Written By: - Date published: 10:30 pm, December 5th, 2018 - 104 comments
Categories: activism, Gerry Brownlee, Parliament, Simon Bridges, trevor mallard - Tags: penny bright, the speaker, valerie morse
This is a circumstance that I see all of the time on this site. As a moderator I help to preside over the unruly robust debate on political processes.
To achieve this we have rules and policies that are there to bind the moderators to protect commenters just as much as they are there to protect the institution from the idiots who try to disrupt it. Like any other activist, politicians who deliberately break the rules of their institution, whether it is for a good cause or not, need to also accept the consequences of their actions. Every activist knows this. From Valerie Morse with her flag-burning that turned a new corner in our jurisprudence to the late Penny Bright who endured a lot of flak for her stance against the lack of transparency in the Auckland City auditing, and a lot of flak from me for violating the policies of this site with cut’n’paste comments.
Parliament is not really particularly different to this site. In fact a lot of the policies that we have on this site to promote robust debate and accountability are deliberately modelled on the rules of our parliament.
So what to make of this bit of National party stupidity?
During Question Time, National leader Simon Bridges was asking Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern a series of questions relating to the case of the jailed drug smuggler Karel Sroubek .
He asked if she had entirely washed her hands of anything to do with the Sroubek fiasco and if she was ducking and diving to get out of his way.
Yeah right. Not in any of her portfolios.
Speaker Trevor Mallard then rose and before he spoke, Bridges said off-microphone “here comes the protection”.
Mallard then told him to leave the House and after Shadow Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee asked if Bridges had “touched a nerve” the Speaker asked him to leave too.
Which was entirely within the standing rules of the house. You may not preempt the judgment of whatever speaker happens to be on duty with trying to pre-meme their response. The speakers are just as constrained by the rules of the house just as much as any other MP is. To try to run what looks like a deliberate PR strategy as a pre-emption looks to me like a deliberate insult to the house. Of course it isn’t helped by this…
Fronting media after his expulsion, Bridges doubled down on his accusation the Speaker was protecting the Prime Minister from scrutiny.
“I was trying to ask the Prime Minister serious questions about the Sroubek fiasco. She wouldn’t answer and the speaker leaped to protect her – I called him on it. I said ‘here comes the protection,’ ” Bridges admitted.
Criticising the Speaker in such a way is a fairly serious breach of the parliamentary rule-book. But Bridges said it was in the public interest to break the rules in this instance.
Hopefully Simon Bridges as a former prosecutor is willing to accept the same basic rule that he has expected the justice system to honour for any other activist seeking social change. If you choose to defy the rules, then you must accept the consequences without whining like a child that it is ‘unfair’ – which seems to be his position at present. If it is in the public interest, then he should be willing to accept the consequences of his actions.
But in my opinion, this is unlikely. The problem is that Simon Bridges and those of the National party often seem to think that they are should be handled differently from the mildly deranged activist occupying a park in pursuit of social change. They are not.
They have no special privilege in the house apart from being an MP. If they choose to defy the rules of that their past and present MPs have imposed, then they should also be prepared to suffer the consequences of those rules.
Those who walked without offense should be able to do what they like, all the way to choosing a new leader in parliament. There is nothing in the parliamentary rules that says a MP must be present in the chamber.
Those who defy the speaker may try the privileges committee, however I suspect that they couldn’t mount a defense beyond their own sense of massive self-entitlement. Which won’t help them
But if Simon Bridges chooses to not apologize to the position of speaker in the house that he has maligned before actually seeing what the statement from the speaker would have been, then he should suffer further consequences. Any other position is a direct challenge to parliament.
If he did that on this site, and depending on his previous sentences, then he would probably cop at least a further months ban.
Now I’m not going to suggest what Trevor Mallard will actually do (there are some interesting legal rules about that), but I think that it is necessary to protect the position of the moderator of the house and a harsh position sounds like it would be appropriate.