Gerry Brownlee's appalling performance in the House yesterday over the cancellation of the Levin - Otaki Road of National Signficance has already attracted criticism elsewhere, and now Labour's Phil Twyford has responded by lodging a complaint for breach of Privilege. Obviously, Brownlee's comments were deeply misleading (if not outright lies), and so if Parliament took its own rules seriously, he should be dragged before the Privileges Committee and held to account for them. But Parliament doesn't take its own rules seriously; the current Speaker has ruled that a Member can only mislead the House in "a statement of some formality" such as an answer to a primary question, a personal explanation, or a Ministerial statement. Merely lying during a supplementary in Question Time just doesn't cut it, apparently.
Still, Twyford's complaint isn't pointless. It voices public disquiet about this behaviour, and so helps press for reform. I have no doubt that older politicians will resist such reform with all their strength, but the public wants an honest Parliament, one it can be proud of rather than regard with disdain or disgust. And if Lockwood Smith wants to improve the public esteem Parliament and MPs are held in, he should act on this complaint, and hold Brownlee accountable.