'The Speechless, the Silly and the Sensible' : Hone Harawira

Thursday 11 September 2008, 8:01PM
By Hone Harawira

Code of Conduct.
Madam Speaker, the Maori Party was proud to stand alongside our MMP colleagues from the Greens, United and ACT, to support a code of conduct for members in the House, and to reduce the disorderly conduct that diminishes parliament, and all its members as well, and I note that such a call was once made in the 1880s by MP Vincent Pyke, who described members of Parliament like this:
“There were the speechless members, who were never heard of except by their votes. Then there were the silly members who talked nonsense by the yard. And thirdly, there were the sensible members, who said very little, and said that little to the purpose”.
Nearly 130 years later, parliament still seems to be struggling with the challenges of the speechless, the silly and the sensible; although the public could be forgiven for thinking that only the silly ones are to be heard.
That Madam Speaker, is why we supported the call for a Code of Conduct to be instituted in the Standing Orders.
The slanging matches, the petty attacks, the snide remarks, and the often mindless attempts at humour that characterise question time in the chamber, create a very poor environment for political debate; no wonder the general public has such little confidence in politicians.
Madam Speaker, the Maori Party looks to kaupapa and tikanga Maori to guide us in our behaviour, and although I personally struggle with them sometimes, I recognise that such principles require us to treat one other with respect and with integrity, and I have no doubt that the people of Aotearoa, also want to see standards of behaviour in this House that acknowledge those values.
Indeed, my good friend, the Most Reverend Desmond Tutu said it well when he said: “If I diminish you, I diminish myself”.
Certainly none of us are perfect, but it is worthwhile that we strive to address the issues at hand rather than the person, so it is disappointing to note that the Review made no further commitment about standards of conduct that MPs could follow.

Simultaneous Interpretation
Madam Speaker, a big part of the Report was about the proposal that the Maori Party’s Te Ururoa Flavell raised at the very first Standing Orders Committee of the 48th Parliament, for simultaneous Maori-English interpretation in the House, so it is with some considerable satisfaction that as we draw to a close of the current session, we see that the Standing Orders Committee has agreed that the establishment of such a service is desirable, and that we are finally able to progress the introduction of a simultaneous interpretation service in the parliament of Aotearoa.
Madam Speaker, we believe that the successful regeneration and revitalisation of te reo Maori relies on promoting its usage as an ordinary every day language, and in the same way that we want to hear te reo in the shopping malls, in the market place, and in our homes, so too should we aspire to having te reo Maori heard regularly in this House, and the Maori Party looks forward to the day when simultaneous interpretations in the House, sets the scene for what can be done throughout the country.

I also note the proposal for the display of the New Zealand flag in the chamber and select committee rooms, and I wish the House to note a complaint that the Maori Party has laid, and which is still in progress, in regard to the double standard of flying the European Union flag from the Auckland Harbour Bridge, while denying the flying of the Maori flag.
I note too that Select Committee did not agree to the New Zealand flag being flown in the chamber and in select committee rooms at this time, and I sincerely hope that when the time arises that we can make that decision, that we also have the courage to fly the Maori flag as a recognition of this country’s Treaty partnership.

Proxy Voting
Finally Madam Speaker we come to the issue of proxy voting for smaller parties, and I note how McGee’s Parliamentary Practice describes the Standing Orders as representing the political accommodations and allocations amongst the various parties; a specific example of this being the proxy voting provisions which were written into the Standing Orders in 2003 for the Progressives.
The crux of the change impacts against four member parties, and works to support three member parties.
In effect, the proxy voting provisions mean that the Maori Party can cast four votes in the House only if we have an MP in the House itself, and a total of three MPs within the Parliamentary complex. To cast our party votes, we can only have one MP away at any one time.
Whereas the United Party for example, can cast three votes in the House if it has one MP in the complex, who need not be in the chamber. They can have two MPs away at any time.
This issue is a constraint upon our MPs, and although it will not be an issue for us in the next Parliament, when we have seven members in the House, we are thinking of the natural justice issue in general as to such a glaring difference in the voting provisions for parties of three or four members.