Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Queen first, Treaty second? How absurd

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Lockwood Smith's voice is no match for a strong waiata. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Lockwood Smith's voice is no match for a strong waiata. Photo / Mark Mitchell

When has an MP ever been thrown out of Parliament before he even gets there?

In 2008, Hone Harawira was sworn in as the Member of Parliament for Tai Tokerau and added the following preamble in Maori before he took the standard MP's oath: "I, Hone Pani Tamati Waka Nene Harawira, swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and that I will be honest and forthright in my efforts to advance the rights of the people of Tai Tokerau, their whanau, their hapu and their iwi, and do my utmost to help all Maori people of Aotearoa become full and proud citizens of this great nation of ours."

His party leader at the time, Tariana Turia, recited a similar version. The Greens' Catherine Delahunty also did her own version. The speaker tolerated all three MPs' preambles.

On Thursday Harawira did a similar preamble in Maori and got thrown out. "I, Hone Pani Tamati Waka Nene Harawira, swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, that I will be honest and forthright in my efforts to advance the rights of the people of Tai Tokerau, that I will do my utmost to help all Maori people become full and proud citizens of this land, and that I will do whatever I can to reduce inequalities in this country, so that all may one day be proud to call Aotearoa home."

The only change between the two versions seems to be that as Harawira is now the leader of a new party, he pledged to reduce inequalities for everyone - not just Maori. Surely that isn't what offended the speaker?

Here's what our MPs are supposed to restrict themselves to. Harawira told me he had added it to his mihi (speech) but was expelled before he could finish. "I solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, according to law."

I would have thought any MP taking this seriously should be expelled from Parliament permanently for treason. I can understand why Harawira would want to add in an allegiance to the Treaty and his constituents before he had to grit his teeth and read this nonsense.

The speaker refused requests from Labour's Trevor Mallard and Green co-leader Russel Norman to recall Harawira to finish the process. Once the speaker, Lockwood Smith, had dug himself into a hole he couldn't pull back from his decision - even if it contradicted his previous positions.

When Harawira's supporters sung their waiata from the gallery, he looked hapless trying to silence them. Wisely, he gave up trying. Predictably the chatterers and twitterers went into faux outrage at this "disrespect" to our esteemed Parliament's medieval Anglo-Saxon rituals.

There's something surreal when a Maori MP is thrown out for swearing allegiance to Te Tiriti O Waitangi and his electors before promising to be loyal to an English queen.

The speaker's actions have given Harawira a profile and brand that will ensure attention way beyond any expectation he could have dreamed possible. Harawira was booked to do a national tour during this week's parliamentary break. He won't have trouble filling his meetings now. You can't pay for this sort of promotion. I hope that what happened on Thursday will start a long-overdue discussion about our "English" Parliament. It needs a New Zealand culture, not some import.

It's absurd having any Maori electorate MP ejected for stating his or her commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi. After all, they represent tangata whenua - the other Treaty partner.

Harawira said the first job he would do once finally sworn in would be to introduce a private member's bill to require all MPs to swear allegiance to the Tiriti o Waitangi. Now that should be interesting.

- Herald on Sunday

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