House Speaker defends his performance

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 16:10 21/05/2014

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Speaker David Carter has defended his performance in the House, though he is bracing himself for the political sledging to get fierce in the leadup to election.

Carter faced criticisms he was too soft on interjections made yesterday in the house by NZ First leader Winston Peters, who twice referred to independent MP Brendan Horan as "Jimmy Savile", the late BBC presenter accused of sex crimes against children.

Carter had initially said he "never heard anything that I thought was offensive".

Today, Carter told media he did not hear the offending interjection.

"As soon as I was aware that it was made, he was required to withdraw and apologise," he said.

"I think all members have a responsibility to use the House correctly, they are protected by parliamentary privilege in the House, that is something that needs to be used responsibly.

"It is certainly an offensive insult that is hurled. We are now within weeks of a general election and from my point of view the tension in the House will build between now and the election date." 

There was an "inevitability about that", Carter said, but members of the House still had to show respect to other members of Parliament.

Carter said the comment yesterday was "very unfortunate". 

"I feel that I'm doing the job to the best of my ability, I'm doing it in an apolitical way, I'm very comfortable in my performance as speaker."

Carter yesterday referred the issue of politicians tweeting criticisms of the Speaker to the privileges committee, to investigate whether they breached parliamentary rules.  

The referral comes after tweets from Labour MP Trevor Mallard, who said Carter "looked like Mafia don running his @NZNationalParty protection racket".

Carter said he did not have any pre-conceived ideas about the rules should be, but there were areas of confusion that needed to be investigated. 

"The rules at the moment say it's a breach of privilege to criticise the speaker. I think the speaker will on occasions, make decisions that in retrospect might not have been appropriate and will be open to it [criticism].

"I as David Carter, have been open to criticism for 20 years - it's part of being a politician. It doesn't offend me greatly, that's why I think it's opportune for privileges committee to have a look and make some recommendations to me." 

The difficulty with the role of the speaker was he was in a unique position, Carter said, "in that he doesn't get the opportunity to reply to criticism".

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