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Act MP Denies Threatening Labour Member

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
David Garrett
David Garrett

NZPA political reporters

Wellington, Aug 7 NZPA - ACT MP David Garrett has denied threatening a Labour MP during a select committee meeting and says the spat started when he was insulted by Clayton Cosgrove.

Labour has alleged Mr Garrett suggested he and Mr Cosgrove "take this outside" during a closed session of the law and order committee, and has laid a written complaint with Parliament's Speaker, Lockwood Smith.

It would be a serious matter if an MP tried to start a fight with another.

Mr Garrett today sent a letter to Dr Smith which gave a detailed account of the exchange and said there was no way anything he said could be considered a threat.

He said he had voted with government members on the committee to block a motion which Mr Cosgrove supported.

"Mr Cosgrove then said something like: `What happened to the ACT Party's commitment to openness and transparency? You are a lapdog of theirs, a lamb to the slaughter'.

"I replied: `Save your insults for outside the precincts of Parliament Mr Cosgrove', or words to that effect."

Mr Garrett told Dr Smith he categorically denied inviting Mr Cosgrove to "step outside, take this outside, or making any similar invitation to settle our disagreement violently".

The ACT MP said his comment was intended to leave Mr Cosgrove in no doubt that while he might be protected by parliamentary privilege in the select committee room, he would not have that protection from potential legal action if he made defamatory remarks outside Parliament.

ACT leader Rodney Hide told NZPA he was angry with Labour MPs for "making up allegations" and then laying a complaint they knew would fail in order to get media attention.

He said Labour had abused the parliamentary process by making public events that took place during a closed session of a select committee.

"If they thought they had a case against David Garrett, and the allegation is a serious one, they would have done it properly, put it to the Speaker and shut up," he said.

"If someone had threatened another MP in a way that was a breach of privilege it would be very serious indeed, and be sent off to the privileges committee to be handled properly.

"You wouldn't be running off to the media."

Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni, a member of the committee, tried to table the letter of complaint in Parliament yesterday but the attempt was blocked by National MPs.

If the letter had been tabled it would have become a public document.

Dr Smith told MPs at the time that they should be very careful about publicising letters they had written to him.

Prime Minister John Key, asked about the issue today before Mr Garrett had given his account of what happened, said if the MP had made the "take this outside" remark it would be unparliamentary behaviour.

"As a broader comment there's no place for violence in the New Zealand Parliament, or even the suggestion of violence, and I think if that was the case Parliament should take a very hard line," he said.

Clearly relations between Mr Cosgrove and Mr Garrett are not good. The same day as the select committee hearing Mr Garrett had a dig on the "I've been thinking" segment of TVNZ 7 show Back Benches, in which MPs on the panel are given 30 seconds to speak to camera.

Mr Garrett told presenter Wallace Chapman: "Wallace I've been thinking how much more pleasant a place the Chamber would be if Clayton Cosgrove had grown six more inches and his hair hadn't fallen out and he wouldn't have to over-compensate every day".

The select committee incident was the second in which Mr Garrett has been at odds with Labour over proceedings.

NZPA reported last week Mr Garrett told prison officers who criticised private prisons during a committee hearing that they had damaged their job prospects.

Labour and National members of the committee assured the prison officers they had the right to speak their mind, and Labour later complained that Mr Garrett had tried to shut them up.

NZPA

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