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Clare Curran Blog: A matter of privilege

Clare Curran: A matter of privilege

At the beginning of August I laid a complaint with the Speaker Lockwood Smith asking him to refer Steven Joyce to the parliamentary Privileges Committee for having deliberately misled (ie lied to) parliament in answering a written question more than two years ago.

The complaint was that he had deliberately misled the House. It’s a very serious matter. I take it seriously. I hope all MPs and Ministers do. You can lose your Ministerial portfolio and even your job for doing so.

The Speaker has since replied to me saying that he has determined that no question of privilege is involved.

He doesn’t have to give reasons.

For an understanding of why I laid the complaint and the seriousness of the issue read here and here. And here.

The letter that Joyce lied about was important because it implied the government held opinions on the structural separation of Telecom and that they were being communicated to Telecom well before the tender process had begun on the ultrafast broadband project.

Well before Telecom had been named as being the successful bidder for the broadband project. Well before Telecom had announced it would structurally separate if it won the UFB; and well before pre-emptive legislation was brought before parliament on that issue (before the contract was announced).

Sound weird? And suspicious? Well yes it is.

This is a very big government project. A large amount of taxpayers money is involved. Steven Joyce has not been straight with the public throughout the process.

He has a track record of negotiating government contracts in great secrecy and getting the outcomes he wants with little or no transparency for the taxpayers. He fought for two years to keep that letter from the public arena once the DomPost discovered it existed.

I can’t challenge the Speaker’s decision. My concern is that if it’s okay to mislead (lie to) parliament about an issue this important, what else is it okay for this government to lie about? And get away with?

I have lodged a Notice of Motion with the Clerk of the House to refer the issue to the Privileges Committee which I will attempt to move next Tuesday in the House.

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