Relations between Parliament and journalists were tense when this poem was published in 1898.
New Zealand Observer and Free Lance, 1 October 1898. Read by Simon Nathan
You may slang a fellow-member, and your words may be as free
As the phrases of endearment used by mariners at sea;
Indulge in lurid language of a kind that would amaze
An angry bullock-puncher in the old Colonial days ...
You may wreck a reputation from the cover of a hedge,
Or — as politicians term it — Parliamentary privilege ...
These things are merely trifles, only fit to raise a laugh,
But woe betide the journalist who prints a paragraph
Reflecting on the evidence before some committee,
Or some M.H.R. with character of spotless purity
At once Jove’s thunderbolts are launched at his devoted head;
He will wish that scrap of evidence had wisely been unsaid;
For the direful Standing Orders, and the precedents from May
, Remind him of the terrors of the awful Judgement Day;
Of bottomless perdition he stands trembling on the edge,
For this — ye gods! — this paragraph’s a BREACH OF PRIVILEGE.