2 Jul 2010

Area may be set aside for protest action by MPs

7:44 am on 2 July 2010

The Speaker has told MPs that he may ask parliamentary security to set aside an area for MPs to stage protests.

Last month, Green Party co-leader Russel Norman was involved in a scuffle with Chinese security staff while trying to display a Tibetan flag during the Chinese vice-president's visit.

Speaker Lockwood Smith has written to all 122 MPs reminding them of a 1999 Speaker's ruling that if they take part in demonstrations on Parliament Grounds they do so under the same conditions as members of the public.

He says he expects MPs to advise his office of their intentions, if they plan protest action, so that agreement can be reached about where, and how, any protest might occur.

Dr Smith says a protest may be staged in a clearly delineated area, in order to separate it from other activities, and should not impede the rights of others.

Dr Norman says he accepts those conditions, although he would want to ensure the New Zealand police and security remain in control of Parliament's forecourt, rather than a foreign dignitary's security.

Prime Minister John Key says he hopes there will not be any repeat of the sort of fracas that happened during Dr Norman's protest.

ACT leader, Rodney Hide says it is unfortunate that the Speaker has had to remind MPs how to behave when protesting at Parliament.