The Speaker has found that Peter Dunne could not have commited a contempt of Parliament. Told you so.

Peter Dunne has a press release up on claiming that the Speaker has exonerated him from lying about any role he may have had in leaking the Kitteridge report on the GCSB: 

The Speaker has dismissed a breach of privilege complaint that had been laid by Labour following the Henry Report into the leaking of the Kitteridge Report, which led to Mr Dunne’s resignation as a Minister.

“I welcome the Speaker’s decision to dismiss the complaint and his ruling that my answers did not deliberately mislead the Finance and Expenditure Committee, nor were in contempt of Parliament.

“Although the Henry Report made no allegation against me, nor challenged any of my evidence, its excessive focus on circumstantial matters led to unfounded inferences and innuendos that have not only damaged my reputation, but also made it impossible for me to continue as a Minister.

“Today’s ruling that I did not deliberately mislead the Finance and Expenditure Committee effectively clears me, which I welcome, and it means I can now move forward with confidence once more and put this unfortunate whole situation behind me.

While I don't know the basis of the Speaker's ruling (more on that in a second), the conclusion that there is no possible issue of contempt does not surprise me. As I wrote here:

Given this fact, the question then becomes whether a witness before a select committee misleads it if she or he falsely answers a question that wasn't relevant to the committee's proceedings in the first place. Or, instead, did Peter Dunne simply deliberately attempt mislead Winston Peters ... in which case, there's no contempt of Parliament involved. Because contempt relates to the work of the House of Representatives as an institution, not to the individuals within it: it isn't, for example, a contempt of Parliament for an MP to tell a barefaced lie to another MP during a public debate on the campaign trail ... but it is for a Minister to lie to an MP who asks her or him a question in the House.

So there's an at least tenable argument that even if you think Dunne lied, he didn't lie to the House (or a committee of the House). I which case, there is no contempt and so no question of privilege to be considered.

I then followed that up in this post by saying:

[L]ooking forward, I can now confidently predict that the privileges complaint lodged against Peter Dunne by David Shearer will not be referred to the Privileges Committee by the Speaker. Having freed himself of a perception that he's twisting Standing Orders to protect Dunne, David Carter is free to determine that any misleading answer that Dunne may have given to Winston Peters could not mislead the House, as the questions asked were not relevant to the House's business. 

So - for once in my life it seems like I made a correct prediction. I'll bank this against the various future predictions that I will make which will turn out to be horribly wrong. But one last little point before I let the issue go.

I very much doubt the Speaker has concluded that Peter Dunne did not lie when he told Winston Peters that he did not leak the Kitteridge report. Instead, I suspect the Speaker has found that any possible lie did not occur in the course of a proceeding of Parliament, thus could not be a contempt of the House. So I would be cautious about treating the Speaker's ruling as "effectively clearing" Dunne of the accusation that he was the leaker ... at least until I see the precise wording of the Speaker's ruling. 

Comments (5)

by Jane Beezle on July 12, 2013
Jane Beezle

The decision is being reported on Radio NZ as being that Peter Dunne did not mislead the finance and expenditure committee as the questions that were the subject of the complaint fell outside of the scope of the committee's business.

Where do some MPs get off?  Peter Dunne's statement that the Speaker's decision therefore "effectively clears" him, and that it has implications for the "flawed" David Henry report, are so off beam they beggar belief.

"Effectively clears" him of what?  Actually very little.  I bet this guy sells snake oil on the side.

If the RNZ report is correct, the Speaker's decision has no implications for the substance of Peter Dunne's answers at all; nor his role in the leak of the Kitteridge report; and nor for the legitimacy or accuracy of David Henry's inquiry.  It was about the power of committee members to ask particular questions.  They couldn't legitimately ask the questions ... therefore, Peter Dunne was not misleading a Parliamentary committee with his answers.

The problem for Peter Dunne is that many in his electorate are intelligent enough to see through this type of smokescreening.  Taken alongside some of the stuff he said about the Electoral Commission recently, one can only hope that patience in Ohariu - Belmont will eventually wear thin.  The country is not well served by such blatant dissumulation - it is no wonder that politicians are held in low regard when they carry on like this.

I hope the intrepid media report this for what it is, and do not just repeat Peter Dunne's press release.


by Andrew Geddis on July 12, 2013
Andrew Geddis


I suspect Radio NZ's report is right - I'll wait until the Speaker's ruling is available until I agree with the rest of your comment!

by Pete George on July 13, 2013
Pete George

The Speaker won't publish his ruling but it has been circulated. It's not completely clear to me what was considered in this specific case. The bottom line is the ruling seems to be as you say, but I'm not sure if it's that simple. 

"In considering an allegation of deliberately misleading the House, the Speaker will consider, amongst other things, whether the member against whom the allegation has been made may have had a personal knowledge of the matter as opposed to being aware only in an official capacity."

"The committee had no authority to pursue such a matter in the manner in which one of it's members sought to do."

"In considering your complaint ultimately I had to balance the House's privilege of free speech and power to inquire against the need to afford protection to witnesses appearing before select committees, in this case a Minister". Where there is no real evidence that a committee's proceedings have been impeded, that balance should be struck in favour of the protection of witnesses, for the inquiry function relies on witnesses' willingness to contribute their evidence freely."

"Having considered the matter you have raised I find that no question of privilege is involved".

But the fact is a question was asked and it was answered. I don't know if that made any difference to the ruling.

I've posted scanned pages plus Dunne and Peters press releases - not surprisingly both to suit their own preferred spin.

by mudfish on July 16, 2013

The problem for Peter Dunne is that many in his electorate are intelligent enough to see through this type of smokescreening. Taken alongside some of the stuff he said about the Electoral Commission recently, one can only hope that patience in Ohariu - Belmont will eventually wear thin. The country is not well served by such blatant dissumulation - it is no wonder that politicians are held in low regard when they carry on like this.

The saving grace for Peter Dunne is that many in his electorate are not intelligent enough to see through this type of smokescreening. Remember the worm? It's precisely this close-enough-to-the-truth-to-be-plausible gabbery that so many seem to vote for. Anyone remember hearing a straight answer out of Winston if he hears the wrong question? We get who we vote for! Perhaps there should be a rule that parties rank their list by trustworthiness...?!?

by Siena Denton on July 16, 2013
Siena Denton


So in question and answer time, when the question is put for example, Does the Prime Minister stand by all his statements?

Reply is: Yes I stand by all my statements.

It means the Prime Minister doesn't have to lie, until a point of order is sought from the opposition parties to the Speaker...on a certain statement[s] that the PM has made during the last week or so. Right or wrong?

Peter Dunne is one horrible little man. He appears on TV 3's Firstline espousing with a holier than thou plumb in the mouth arrogance about how "draconian" the Electoral Commission is because they adhered to their statute required obligations and were not flexible or cut some slack to his then UnRegistered Flagship party as they had not provided all the details for re-registration - I am aware they have now.

Peter Dunne obviously hasn't looked in the mirror lately, at how "draconian" he looks.

Poor Andrea being harrassed on twitter with a deluge of tweets (which I read) and ministerial emails from there's No Fool like an Old Fool as well as being spied on by Parliamentary Services Secuirty within those walls of illrepute laden with multitudes of disputes and lies! damn lies!

Our Electoral Commission is doing exactly what I as a taxpayer expects of them.

They show no fear or favour, the rules are the rules, regardless of who you are, Period!

They have my confidence, my trust and most importantly of all, my respect as a taxpayer.

I am reading about coercive select committees at the moment.

Hei kona ra (Have a nice day).




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