Editorial: Stop this silliness

19:53, May 28 2012

Parliamentary politics is often viewed as something of a circus, and if what goes on in Wellington doesn't quite qualify yet, should it sink to that level any time soon, there's a sideshow already running to help members of the House feel at home.

The ongoing saga of ACC Minister Judith Collins and her attempts to sue Labour MPs Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little over comments she said defamed her, in relation to the recent ACC privacy breach, has become nothing short of farcical. To the point that one is forced to wonder what possible positive purpose it can now serve for either party.

Not that the right of Ms Collins to take action in response to a perceived slight on her reputation should be questioned, but it must be proving an unwelcome distraction for her party, the needs of which surely outweigh her own. It's hardly been a smooth recent ride for National.

It doesn't help that she took some time to initiate the action against the pair, perhaps believing they might deliver the requested apology, faced with the threat of legal action. In response to which anyone who's observed our major parties in action could surely have exclaimed: "Come on Crusher, what are the chances?" There was simply no way the Labour pair were going to go along with that.

Leaving aside entirely the merits of her case against Labour's long-time bovver boy and a new, formidable presence in its thinning ranks, it should be obvious to an experienced politician like Ms Collins that in the robust environment that is our parliament, perceived slights regularly pass between parties without legal action as the outcome. To an extent, it comes with the territory.

Certainly Messrs Mallard and Little have contributed to the farcical nature of this process. Having undertaken to make life as difficult as possible for those charged with serving legal papers on them, they have helped to set off a game of cat and mouse that has reached ridiculous proportions.


The latest episode came yesterday when Mr Mallard said he was served papers by an elderly woman, purportedly a victim of poor hospital treatment, on whose behalf an appointment had been arranged with him.

"She pulled out the papers and told me I was served and I said `thank you very much' and took a photo of her," Mr Mallard said. He then posted the picture on his Twitter account, ensuring extensive media coverage.

In theory, a case could proceed from here, but it's hard to believe the leaders of the major parties would be happy with the sideshow, the distraction, this has become. These are politicians who are supposed to be running the country, not playing silly buggers.

Perhaps it's time for John Key and David Shearer to tell their respective colleagues to pull their heads in and get on with their jobs.

The Timaru Herald