6 Dec 2023

NZ First urges Speaker to enforce rules over Te Pāti Māori behaviour

3:51 pm on 6 December 2023
Shane Jones

New Zealand First Minister Shane Jones Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

New Zealand First is asking new Speaker Gerry Brownlee to lay down the letter of the law, after Te Pāti Māori varied the ways they swore in at Parliament.

The swearing-in as part of the Commission Opening of Parliament on Tuesday was largely ceremonial, but Te Pāti Māori's MPs brought their own flavour to the proceedings: Including making additional oaths, promising allegiance to mokopuna according to tikanga Māori, and in accordance with Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

They also used a different name when making oaths or affirmations to King Charles in te reo Māori: Kīngi Harehare. This is regional variation of the translation of "Charles" that differs from the typical "Tiāre", but also translates as a scab, skin rash, or something offensive or objectionable.

Clerk of the House David Wilson did not dispute the swearing-in at the time, and in a statement afterwards said there were no requirements in law or standing orders about what members may do before or after their affirmation.

He said unless it appeared to him that an MP was refusing to follow the requirements of the law, he accepted they were making their oath in good faith.

"If the Clerk judged that a member had taken their oath or affirmation improperly they would have been required to leave the debating chamber immediately and return to do it again on a future day. That did not occur."

New Zealand First Minister Shane Jones on Tuesday seemed to take little issue with the name, saying he thought the "guts of the oath" was addressed, but on Wednesday said he was writing to the new speaker, Gerry Brownlee, to ask him to set out his expectations.

"It's arguable whether the term was taking the P-I-double-S or whether it was a genuine thing, but my point of writing a letter to Gerry is, it's a great saying, 'start as you mean to go on'," Jones said.

"If we're going to see three years of this kind of theatrical behaviour - I don't want to see any more edible art or wearable art in Parliament."

He suggested this would mean keeping a level playing field.

"What I want the speaker to do is lay down very firmly what his expectations are - the decorum in the house, the conduct in the house - and if we're expected all to abide by the letter of the law, then it applies to Winston, and I, and everyone else."

Winston Peters, his party's leader, agreed with Jones' approach, saying Te Pāti Māori had "just showed a contempt for Parliament" in the way they took their oaths.

"Every party in Parliament's agreed about the procedure and section 11 of the Constitution Act of 1986. They just ignored all that and carried on their own way, and that's going to stop ... stand back and watch," Peters said.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Deputy Prime Minister Winson Peters at the official opening of Parliament.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters speaks with Prime Minister Christopher Luxon. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

"They don't have to agree, but once you've got a consensus that's passed down through decades and decades - why would a small bunch of just-arrived-yesterdays think they've got a right to change things without consent.

"They should be told: Do it like everybody else. You're not writing the rules all by yourself when you've only been here five minutes. And if you carry on this way you'll only last five minutes as well."

He said they would not be allowed to get away with it.

"That's been going on far too much in New Zealand politics in the past three years, and we're here to stop that."

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi defended the use of the name Harehare.

"I was born and bred in the reo, and Harehare is a word that we use for 'Charles'. I have an uncle called Harehare and his name was Charles, and so it's like the interpretation with te Tiriti o Waitangi. It's interpretation.

Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi at the opening of Parliament, 5 December 2023.

Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi at the Commission Opening of Parliament on Tuesday. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

"I will continue to use the words that I was brought up on and if it's good enough for my uncle, it's good enough for Charles."

He said Jones could do whatever he wanted.

"Shane Jones doesn't come from te Tai Rāwhiti, Shane Jones comes from Ngāpuhi and he can stick to Ngāpuhi kupu."

The party's other co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said Jones was "a little bit freakily obsessed with us".

"You know, we've always used our own kupu ... we've always been respective of our reo and of the kaupapa, I just think he needs to spend a little bit less taxpayers' time on us and worry a lot more about themselves.

When asked, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon kept well clear of the issue.

"That's a decision for the speaker, and for the House ... it's not my decision, it's up to the speaker ... nothing to do with me."

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