The Speaker has referred the
use of Twitter by MPs in Parliament to the Privileges
Committee after complaints from MPs about tweets criticising
others, including the Speaker himself.
The tweet that sparked the issue appeared to be Labour's
Trevor Mallard criticising a decision by the Speaker last
Tuesday, saying ‘‘2nd week in a row where the Speaker looked
like Mafia Don running his @NZNationalParty protection
Mr Carter has referred the issue of the use of social media
in Parliament to the Privileges Committee to consider. He
said there was some uncertainty about how the protection
afforded to MPs by Parliamentary privilege applied to social
media, given it was not a 'Parliamentary proceeding.'
‘‘Tweets may be actionable in the courts. Members could find
themselves held in contempt by the House for publishing a
false or misleading account of proceedings or reflecting on
the character or conduct of the House or a member.
Accusations that the Speaker has shown partiality in
discharging his or her duties have in the past been judged
very seriously, given the special position the Speaker
He said MPs needed to be clear about the rules, so he had
asked the Privileges Committee to examine Parliament's rules
in light of new technology.
The Speaker can pull MPs up for inappropriate or offensive
interjections or statements, but has no similar control over
tweets. The Speaker picked up the issue after leader of the
House complained about Mr Mallard's tweet without naming him,
referring to a tweet which was derogatory about the Speaker
and asked whether the use of Twitter should be considered.
‘‘I think it would be an unfortunate trend if members thought
they could sit in this House and commentate on proceedings in
a way that was derogatory to the Chair."
A Green MP's tweet from Parliament during Prime Minister John
Key's Budget debate speech has also grabbed some attention.
After Key referred to Finance Minister Bill English having
six children and six Budgets, Jan Logie tweeted ‘‘John key
says Bill English has produced as many budgets as children
... Begs the question who he has f&%d to produce it"
Mr English saw the tweet for the first time this morning and
said it showed the Green Party had a nasty, vindictive side
but it was not a major issue for him. He was not holding out
for an apology, but said he wondered what the reaction would
have been if a male National MP had much such a comment about
a female MP.
In the past, the Green Party have joined efforts for a code
of behaviour in Parliament. Ms Logie said she was now
embarrassed about the tweet and upon reflection did not
believe it was appropriate.
‘‘It's that thing about Twitter being a personal space. I
won't go there again. I screwed up, I'll take it."
She was happy to tender a personal apology to Mr English for
it. She had not deleted it because she believed people should
be accountable for what they said.
Asked what the reaction would have been had a male National
MP made the comment about a female Green MP, she said it was
not directed at him personally.
‘‘It seemed a play on words about the treatment of the poor."
Of her use of the 'f-word' she said: ‘‘There is a t-shirt
around about intelligent, well-education women who like to
use the f-word. I possibly am one of those. Clearly Twitter
is not the right place."
- by Claire Trevett of
the NZ Herald