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Parliamentary poem: 'Breach of privilege'

Audio file

Hear selected verses from the poem 'Breach of privilege', which is about tensions between Parliament and journalists in 1898.

There were tense relations between Parliament and the press gallery journalists when this was published in the New Zealand Observer and Free Lance on 1 October 1898.


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.


Ministry for Culture and Heritage

How to cite this page

Parliamentary poem: 'Breach of privilege', URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated