COMMENT

It has not been the best week for one-man bands in politics in either Australia or New Zealand.

Act leader David Seymour was transformed from champion of democracy to a laughing stock after he made it into Parliament too late to try to stop Parliament rushing through gun legislation.

The reason he was late was because he was too busy grandstanding about the nobility of his plans to the media outside.

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Apparently, sometimes democratic plans require undemocratic processes.

Seymour appeared to miss the irony in his plan, which was to use the power of his one vote against the power of 119 other MPs to block plans to allow legislation to be fast-tracked through Parliament without having to resort to Urgency.

Seymour's concerns, however, should not simply be shrugged off, however much of a clown he has made of himself.

Act leader David Seymour was so busy objecting to media about the speed of the Government's gun law reform that he missed being in the House to vote down the expedited process. / Video by Jason Walls

Seymour was not objecting to the gun reforms themselves, as much as the speed with which they were progressing and the lack of opportunity for fulsome analysis and public submission.

Most law changes have a six-month window for submissions to be heard and considered. This one has two days.

The number of unknowns is highlighted by the report Police have prepared. The one most cited is the unknown cost of the buy-back scheme for those handing in guns.

That is almost irrelevant – the Government has made it plain that it does not really care what the cost is - the changes are needed whatever the cost.

But Seymour was also concerned about the precedent it sets and the timing.

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Passing such a law while the tragedy of the mosque terror attacks is still raw will inevitably lead to criticism of anybody who dares to question them.

The moral pressure on MPs is immense. It is why Seymour is the sole dissenter.

Those concerns are valid, but would be more so if the Government had not recognised that by opting to break the gun reforms into two tranches – the "easy" bits such as the ban on certain guns, and the more complex parts such as a gun register which will have a more considered process in the future.

Meanwhile, in Australia, Senator Fraser Anning was facing censure over comments on the day of the Christchurch mosque attack that it was because of New Zealand's immigration settings.

He was also facing a colourful censure from Winston Peters, who in his brief stint as Acting Prime Minister on Monday took the opportunity to describe Anning on Sky News Australia as a "four-flushing, jingoistic moron".

As it transpired, Peters was widely misquoted and had actually said "dingoistic" - which seems to mean much the same as jingoistic but only applies to an Australian.

Peters delivered this jab with no apparent sense of irony, given he himself has tub-thumped to a jingoistic beat throughout his very long career - both on behalf of New Zealand and other countries, such as the United Kingdom when he came out in support of Brexit.

Act Party leader David Seymour. Photo / Michael Craig.
Act Party leader David Seymour. Photo / Michael Craig.

Anning pointed this out in his response, reading out some of Peters' own comments about Muslim extremists and immigration over the years and saying how fully he endorsed them.

It illustrated the uncomfortable position Peters has been left in.

He has issued something of a backdown on NZ First's now historic position on gun reform, saying many in Parliament will be regretting missed opportunities in the past.

But he has not backed down on his previous comments about Muslim extremists. Instead he has defended them as being made in the context of the London terror attacks and relating only to extremists – despite saying the moderate and the extremist fitted "hand in glove".

Peters will not be the only one with words from his past coming back to haunt him, but he is the most obvious. Caution must also be taken before crucifying people on the basis of words said in very different circumstances. But nor can they simply be brushed away.

This is not the first time Peters has used the word "dingoistic".

Back in 1997 then NZ First MP Tau Henare called the Australian Government "a pack of mongrels" after a background briefing prepared by Australian officials made it into the media with unkind analysis of Peters.

Peters apologised (kind of), saying Henare was not criticising the Government, but rather "dingoistic bureaucrats".

That briefing Henare took had described Peters as "a loose cannon" and "an opportunist" who was not above exploiting anti-Australian sentiment in New Zealand. Plus ca change.