21 Dec 2023

Chlöe Swarbrick apologises over 'demonstrable lie' accusation

3:11 pm on 21 December 2023
Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick has belatedly apologised to Parliament a week after saying in the debating chamber Prime Minister Christopher Luxon had lied - a breach of the rules.

She had said Luxon's claim during Question Time - that the government was "not weakening our actions on climate change, we're just going about it a different way" - was a "demonstrable lie".

She stood during urgency about 11.40pm on Wednesday - a week after making the initial statement - to make a personal explanation to Parliament.

"I made comments intended to challenge the content of the prime minister's answer to oral question number one, I can understand how this statement could be interpreted to be a personal reflection against the prime minister," she said.

"It was not my intention to make a personal reflection on the prime minister in this House, and to that effect I apologise to this House. I recognise that that should have happened at the time."

Calling an MP a liar in Parliament is against the rules.

Speaker Gerry Brownlee at the time suggested Swarbrick consider withdrawing and apologising, but she continued to argue the point and later told reporters she stood by her statement and would face whatever consequences came her way.

He had referred to a previous speaker's ruling, that saying an MP was lying was "always out of order".

Speaking to reporters when heading into Question Time on Thursday afternoon, Swarbrick said she had made her apology at the "at the earliest possible convenience based on the advice that I'd had from the Clerks of the House".

She said there was clear consistency between her original statement and her apology.

"We know that this government's policies are intent on pouring oil and gas on the climate crisis. And as I have said many times before, I am here to do this job in order to tell the truth and to keep the focus on the climate crisis. That means maintaining by the laws of the House."

"There's clear consistency in my statements then as there are now, which is that I would follow the processes of the House as is necessary to keep the focus on the climate crisis".

Asked if she still thought the claim was a demonstrable lie, she would not answer directly - referring instead to the processes of Parliament.

"Look, as I said at the time on the tiles, my job is to keep the focus on the climate crisis and I am following the process of the House as is necessary to do that," she said.

"I think that this is a place with some pretty interesting and arcane traditions but we abide by those in order to do our job.

She was asked what it meant for her to have said the prime minister's statement was a demonstrable lie.

"I think it's for New Zealanders to draw their own conclusions on that point. I've made those statements in the House and again my intentions - as were, again, noted late last night - was that my intention was again to draw attention to the content of the prime minister's answer and the content of the government's policies which demonstrably will not meet the task of the climate crisis."

She laughed when asked if she really was sorry.

"Look, I have made my intentions at that time abundantly clear."

Consequences for failing to apologise could include the matter being referred to the Privileges Committee, which can exact punishments from MPs who break the rules.

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