3 May 2022

Peters says he has been trespassed from Parliament for two years

6:25 pm on 3 May 2022

Former Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters says he has been trespassed from Parliament for two years.

Peters had faced criticism when he visited anti-mandate protesters in February as they held a protest camp inside Parliamentary grounds. Those protests turned violent when police moved to clear the camp in early March.

He is among several high-profile people who have now being issued with trespass notices for attending the 23-day occupation on Parliament's grounds in February and early March.

Protesters on the grounds were warned several times on loudspeakers they were there illegally, after the Speaker had closed the area to the public.

Parliament's rules demand that protests within the grounds are dispersed in an orderly manner using pedestrian ways to avoid damage to lawns and flower beds. Erecting structures on the grounds is also banned, and signs must be handheld.

After the protest was broken up, police said a team would go through the footage and prosecute those who had been present.

In a statement, Peters said New Zealanders, the prime minister and Parliament shouldn't put up with "totalitarian behaviour" from Speaker Trevor Mallard.

Winston Peters visits protestors at Parliament

Winston Peters speaks with protesters at Parliament in February. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

He had taken legal advice on the matter and would continue to do so, he said.

Peters said it was a dictatorial move by Mallard, which "should be reserved for Third World banana republics".

He said Mallard had gaping holes in his reasoning, that there were differences between the protesters "who were legally, peacefully and rightfully there" and those who were ended up being violent.

There were also differences between those taking an active part in the protest and those who were not, he said.

He told Midday Report the move was unreasonable and unlawful, "and I'm very confident about where this is going to go now".

He would not contact the Speaker directly, but he had received preliminary legal advice from his lawyers and full advice would be discussed "in the fullness of time very very soon".

"[Mallard] didn't bother to contact me before he made a pre-emptory presumption about the purpose of my visit ... I don't know where he got his legal advice from but I hope it's not from his own office.

"The people of this country have to make up their minds whether they're going to abide by this sort of behaviour or they're going to make a stand - because we live in a first-world democracy, or rather we thought we did until these sorts of patterns, of late, have become the norm."

His statement also raised the possibility of media reporting on the protest being trespassed, and questioned whether that would be blanket prosecution or reserved for those who shared the government's views.

"What's more astounding is that the Speaker of the House of Representatives in our country could possibly attempt to trespass former Members of Parliament - of whom some are leaders of political parties planning to run against the sitting government in around eighteen months' time," the statement said.

"New Zealanders should not put up with this type of totalitarian behaviour from the Speaker - nor should the Prime Minister or Parliament."

Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard tweeted about the decision.

"The Parliamentary Service Commission met today to consider the narrow question of whether former MPs should be exempted from the general policy that resulted in trespass orders being issued to those identified as trespassing during recent protests at Parliament," he wrote.

"Only the Act Party supported such an exemption."

Democracy NZ leader Matt King trespassed

Former National MP Matt King also went to the protests and has also been trespassed for two years.

King, a former police officer, is the leader of new political party Democracy New Zealand which planned to hold its launch at Parliament later this year.

He told Morning Report today it was "pathetic and petty", and an attempt to muzzle free speech.

"I cannot go on those grounds for the next two years ... if I do and get arrested then they'll have bail conditions on me where I won't be able to speak or campaign or actually oppose the government which I am a frequent critic of, so I actually think there's some thought behind this."

The grounds of Parliament were "sacred grounds" and everyone had the right to protest and he had preached non-aggressive actions, he said.

Trespassing him two months later was just politicking, he said.

"They know that I'm a leader of the Democracy NZ party and they know that I'm a frequent critic of theirs and Trevor Mallard and their behaviour, so this is a definite attempt to muzzle me."

He said former leader of the Conservative Party Leighton Baker, who was arrested at the time, had also been trespassed and was now similarly "muzzled".

"He can't speak out, can't go online, can't be involved in any protest action here - he is just a guy that is being stopped and it's likely to go for 18 months, and that's undemocratic."

He said he himself was being politically interfered with, but when challenged on what his evidence was, only said the police approach on day three of the protest showed they had been told by the Speaker and the government to shut it down.

"Any police commander worth his salt would not have gone in on day three."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this morning said she was not involved in the decision, and it was a matter for the Speaker.

"I see it entirely as a matter for the Speaker how he chooses to deal with the aftermath of the protest and the attendance of protesters."

National Party leader Christopher Luxon fired a loaded comment the Speaker's way - saying he trusted Mallard would apply any trespass orders fairly.

"I'm sure he will apply equality and fairness to everybody. Obviously his criteria was that there was high-profile individuals that were recognisable, that therefore contravened trespass laws.

"I'm sure he will be looking at the many many others who were there that were recognisable and identifiable."

'A reasonable decision' - lawyer

Wellington barrister Graeme Edgeler said Parliament grounds were closed, everyone there would have known it, and anybody who was there was commiting at least civil trespass.

"Not necessarily a criminal offence, but committing what the law calls a trespass - and one of the consequences of a trespass can be a trespass notice."

He said Peters' characterisation of his notice was hyperbole.

"I would have thought this is a - from a legal perspective - a reasonable decision for an occupier, in this case the speake, to be able to make," he said.

"Winston Peters has a stronger case to say 'I should be on the other side of the line' than some of the others - particularly those who are camping there - but there is a line and it's not ridiculous to have drawn it where it was. Everyone knew that the grounds were closed and knew - particularly with it blaring out - there were warnings to leave, repeated over the course of the several weeks."

"It's not a punishment, he's been asked to stay off Parliament grounds ... if you or I wants to go there we can just walk onto the grounds, if he wants to go there he'd needs to ask specific permission. It doesn't stop him running for Parliament, if he's elected it won't stop him being an MP and attending the House."

He said the Speaker as a public authority did have extra obligations to take account of things like freedom of association and freedom of expression, but that did not mean the Speaker did not have the power to do this.

"Those aren't absolutes, and this could well be a reasonable limit on freedom of association.

"Even places like the United States - which you think of as sort of one of the homes of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly - have what are really quite strict rules about what you can do on the grounds of the Capitol."

Trespass 'grossly over the top' - Peter Dunne

Former United Future MP Peter Dunne said the trespass of Peters from Parliament was "grossly over the top for the expression of political opinion".

"I've got no truck for Mr Peters or his style of politics," he told Checkpoint. "But I do think in this case he's got a point.

"He wasn't a critical part of the protest, he was there on one particular day grandstanding in front of the cameras, the way he always does, and he ends up being banned from the grounds for two years. I think that's grossly over the top for the expression of a political opinion.

"He wasn't one of the keynote organisers. He was just a casual participant, and to suffer this fate I think is really quite extraordinary."

Dunne said the protest organisers and those who stayed throughout the protest should have some sort of sanction, but a two year trespass notice wouldn't be appropriate.

The trespass orders raise some serious issues, he said. Politicians have always mingled with protesters, he said.

"If we're now saying that the point of view is unpopular, it leads to not only the participants and protesters being banned, but also the politicians who go to talk to them being banned, we're in very dangerous territory."

The move had "big implications" if Peters and King intend to run for Parliament at next year's election or in next month's Tauranga by-election, Dunne said.

"...[Peters] wasn't critical to the whole protest, he was trying to milk some advantage from it, and he shouldn't pay a price like this."

He said trespassing Peters "speaks a lot really for the mentality of the speaker."

Mallard was not the right person for the job of speaker of the house, he said.