"parliamentary privilege" yesterday. The MP at the centre of a scandal allegedly involving fraud, 'phone records, unexplained expenses and the use of prostitutes while a union official used parliament to make a statement.
Craig Thomson used parliament to make a statement in which he attempted to defend himself. In doing so he used "parliamentary privilege" to name other people and accuse them of wrong doing. It was an abuse of that process.
I have no problem with the idea of parliamentary privilege. Politicians are sometimes in a unique position. They have access to information that we more ordinary mortals do not have. There needs to be a mechanism where they can, with due caution, name individuals or raise situations which are in the national interest or in the interests of their electorate. They need to be able to do it without fear of legal proceedings being taken against them. They also need a limited right to defend themselves if they are accused of wrong doing. Note - a limited right.
That process was abused yesterday. Thomson was given the opportunity to speak to parliament about the allegations and findings against him. He was, so we understood, going to use the opportunity to provide an explanation. It would, we were told, take about fifteen minutes.
Mr Thomson talked for fifty-seven minutes. He explained nothing. He repeated some allegations. He named some names. He attacked the Opposition. He attacked the media. He cried.
The speech was well crafted - but not by him. He was given tutoring in how to deliver it. (Those constant sips of water were a dead giveaway.)
Tellingly only a few MPs from the government side of the house turned up to hear him speak. The press gallery and the public gallery were full. I would not have wanted to be present. I saw enough of the tawdry proceedings on the news service last night - and the news feed kept me (too) well informed before that.. It was an uncomfortable speech delivered in an uncomfortable atmosphere. Accusations were delivered against people outside parliament who will now have to apply to the Speaker for the right to reply in an attempt to clear their names. There was also the usual diatribe against the Leader of the Opposition and others who are seeking the downfall of a minority government.
It was the plot which did him in though. If this had been the plot of a novel and it had been sent to an agent it would have been rejected as "implausible". Truth may be stranger than fiction but this was still implausible.
I think it was the "cloning" of the mobile phone suggestion that really did me in. I am advised by an expert in the field that this (a) needs access to equipment not in the hands of ordinary individuals and (b) even with that is very difficult to do. It is a very great pity because it might be a worthy element in a plot.
I will need to think of something else instead when I write that "MP-spy-murder-thriller".