Breach of privilege (selected verses)

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.