November 22, 2006

speaking out of turn

blah, blah, blah Brash made a political boo boo. I don't care much about the detail. Though I suspect National are mismanaging the handover of power. Won't matter if it doesn't look like infighting, but not a good look regardless.

I am curious about what are appropriate protections on communications with MPs. And what rights the citizenry has to access information about their MPs in order to exercise democracy properly.

For example: your communication with your lawyer is protected against all sorts of investigation. You can talk to your doctor about all sorts of things and expect confidentiality. The openness is necessary for the system to work effectively.

I expect that discussions with Members of Parliament have similarities. If you are a prostitute and a law which affects you is being debated, I think it is important that you can communicate with the MPs. MPs need to be as informed as possible, and possible outing of your communication might impede that.

Which suggests that emails to MPs should be privileged.

However, any communication which involves corruption of a politician should be freely available. If a citizen sends an MP a bribery offer, it shouldn't be privileged.

And copyright seems like a poor method of managing these competing interests.

I think the High Court made the correct decision under the law in giving a preemptive injunction. However I think they failed badly to take into account possible constitutional factors. They could have decided that all communications with MPs in their capacity as a politician are copyright of Parliament. They could have put a rider on the injunction which allowed emails to be published if they were relevant to possible corruption on Brash's part. Or any number of things.

Now, I haven't read the actual judgment, so I'm not sure of my facts in this, but on face value I'm a bit disappointed in them.

Posted by carla at November 22, 2006 07:43 PM
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