Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

New rules to be set out over Parliament swipe card data

Speaker David Carter. File photo / Mark Mitchell
Speaker David Carter. File photo / Mark Mitchell

Speaker David Carter has asked the Privileges Committee to draw up rules setting out the circumstances under which information such as security access details can be released, after concerns were raised that such details were used without permission to track the movements of United Future's Peter Dunne and Fairfax reporter Andrea Vance.

Parliamentary Services released swipe card details of Mr Dunne and Miss Vance to David Henry as part of his inquiry into the leak of a GCSB report to Miss Vance. The details allowed Mr Henry to trace some of their movements through Parliament.

Mr Carter dismissed a complaint by Green Party co-leader Russel Norman against the Prime Minister over the issue, but said Dr Norman's complaint did raise serious issues that the Privileges Committee was best-placed to look into.

"The exercise of intrusive powers against members threatens members' freedom to carry out their functions as elected representatives and the House's powers to control its own proceedings and precincts without outside interference.''

He said the release of information relating to journalists working in Parliament also raised concerns.

"While the media do not necessarily participate directly in Parliamentary proceedings, they are critical to informing the public about what Parliament is doing and public confidence in Parliament. Actions which may put at risk journalists' ability to report freely are a significant concern.''

However, Mr Carter said Parliament was also a workplace for Parliamentary and Government department staff, so access to such data also had to pay regard to the rights of employers and employees.

"I believe some common understanding is required to ensure that on the one hand, the functioning of the House and discharge of members' duties is not obstructed or impeded, but on the other hand the maintenance of law and order and the ability to investigate and prosecute offences committed within the Parliamentary precincts is preserved.''

The Speaker is also considering a Privileges complaint laid by Labour against Peter Dunne, claiming he misled Parliament by denying leaking that report. Although the Speaker has not yet announced his decision on that, Mr Dunne has issued a press release saying the Speaker has dismissed it.

Such a privileges committee hearing could have meant emails Mr Dunne withheld from the David Henry inquiry would be called as evidence.

- NZ Herald

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