Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Labour questions 'casual Friday' ban

Chris Finlayson at Parliament in his golfing clothes. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Chris Finlayson at Parliament in his golfing clothes. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Attorney General Chris Finlayson has been mocked for requiring staff to abide by a style manual in correspondence and Labour has now asked whether he has distilled his dislike of 'casual Friday' into another type of style manual: a dress code.

Mr Finlayson and Justice Minister Judith Collins were among several ministers to receive Official Information Act requests from the Labour Party about whether they had a dress code, or had issued dress instructions to their staff.

It is understood Attorney General Chris Finlayson's office was a target of the OIA after speculation he had banned 'casual Friday.' It is well known he frowned upon casual Fridays in his previous life as a lawyer. A spokesman for Mr Finlayson confirmed they did not have an official casual Friday but denied Mr Finlayson had banned it, saying it had never been discussed. He said there was no dress code.

"There is no dress code, but it is a professional environment. Certain clothing choices would be discouraged, such as bare feet or 'Annette King for Rongotai' t-shirts." He pointed out having a casual Friday would technically be a dress code.

"That would be a stipluation of something you wear at work."

In her reply to Labour, Ms Collins said she did not have a dress code and the request was clearly a "cry for help" from Labour for dress tips.

"You have now sent me two requests for this information which have been processed and answered. Most taxpayers would consider this a gross waste of taxpayer funds. I, however, am willing to believe your repeated request reflects a genuine cry for help and is recognition of the collective good dress sense shown in this office."

A spokesman for Labour said the request was sent to several ministerial offices because it had been told some staff were spoken to about their clothing. "We were looking into some issues concerning staff treatment in ministerial offices and wanted to see if it was isolated or reasonably wide spread."

He said said it was not a major priority for Labour but denied it would have wasted taxpayers' resources. "It should only have taken about five minutes to answer."

Parliament has a dress code for the Debating Chamber but many MPs wear casual clothes when Parliament is not sitting. Cycling MPs such as Trevor Mallard are often spotted in lycra and Mr Finlayson last year did a photo shoot with the NZ Herald at Parliament while wearing his golfing clothes. Ms Collins is a regular contributor to discussion about clothing, having described one of Green co-leader Metiria Turei's jackets as "ugly" and questioning how Ms Turei could preach to National MPs about poverty while wearing designer jackets.

- NZ Herald

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