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Privilege - Robson-on-Politics/Hon Peter Dunne

Office Of The Speaker
Hon. Margaret Wilson
Speaker's Ruling

Matter of privilege - Robson-on-Politics/Hon Peter Dunne

Members,

Hon Peter Dunne has raised with me as a matter of privilege an e-mail newsletter “Robson-on-politics – e-news” published on the Scoop website of 1 November 2006. The newsletter discusses the role of the United Future Party as a support party for the Government. It examines the position of the party on various issues including alcohol and tobacco. In his newsletter Mr Robson states “The liquor industry’s support for Peter Dunne, as with that of the tobacco, has always meant that he has faithfully delivered his vote for their interests”.

Standing Order 400(n) establishes that the House may treat as a contempt reflections on the character or conduct of a member in the member’s capacity as a member of the House. Its purpose is to protect members going about the business of the House from unfounded, scurrilous allegations of serious impropriety or corruption.

To allege that a member is under the control of someone outside the House is a reflection against that member. To make such a statement in the House would not be in order. An allegation that an industry has supported a member in order to obtain his or her vote cast in the House could certainly be taken to be an allegation that a member has been dictated to by an outside body.

The fact that a matter is out of order does not of itself establish a contempt. The allegation made can reasonably be interpreted as directly reflecting on Mr Dunne’s character and conduct as a member of the House. However, to constitute a contempt, the reflection on Mr Dunne must also be shown to carry with it an implication that Mr Dunne’s relationship with the liquor industry or the tobacco industry is corrupt or otherwise improper. I am satisfied that to allege that Mr Dunne has “faithfully delivered his vote” as a result of support from the industries concerned could carry such an implication. Whether or not it actually does is for the Privileges Committee and ultimately the House to decide.

Accordingly, I have determined that the statement in the newsletter does involve a question of privilege in that it may constitute a reflection on the character or conduct of a member in the member’s capacity as a member of the House. Consequently, the question of privilege stands referred to the Privileges Committee.

ENDS

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