23 Nov 2022

Greens demand consistency over Ukraine President Zelensky invite to address Parliament

7:01 am on 23 November 2022

The Green Party wants leaders of other oppressed nations to address Parliament too.

Green Party Co-Leader Marama Davidson

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson says her party would like to hear from other leaders of countries suffering oppression too. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Following a request from Ukraine's Ambassador to New Zealand, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has been invited to speak to MPs.

The Business Committee, a cross party group of MPs who decide on the business of Parliament, met last night and gave the speech the go-ahead.

But logistical challenges, like the uncertain nature of the war and differing time-zones, mean the exact timing of the virtual address is not yet certain.

It is hoped MPs will hear from Zelensky before the summer break.

Zelensky has spoken to many parliaments around the world since the start of the war and has used his addresses to plea for more military support.

Zelensky would become just the second head of a foreign government to address New Zealand's Parliament, after Australia's Julia Gillard in 2011.

The Green Party opposed Gillard's speech, arguing it would set a precedent and lead to pressure from other foreign leaders to grant them the same opportunity.

New Zealand's prime minister at the time, John Key, said compromise had to be reached.

"We didn't want to have an embarrassing situation where the Prime Minister of Australia giving her first formal address in our Parliament, and the first foreign leader to do so, had some member of Parliament get up and object," Key said in 2011.

"On that basis, we came to a compromise that she would speak outside of the normal sitting hours."

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses festivalgoers via a video link during the Glastonbury festival near the village of Pilton in Somerset, southwest England, on June 24, 2022. - More than 200,000 music fans and megastars Paul McCartney, Billie Eilish and Kendrick Lamar descend on the English countryside this week as Glastonbury Festival returns after a three-year hiatus. The coronavirus pandemic forced organisers to cancel the last two years' events, and those going this year face an arduous journey battling three days of major rail strikes across the country. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo: AFP

The Greens did not raise any objections about Zelensky's address during last night's Business Committee meeting.

But the party's co-leader Marama Davidson said her party would like to hear from other leaders, too.

"Are we hearing from Palestine? Are we hearing from other oppressed nations? No, we're not ... we'd like to see some consistency," Davidson said.

When asked if other world leaders would be invited to speak at Parliament, the government said the invitation for Zelensky was the only one under consideration.