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Petty politics the winner; democracy the loser

Media Statement For immediate release Wednesday, 17 September, 2003

Copeland: Petty politics the winner; democracy the loser

The Government did Parliament and democracy a disservice today when it blocked a motion that would have had the Privileges Committee monitor the contempt of court case against National MP Nick Smith, United Future whip Gordon Copeland says.

When the motion was blocked, Mr Copeland further sought leave to have it debated by Parliament, which was in turn blocked by the Government.

"Nick Smith has been no friend of United Future, but this motion, brought be Stephen Franks, was too important to fall on the basis of party politics.

"It is very disappointing to see a key principle of parliamentary advocacy dismissed out of hand by the Government. I think it was very short-sighted," Mr Copeland said.

"And frankly, if it gets to the point where an MP can't fearlessly, yet responsibly, represent a constituent, then we would have to say democracy has been damaged.

"Mr Smith has found himself in hot water with the Solicitor-General and the Family Court for simply doing his job as an MP," Mr Copeland said.

"The case centres around what may be a major miscarriage of justice. In desperation, a family has turned to Mr Smith, and as an MP should be entitled to do, he has brought the matter into the public arena.

"If that is deemed to be a contempt of court, then the only means of overturning what looks to be a fundamentally unjust decision has been denied to the family concerned.

"If people cannot, in these circumstances, turn to their MP, then who can they turn to?" Mr Copeland asked.

"This was one of those occasions when all Parliamentarians should have come together. MMP deserved better. The people of this country deserved better."

Ends.

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