Today during Question Time, Trevor Mallard sent a tweet, that as Gerry Brownlee suggested, if it had been said aloud in the House, it would most likely have seen Trevor ejected.
This is the offending tweet:
Now there are two things about this that I want to talk about. Firstly, this has prompted the Speaker, at the suggestion of the Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee, to refer the question of Tweets sent form within the House to the Business Committee. Now it is outside of my area of knowledge as to weather this is correct committee or not, though Graeme Edgeler is questioning this:
I think this is a good step, Twitter is becoming more and more prevalent. We have 104 Members of Parliament on Twitter, with a large number of those tweeting regularly, and from the House. There are lot of rules about what it acceptable behaviour in the House, what is not clear is if any of these apply to tweets or other social media messages. It will be counter productive for the house to try and ban MPs form engaging in social media from within the House. One only has to look at how active #nzqt is during Question Time to see how much can be gained from social media. Parliament should be doing as much as it can to open up its workings to people and to make them more approachable. If I was to make a recommendation to those involved in assessing Twitter use during Question Time, I would suggest the following:
– Same rules that apply to content in the House should apply to tweets sent from the House
– All MPs tweets sent during house sitting time should be collected and included in an appendix to Hansard
– MPs found to have breached the rules should be required to withdraw and apologise via tweet, as they would in the House.
Secondly, for a while I have been feeling rather dejected at the quality of the political debate in NZ. It is becoming more and more common for people to use arguments such as “party Y did thing X before, so it is ok” or attacking people personally. I will admit that I have not always reached the higher standard I would like to have held. But I am going to try and lift my game, just as I hope others on Twitter, as well as MPs and Candidates will. Lets talk about the many issues that face NZ at the moment. Lets keep the discussion mature and informed. Lets stop the gotcha politics that seem to rule at the moment.
I don’t know who will end up leading by example, but I hope we can lift the quality of debate. I will do my best to help make it happen, I hope others will join me.