiry is conducted by David Henry.

Peters: Well first of all look, Peter Dunne was involved in five leaks, four to do with the GCSB, and one of those leaks shades quickly into whether or not there is an act of the criminal law or whether the criminal law is involved. It’s a very very serious issue and people are sort of sliding by that. But ah, I can’t tell you what other leaks were going on, but um,

Well, you can if they’re in relation to information that you’re getting about what’s going in terms of that hunt for the leak.

Peters: Let me tell you this. My first source of information was from Fairfax, the institution itself. And the second one was in, ah, the Beehive.

The Fairfax “source” is probably nothing more than going back through publications seeing what was written by Andrea Vance. Fairfax should not have known what was happening with the Henry inquiry, and could not have had access to the phone records.

A Fairfax journalist was being investigated so it is most unlikely they would be leaked to, on the contrary, Fairfax are complaining about not being informed about what was being investigated.

The claim there is a leak in the Beehive is more serious.

It was not Peters’ job to know what was in the records. It would be very alarming if he was given access to records of communications between a rival MP and a journalist, from a Prime Ministerial inquiry.

The Privileges Committee should be investigating this.

A side issue – Peters has not backed up his claim that “Peter Dunne was involved in five leaks” with any evidence. If there is no evidence it can be seen as a baseless attempt to smear, a Peters trademark. Dunne has totally rejected these accusations – see Peters accuses Dunne of five leaks.

There was also some rank hypocrisy from Peters.

Let’s go back to the Privileges Committee, and whether there should be more done about the leaking of Andrea Vance’s phone records. Do you believe that it requires, ah, a sort of a review of how these inquiries are done, and how, and and really, I mean, the so called snooping and spying on journalists around Parliament.

Peters: Well first of all, what happened to Andrea Vance is inexcusable. That cannot happen in a free society, and so it’s ah both, as to her movements and her phone records, that was one hundred percent wrong. But when it comes to  a Minister, which Mr Dunne was, and the Prime Minister has put a statement out that minister’s can be questioned, if they demurred they should have said so, but they didn’t.

What happened to Andrea Vance was inexcusable. Her communication and security records were inexcusably accessed. She was inexcusably implicated by the Henry inquiry.

And she was inexcusably accused and smeared by Peters, in association with Peter Dunne.

In a Q + A interview Peters said “ I’m not going to head down that salacious path” with a clear and deliberate salacious implication.

And saying “That cannot happen in a free society, and so it’s ah both, as to her movements and her phone records, that was one hundred percent wrong” is effectively saying he is one hundred percent wrong if “I know what’s in those records”. He said it’s his job to know what’s in the phone records.

Winston Peters: “It’s my job to know”

Amongst the fallout from the Andrea Vance data debacle questions are being asked about Winston Peters and his involvement in leaking, accusing and smearing in his campaign to undermine the Government and execute a political hit job..

Stuff reported yesterday in Key’s office ordered records released:

Meanwhile, there are questions over what NZ First leader Winston Peters knew about the phone records collected by Parliamentary Service after he grilled Key in Parliament on June 5, before Henry’s report on the GCSB leak was released.

Peters questioned Key about phone records shown to the Henry inquiry which he claimed to show “an inexplicable connection between one minister’s phone calls and information leaks exclusively to one journalist”.

No such phone records were ever referred to in the Henry inquiry’s final report.

Peters today refused to say whether he had been acting on specific information when he raised the phone records in Parliament. 

Patrick Gower on 3 News last night.

And all this raises another question, how did Winston Peters know about the phone records way back in May, when it only became public yesterday?

A clip of Peters  is shown from 30th May in Parliament saying:

And I’m going to short circuit things by saying all the evidence is in those phone records, and your Minister’s gone.

Gower interviewed Peters yesterday:

Gower: But the phone records weren’t even meant to be taken.

Peters laughed and replied: It’s my job to know.

Peters 3 NewsGower again, later on camera:

Winston Peters, how did he know about those phone records, how did he get such super sensitive information from out of the middle of a super sensitive inquiry?

Who leaked to Peters, and does the ninth floor of the Beehive care about that?

Peters looked very pleased with himself, but there are a lot of journalists who are questioning his integrity on this.

