26 Nov 2020

Māori Party MPs walk out of Parliament in protest

4:24 pm on 26 November 2020

The Māori Party's two MPs have walked out of the House in protest during this afternoon's debate.

Māori Party MPs Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer speak to media after leaving the debate chamber in protest.

Māori Party co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer speak to media after leaving the debate chamber in protest. Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

Under the rules, party leaders with more than six MPs get 30 minutes to speak and smaller parties would only get the chance if time allowed before the House rises at five.

However, because they are new MPs, if they spoke in the Address in Reply debate it would constitute their maiden speech, which are not scheduled until at least next week.

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi tried to secure a speaking slot today based on a standing order that such decisions do not discriminate against a minority party.

He told reporters he and co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer walked out after being blocked by Speaker Trevor Mallard.

"We decided that we didn't want to participate in a system that actually is based on being very unfair," Waititi said.

"The tyranny of our democracy for minority parties - it's absolutely disgraceful to be quite honest."

The Address in Reply debate is for MPs to respond to the Speech from the Throne. Mallard had given the call to National leader Judith Collins when Waititi rose to his feet to seek a point of order.

He was given a brief opportunity to convince the Speaker to hear him out, telling the House "Kei te mōtini te pāti Māori kia riro i a mātou, 15 miniti ki ngā kaiarahi o te pāti Māori i roto i tēnei wāhanga whakautu kōrero", roughly translated as "to pass a motion so that the Māori Party leaders can have 15 minutes to speak in the Address in Reply".

The Speaker cut him off and continued with the call to Collins, at which the two Māori Party MPs walked out.

"We were shocked and deeply disturbed to learn that we would not have an opportunity, as all other party leaders had, to speak in the Address In Reply debate in response to the prime minister's agenda - the Speaker didn't even allow our Point of Order to be heard," Waititi said.

Ngarewa Packer said this was "yet another example of the Māori voice being silenced and ignored".

"We have walked out of the House to enable us to talk directly to our people about our vision and kaupapa as Te Pāti Māori," she said.

"Despite following the rules of the House and seeking a suspension to the Standing Orders, we were still denied our ability to speak in this critical first Parliamentary debate."

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