18 Nov 2020

Calls for Parliamentary Oath of Allegiance to recognise Te Tiriti o Waitangi

6:42 am on 18 November 2020

A week from now, the country's MPs will be sworn into Parliament, but some are less than thrilled with pledging allegiance to the Queen.

No caption

File image. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Some MPs want an update to the Oath of Allegiance to acknowledge Te Tiriti o Waitangi, but others think it's best just to leave it be.

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi said he has no problem acknowledging the Crown and hapū across Aotearoa as per the Treaty of Waitangi - but the oath only focuses on Queen Elizabeth II.

"As Tangata whenua and as indigenous peoples of this country, I feel like it is subjugating us, it's assimilating us and actually silences our voice and our ability to be able to engage in this democracy as Tangata whenua of this country," Waititi said.

"It is a bit of a distasteful oath to me."

Green Party MPs Dr Elizabeth Kerekere and Teanau Tuiono have also voiced concerns the oath was outdated.

"In order for it to properly reflect where we are as a nation and properly reflect in terms of Te Tiriti o Waitangi we need to switch that up," Tuiono said.

"The role of the monarchy in the colonisation of our country is absolute and swearing to it while I'm fully intending to subvert it, I just wonder around the ethics of that," Kerekere said.

In 2018, attempts were made to update the oath.

Labour and Green MPs voted unanimously to allow MPs to make the oath in languages other than te reo Māori and English.

The bill didn't even make it past the first reading thanks to National, ACT and New Zealand First.

But on changing the oath to acknowledge the treaty, not all of Labour's caucus had an appetite for change.

David Parker had less of a desire to make changes.

"I'm always to have a bit of a conversation on anything but to be honest, I swear the oath and get on with the business," he said.

But Louisa Wall said: "Essentially, we're swearing allegiance based on our constitution and we have a constitution that recognises the Queen as the head of state, so in New Zealand it's the governor-general, but we don't actually consider the treaty and so there is an issue".

Tamati Coffey said there should at least be a conversation about changing it.

"The treaty needs to be mentioned in there, I believe, but I think that that's a conversation that we as parliamentarians need to have," he said.

National Party leader Judith Collins and her deputy Shane Reti were in agreement.

"I will be swearing an oath of allegiance to her majesty and I will do so with the bible," Collins said.

"I support the current Oath of Allegiance and I've completed the documentation to that effect," Reti said.

ACT's David Seymour didn't want to change the oath either, but he was open for other MPs to focus their attention on changing it.

"If there's a member of Parliament who wants to focus on the oath that they swear, I suspect that's a very positive thing, because if they're focused on that then their minds are occupied and they're not doing any other damage," he said.

No matter where they stand on the topic, MPs will have to swear allegiance next week if they wish to be a part of Parliament.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs