Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Parliament set to get rougher - Carter

Speaker David Carter. Photo / File
Speaker David Carter. Photo / File

Speaker David Carter expects Parliament to get even rougher as the election approaches after insults in the House reached a new low yesterday and he faced criticism for being soft on the Government.

Yesterday's session saw New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters liken his former MP Brendan Horan to late British broadcaster and alleged child sex offender Jimmy Savile.

"That comment yesterday was very unfortunate," Mr Carter told reporters this morning.

Asked whether it marked a new low for Parliament, Mr Carter said: "It is certainly an offensive insult that was hurled."

"We are now within weeks of a general election and from my point of view the tension in the House will build between now and the election date. There's an inevitability about that but having said that members of the House still need to show respect to all members of Parliament."

Mr Horan says he will this afternoon table material showing misuse of Parliamentary funding by Mr Peters.

Meanwhile, Mr Carter yesterday referred the use of Twitter and other social media by MPs in Parliament to the Privileges Committee to consider how social media use affects Parliament's rules, such as contempt and privilege.

It followed concerns from National about Labour MP Trevor Mallard's tweet that said Mr Carter "looked like Mafia don running his @NZNationalParty protection racket".

Yesterday Mr Mallard said he did not believe any change was required to Parliament's rules. He stood by his criticism, saying he praised Speakers when they were fair but criticised if they were not.

"I've indicated I think Lockwood Smith was a very good Speaker, he ruled fairly and evenly. I think Mr Carter on occasions has not been up to that standard."

But Mr Carter said he felt he was doing the job "to the best of my ability".

"I'm doing it in an apolitical way. I'm very comfortable with my performance as Speaker."

Mr Carter said Parliament's rules or Standing Orders said it was a breach of privilege to criticise the Speaker but that was an issue the Privileges Committee would look at as well as its consideration of MPs' use of Twitter and other social media.

"I think the Speaker will on occasions make decisions that in retrospect might not have been appropriate and will be open to criticism. I as David Carter have been open to criticism for 20 years, it's part of being a politician, it doesn't offend me greatly that's why I think it's opportune for the Privileges Committee to have a look and make some recommendations to me."

The existing Standing Orders hadn't kept pace with the development of mobile technology and social media but Mr Carter said he didn't have any preconceived ideas about how the rules should be changed.

"I think it's a real challenge when Members of Parliament have their devices with them through something like Question Time. In the heat of the moment they can send out comments that they might subsequently regret."

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