Hostilities between independent MP Brendan Horan and his former NZ First colleagues have taken up yet more of Parliament's time as Mr Horan made allegations of bullying behaviour under protection of Parliamentary privilege this afternoon.
Mr Horan today welcomed news Speaker David Carter was following up his allegations of misuse of Parliamentary funds by NZ First, but continued his attack during Parliament's Question Time with a series of questions directed to Labour Minister Simon Bridges about bullying which appeared to thinly veiled references to MPs from his former party.
He asked Mr Bridges whether anti-bullying guidelines for the workplace would "provide protections to ensure that a member of Parliament or Party Leader cannot bully or intimidate a Parliamentary Service employee into conducting unlawful activities, for example accessing the emails of another member without that member's permission?".
With NZ First Leader Winston Peters still in Auckland this afternoon, it was up to his MP Richard Prosser to run interference on Mr Horan. However his attempts to have Mr Horan's questions ruled out of order were knocked back by Mr Carter.
While Mr Bridges said it was difficult to answer abstract questions, "I suspect that the matter the member refers to, if it was made out, is one for Parliamentary Services".
Mr Horan followed up by asking whether the anti-bullying guidelines "mean that an employee who made a complaint to her employee who made a complaint to her employer about abusive emails and text messages from her boss should be able to respond to that person's public denials without fear of legal action? If not why not?".
Mr Prosser again unsuccessfully tried to have the question ruled out of order but Mr Bridges' response was largely the same.
Speaking to reporters outside the House, Mr Horan would not identify the figures his questions referred to but said: "It's anti-bully day tomorrow, Pink Shirt Day. I had people come to me who were in a hopeless, helpless position, I stood up for them last year and I'lll stand up for them now for as long as it takes until they get some kind of justice. I would like to see the perpetrators outed."
Asked about Mr Carter's decision to investigate his claims of misuse of Parliamentary funding by NZ First, he said: "It's very good that the Leader of New Zealand First will be investigated for the use of his Leader's Budget. I'm very pleased for the people that brought that to me and I'm also happy to let due process and natural justice take place."
Mr Prosser refused to comment on Mr Horan's questions this afternoon.
Asked whether the ongoing jousting between Mr Horan and his former party was a waste of Parliament's time, Prime Minister John Key said "it feels like it to me".
"It really just shows you how broken down that relationship is between Winston Peters and one of his former caucus members."
That relationship plumbed new depths earlier this week when Mr Peters likened Mr Horan to late British television presenter and alleged child sex fiend Jimmy Savile.
Mr Key said the ongoing stoush "also does reflect there's been a bit of a nasty streak running through Parliament".
"I think political parties actually need to think about that a little bit. We're seeing tweets that I think have been wholly inappropriate we've seen all sorts of allegations that have been made that are unfounded. It's one thing to have Parliamentary Privilege, it's quite another to actually say those things. They do have repercussions and they do send ripples through the community."
Mr Horan yesterday claimed NZ First had spent as much as $20,000 in parliamentary funding from Mr Peters' Leader's Budget to develop and operate "taxpayer-funded software for party political purposes such as campaigning and fundraising".
He also said NZ First parliamentary staff were working on running the software during the election year which was "a clear breach of Parliamentary Service guidelines".
Mr Peters yesterday said Mr Horan's claims were lies. While he confirmed NZ First had used parliamentary funding to develop the software, he denied the software was used for party political purposes.
"It's used to enable our expansion into sector groups, all sorts of commercial and social interest groups where we're able to spell out what our policies are and interact with them."
"It is run by someone who knows precisely what the law is as to the appropriateness of use and what you can and cannot do."
However he also said the software had not been launched yet.
He also dismissed internal documents obtained by Mr Horan which show discussion of the use of Vanguard for fundraising purposes.
Mr Key this afternoon confirmed the National Party had similar constituent management software and while that system did have capacity to perform party related work, National had been careful to ensure those particular activities were not paid for out of Parliamentary funding.