Friday, 12 September 2008

Wellington Central candidate Franks - pulls no punches

Stephen Franks lawyer par excellence takes a wack at the privileges committee

The Privileges Committee is pathetic. If it was ever composed of fearsome interrrogators determined to uphold the integrity of Parliament, across party lines, they’d gone by the time I got there.
I sat on it considering a complaint against Peters. Matt Robson in the chair was scared of him. So were the rest of the committee. They would not ask the elementary questions I proposed to get at the truth. Instead they looked desperately for ways to let it go away.
It did.
Janet Mackey, who laid the complaint with the unanimous support of our committee, had warned me I’d be on my own if I did not go along with pretending Peter’s breaches did not matter. She was deeply cynical about the competence of her own side, and mine, but even more about their courage and determination.
I criticised the Committee whenever I got the chance while in Parliament. See for example this
criticism is in Hansard.
So I was sorry for Simon Power in the Chair last night. However well he performed the process was not going to let him make the hearing uplifting. The middle of a proceeding where the ruling clique want the process to fail is no time to try to develop robust new processes.
At least they did not have Peter Williams battering away with his non-sequiturs, though perhaps it helped Peters too for him not to speak. No honest lawyer member needs a criminal QC to help him to tell the truth to a committee of his own club where nearly half the committee members are desperately on his side
The Committee should look to the US Senate Committee procedure. They should hire an experienced lawyer to do the examination, in consultation with the members on the questions they want answered. The committee members would then sit in effect as the jury. They should allow enough time.
Last night Peters just had to bluster for an hour. It would have faded if he’d had to maintain consistent lying for 4 hours.
The Committee is laughable. It did not ask obvious questions. It meekly accepted his refusal to give a source for his claim that Glenn’s lawyer had manufactured ("coached") Glenn’s evidence. That allegation alone is so serious they should be vigorously investigating it.
Mercifully I have not seen recently the media cliche references to the "Parliament’s almighty Privileges Committee". It has been seen for what it is - a toothless old tabby to its insiders, though it can still bully outsiders.

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