Twitter has created a parallel universe of conversation in most social settings these days, including Parliament. Some members tweet from inside the chamber, passing remarks they would not be permitted to say out loud. Does it matter?

The Speaker - David Carter - has referred the use of Twitter by MPs to the Privileges Committee following some controversial tweets, including Trevor Mallard's tweeted comment that Mr Carter "looked like a Mafia don running his @NZNationalParty protection racket".

Mr Carter should lighten up. There is a difference between a comment made aloud to the House and one that is transmitted silently by text.

One is heard by everyone present, the other can be ignored. Mr Carter might not have been aware of the message on the phones of Mallard followers if National's Leader of the House, Gerry Brownlee, had not told him of it.


Rules governing one medium of communication need not always be applied to another.

Electronic text may reach a larger audience than a spoken word but the reception is different.

A person's tweets go only to those who have chosen to receive them.

The same comment, spoken out loud, will reach people with no wish to hear it. Its potential for offence is greater.

It is a pity some MPs have nothing better to do than to read their phones. If the wit they are enjoying is no better than Mr Mallard's in this instance, the House is at a low ebb.

It is they who invite contempt.