By STAFF REPORTER
Parliamentary staff and the press gallery have banned political commentator of the year John Roughan, assistant editor of the New Zealand Herald, from the House.
The ban was made under arcane rules which give press gallery journalists a veto over who is allowed to report the affairs of Government.
The ban - which prevents the Herald using its own offices in Parliament - comes despite Roughan being one of New Zealand's most distinguished political commentators, a double winner in this year's Qantas journalism awards and a former member of the press gallery.
The press gallery's executive, chaired by Jane Young, TV3's politcal reporter, said Roughan did not meet the criteria for either full or associate membership because he was not Wellington-based nor did he report from the precincts of Parliament for most of the working week.
She said they had taken advice from the Clerk of the House over the rules on accreditation.
Roughan was sent to Wellington this week by the Herald to ensure that it provided coverage of politics and the Government while other Herald journalists, who are members of the Engineers' Union, took strike action following the breakdown of talks over a collective contract.
A letter from Young said the ban on Roughan had nothing to do with the dispute.
But a striking Herald journalist had threatened Roughan as he left for Wellington, claiming "we will get you banned."
Speaker of the House Jonathan Hunt intitally approved emergency accreditation for Roughan but revoked it after the intervention of the press gallery executive.
Herald editor Stephen Davis said the ban highlighted an unacceptable situation.
"It means one group of journalists can veto a colleague with as good, or better, qualifications and stop him or her working in and around the House.
"It means parliamentary officials playing along with an attempt to prevent the Herald reporting the affairs of Parliament."
The Herald would review its journalists' participation in the press gallery, he said.
Roughan is continuing to report on the Government and politics from the Herald's Wellington offices, near Parliament.
By STAFF REPORTER