Risk to NZ businesses from controversial use of privilege

20 Feb 2014

BusinessNZ is expressing concern at the implications for all business as a result of continued allegations against Countdown supermarkets made in Parliament by Labour MP Shane Jones.

BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly says Parliamentary privilege is a valuable institution but has the potential to damage related or innocent parties, and should be used judiciously.

“Where allegations are made under Parliamentary privilege in a controversial manner over the course of many days before being referred to the relevant authorities, there is the potential for significant reputational and commercial risk.

“In the current case, the matter was referred to the Commerce Commission 9 days ago but allegations have continued in Parliament over several days since this time.

“The risk is compounded by the fact that some of the allegations relate to alleged criminal behaviour and others relate to competition issues.

“The release under Parliamentary privilege of Mr Jones’ complaint to the Commerce Commission relates to the competition issues raised by Mr Jones, and an inquiry has now been launched.

“However, other allegations by Mr Jones relate to criminal behaviour including alleged blackmail and fraud, and no claims have yet been made to the NZ Police.

“This puts the subject of the allegations in the position of being tried in what is effectively a kangaroo court – with serious allegations made but not justified with evidence in a proper judicial process.

“This poses risk not only for the company that is the target of the current allegations, but for any other company that may be treated similarly in the future.

“Businesses in New Zealand would be concerned about the chilling effect of Parliamentary privilege being used in this way in the future.”

   

Contact Phil O’Reilly 04 4966552 or Kathryn Asare 021 555 744