He who steals my purse steals trash, but he that filches from me my good name....
I think that Craig Thomson's use of Parliamentary Privilege to smear Marco Bolano was pretty rough. No court in the land can hear an application from Mr Bolano for a remedy. There's only one forum, the House of Representatives that can make things right.
I'll be back soon with as comprehensive an analysis of Parliamentary Privilege as I can muster.
For now, here is a link to the Hansard of proceedings in Australia's House of Representatives on Friday, 10 June 1955 - the day on which two Australian citizens were gaoled, each for 3 months for offending against the privilege of the Australian Parliament.
The publication "House of Representatives Practice" describes Parliamentary Privilege at Chapter 19.
Here's some background to the gaoling of Mr Browne and Mr Fitzpatrick taken from that Chapter.
On 8 June 1955 the Committee of Privileges reported to the House that it had found:
• That Messrs Fitzpatrick and Browne were guilty of a serious breach of privilege by publishing articles intended to influence and intimidate a Member (Mr Morgan), in his conduct in the House, and in deliberately attempting to impute corrupt conduct as a Member against him, for the express purpose of discrediting and silencing him. The committee recommended that the House should take appropriate action.
The committee’s inquiry and report followed a complaint made by a Member (Mr Morgan) on 3 May 1955 that an article published on 28 April 1955 in a weekly newspaper known as the Bankstown Observer, circulating in his electorate, had impugned his personal honour as a Member of Parliament and was a direct attack on his integrity and conduct as a Member of the House.
The committee’s report and findings were considered by the House on 9 June 1955 and a motion moved by the Prime Minister ‘That the House agrees with the Committee in its Report’ was agreed to without division. On a further motion of the Prime Minister it was resolved that Messrs Browne and Fitzpatrick be notified that at 10 a.m. the following day the House would hear them at the Bar before proceeding to decide what action it would take in respect of their breaches of privilege.
On being brought to the Bar of the House the following morning Mr Fitzpatrick sought permission for his counsel to act on his behalf. The request was refused by the Speaker and Mr Fitzpatrick apologised to the House for his actions and withdrew.
Mr Browne was then brought to the Bar and addressed the House at some length without apologising and withdrew.
The Hansard for the day records the passionate speeches - leading to these resolutions of Australia's House of Representatives which resulted in the two men doing 3 months gaol each.
I'll bet there were no infractions for quite a while after that. More on privilege soon.