Hard News by Russell Brown

Po-faced outrage

A sitting MP gives an explanation to the House which is at perpendicular variance with accounts of his potentially improper conduct provided to journalists by three members of the public. He seems destined to appear before the privileges committee which will decide whether he has misled Parliament - but the Speaker decides that what appear to be irreconcilable versions of the facts are merely differences of opinion. Is the MP David Benson Pope? No! Owen Jennings of the Act Party in 1998, actually.

I actually do think Margaret Wilson's finding that there was "no issue of privilege" in respect of a complaint about Benson Pope's statements in the House is unusual, in that it isn't usually the place of the Speaker to be determining evidence.

But DPF and the other right-bloggers who have been screaming blue murder for the last two days about it should really look a bit closer to home for their examples. Especially G-Man, who in the course of a lengthy post headed Speaker Wilson Creating a “Kangaroo Parliament” and Must Go has convinced himself that this is unprecedented in the history of Parliamentary democracy; and, of course, Rodney Hide.

You might even say that the Jennings case was considerably worse. It concerned very recent matters, and matters which had a much closer bearing on his conduct as a Member of Parliament - in that they allegedly involved his taxpayer-funded office and staff. Further, the Speaker (National's Doug Kidd) refused to allow the inspection of tape recordings and security videos that would quite probably have settled the issue.

The major difference between then and now would seem to be there there's a lot more po-faced outrage around these days.

Frankly, I think Benson Pope got himself in a hole that day in Parliament. But equally frankly, for so long as we're paying Benson Pope's salary, I'd rather have him competently running the portfolios on which the current investigation into 25 year-old allegations of classroom bullying can have no possible bearing. It suits the Opposition parties to have him nobbled as far as possible - there is no corresponding benefit for the taxpayer in it.

Meanwhile, at the same time that the national academies of science for all the G8 countries, along with those of Brazil, India and China, issue an unprecedented joint statement urging governments to take urgent action on climate change - with a particular focus on the Bush White House - it is being reported that a former oil industry lobbyist in the White House has been repeatedly altering or removing information about climate change from official reports. A senior Environmental Protection Agency scientist told the New York Times these actions have produced "somewhat of a chilling effect." The Times has obtained copies of the documents bearing the actual alterations.

Staying with science - the reality-based kind - Salon has an excellent backgrounder: Everything you always wanted to know about the stem cell debate.

Bad opinion poll numbers for Bush on, well … most things. On his strongest issue - the handling of the terrorist threat - he has a 50-49 positive rating. And a majority now say the war in Iraq has not contributed to American security and nearly six in 10 say it was not worth fighting.

If you want a good, sobering read about Iraq, get the new Metro with Jon Stephenson's story, based on his sixth visit to the country, which was timed for the second anniversary of the invasion. It's a fine piece of writing, albeit not one to inspire hope. Departing Newsweek bureau chief Ron Nordland is only slightly less gloomy in his sign-off piece, Good Intentions Gone Bad. On the other hand, it's two months since right-blogger hero Chrenkoff cobbled together another batch of official press releases for a Good News From Iraq bulletin …

And, in conclusion, the MeNZB controversy finally made Morning Report today. Not an especially productive development ...