23 May 2024

No complaints but Speaker Brownlee to pursue use of f-word by Green MP

6:47 pm on 23 May 2024
Green MP Ricardo Menendez March speaking in Parliament's debating chamber

Ricardo Menéndez March swore while Labour MP Phil Twyford was speaking during a debate on immigration. Photo: Phil Smith

Speaker of the House Gerry Brownlee intends to discuss a Green MP's Parliamentary f-bomb when he next meets with a committee of MPs from all parties.

During a debate about immigration on Tuesday night, Green list MP Ricardo Menéndez March shouted over the speech of Labour's Phil Twyford, who had just suggested Labour was supporting the legislation only because certain changes had been made.

The official Hansard transcription recorded Menéndez March's heckle as: "Your party introduced this bill as it was, come on, f***, you voted for the bill without those amendments".

The remark prompted a brief stunned silence from Twyford, who then told the House: "I'm not sure I can ever remember someone who has displayed such incredible self-righteousness".

The online transcription archive - which goes back to 2008 - records only two previous mentions of the f-word, both times by former Green MP Sue Bradford who was quoting another person.

In response to questions from RNZ, Brownlee said he had not received any formal complaints, but the matter would be discussed by the Business Committee during its next meeting.

The nine-member committee - which is chaired by Brownlee - makes decisions around Parliamentary proceedings. All parties' whips are represented, including Menéndez March.

Speaking on Thursday, Green co-leader Marama Davidson came to the defence of her MP and said many politicians were guilty of swearing in the debating chamber.

"Every single day MPs across the entire House - when we are not on mic, when we are having ordinary conversations - use colourful language," Davidson said.

"If the microphones picked up all of the words... you'd run out of room [on] the news."

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson

Co-leader Marama Davidson id defending her MP over the incident. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Fellow co-leader Chlöe Swarbrick chipped in: "And the planet's on fire".

Twyford also played down the situation, saying the two MPs had "kissed and made up" after Menéndez March phoned him and apologised.

"It's just a debate, stuff happens in this place," Twyford said. "Feelings run high. It's no big deal."

Speaking to reporters, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon directed questions to the Greens but said he expected "discipline and standards" from his National caucus.

"It's up to other political leaders to work out how they [manage] theirs. I'd just exhort them... we want to have high standards of parliamentarianship [sic]."

New Zealand First leader - and deputy PM - Winston Peters said he had been "astonished" by the events and believed behaviour in Parliament had deteriorated of late.

Asked whether he had ever heard the f-word uttered in the debating chamber, Peters said: "Fabulous and fantastic, yeah, but not the way you're saying it."

ACT leader David Seymour told RNZ the Green caucus seemed to have decided that the normal rules and conventions need not apply to them.

"I've sat in Parliament for almost 10 years... I haven't heard [the f-word]. Maybe if I sat in the Green caucus, I would," Seymour said.

"Call me prudish, but I actually think there's something to be said for upholding the standards of Parliament."

Senior Labour MP - and former party whip - Kieran McAnulty said he would never criticise someone for swearing as that would make him a hypocrite, but he tried to hold his tongue while in Parliament.

"Things can get pretty heated and sometimes you might say something to yourself, but you shouldn't say it to someone else," McAnulty said.

MPs are forbidden from using "unbecoming" language and insults during Parliamentary debates.

Parliament's website includes a list of phrases deemed "unparliamentary" including: 'ditch the bitch', 'grubby little man', and 'shut up yourself, you great ape'.

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