And in a “mad as hell” column this morning Andrea Vance adds:

I don’t know who had access to my records.

And I’m suspicious why on June 5, less than a week after the unauthorised release, NZ First leader Winston Peters was making some startling allegations about phone records in the House. Neither the prime minister’s office, the Speaker or Parliamentary Service have been able to offer a guarantee that there was no leak to Peters.

I hope the Privileges Committee inquiry in three weeks time examines the leak to Peters thoroughly.

Is it Winston’s job to know what’s going on in a sensitive inquiry into a spy report leak?

Is it Winston’s job to smear journalists?

Is it Winston’s job to try to eliminate elected members of Parliament?

Is it Winston’s job to undermine the elected Government?

We pay Winston’s wages. It’s his job to be upfront and tell us what he was doing, why he was doing it, and why he thinks it’s his job to be as disruptive as possible.

And if he won’t – and on past form he wont, he wont even admit his accusations were based on no evidence despite implying that he has the evidence – then it is up to the Privileges Committee to find out from those in Parliamentary Services (or it’s contractor) who aided and abetted his attempted political hit job.

It’s Winston’s job to represent the people who elected him.

It is not Winston’s job to represent the worst of Parliamentary behaviour.

Irony of the day: Peters says PM not to be trusted

Peters would be a major contender for the title of Least Trusted MP.

Dunne in clear over leaked GCSB report?

The Privileges Committee has dismissed a complaint made by Labour against Peter Dunne, finding he “did not deliberately mislead the finance and expenditure committee, nor were in contempt of Parliament“.  Dunne had denied accusations by Winston Peters that he leaked the Kitteridge report.

No misleading. No evidence. Not Guilty.

Dunne in clear over leaked report

From Cartoon: Dunne’s concessions

The Dominion Post reports Dunne: Leak complaint dismissed

 Dunne says Carter has ruled that he did not deliberately mislead a select committee when he denied being responsible for leaking the Kitteridge Report on the GCSB.

According to Dunne, Carter has “dismissed a breach of privilege complaint that had been laid by Labour following the Henry Report into the leaking of the Kitteridge Report, which led to Mr Dunne’s resignation as a minister.”

Dunne said: “I welcome the Speaker’s decision to dismiss the complaint and his ruling that my answers did not deliberately mislead the finance and expenditure committee, nor were in contempt of Parliament.”

He added: “Although the Henry Report made no allegation against me, nor challenged any of my evidence, its excessive focus on circumstantial matters led to unfounded inferences and innuendos that have not only damaged my reputation, but also made it impossible for me to continue as a minister.”

The complaint by Labour relates to Dunne’s response to an accusation by Winston Peters. Reported by TVNZ:

Peters’ accusation came during a Finance and Expenditure Committee meeting this morning when he repeatedly asked Dunne if he was responsible for leaking the report.

 “Why did you come here to duck that? My assertion is that you did leak the report,” Peters said, invoking his right to speak under Parliamentary privilege.

In response, Dunne maintained that he did not leak the report.

“I’m not ducking the question, I’m here as the Minister of Revenue responsible for the administration of the Tax Act,” he said.

“The secret supervisions of those legislation are paramount in my view. I honour them in my daily activities as minister.”

Dunne continues to deny the allegation but has acknowledged speaking to David Henry, the man leading the inquiry.

“He’s questioned everyone who had access to the report,” Dunne told reporters after the select committee meeting.

And he hit back at Peters. 

“It was a scurrilous stunt. I don’t quite know what lay behind it, certainly had nothing to do with Vote Revenue,” Dunne said.

And Winston should prove leak – Key:

“It seems to me that Mr Peters has made an allegation using Parliamentary privilege against Mr Dunne of which he has no evidence to support.”

He says he has received a “categorical assurance” from Mr Dunne that he didn’t leak the report.

“I’ve worked with him for a long period of time and over that time, I’ve found him to be entirely trustworthy,” says Mr Key.

There is still no evidence to support the repeated accusations by Peters, nor the implication of guilt in the David Henry report. Dunne has always denied he leaked the Kitteridge report.

And it appears from this that the Privileges Committee has agreed that the accusations by Peters have been unfounded.

That is effectively a Not Guilty verdict for Dunne on the leaking of the Kitteridge report.