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Speaker fails biggest test of neutrality so far

Spokesperson for SOEs
Speaker fails biggest test of neutrality so far

The Speaker has failed his biggest test of non-partisanship to date by refusing to refer a clear contempt complaint regarding Solid Energy’s statements at the Commerce Select Committee on March 7 to the Privileges Committee, says Labour’s SOEs spokesperson Clayton Cosgrove.

“I am extremely disappointed that the Speaker has refused to refer my contempt complaint to the Privileges Committee and hasn’t given any reasons as to why the complaint should not be referred.

“This was the Speaker’s biggest test so far as a neutral and non-partisan figure. He has failed it. I believe it was an open and shut case.

“On March 7 I asked the following questions to Solid Energy chairman Mark Ford and interim executive Garry Diack on former chief executive Dr Don Elder’s availability to appear before the committee:

Clayton Cosgrove … did Dr Elder approach anyone in Solid Energy, including the executive team, and offer to make himself available for this hearing—yes or no?
Mark Ford I can’t answer that yes or no, because he certainly didn’t approach me. I’d have to ask the executive—
Clayton Cosgrove Well, could I ask your acting chief executive.
Garry Diack I’m not aware that he’s approached anybody on that basis.

“But we now know that the day before the hearing, Dr Elder’s solicitor wrote to Garry Diack and the company’s solicitor to formally advise them that he was willing and able to attend the hearing if they wanted him to do so. And further he requested that if they did not want him to appear they should tell the committee.

“That same day the company’s solicitor responded to Dr Elder in writing, saying that he would not be required to appear.

“It would be impossible for anybody to believe that Mr Diack would not be able to answer simple questions on Dr Elder’s availability, when this was the critical issue for the committee and was well canvassed by the media.

“Such a blatantly misleading statement from Garry Diack must, at the very least, be investigated by Parliament for contempt.

“Instead the Speaker has refused to even refer it to the Privileges Committee for investigation. Not only that, he has refused to provide any reasons for his decision which is a departure from how he has handled these matters previously.

“This is a slap in the face to taxpayers. Allowing anyone to turn up and completely mislead MPs without consequences has made the Select Committee process a laughing stock.

“Before becoming Speaker David Carter said: ‘Having been a very politically active player for 18 years, the transition I have to make as speaker is to be completely without bias, completely a-political. That is a big ask and I’ll do it to the best of my endeavours’.

“Obviously this hurdle is proving to be a bigger challenge than he expected,” says Clayton Cosgrove.

Letter attached

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