Last month I was up in Europe as part of a parliamentary delegation to the European parliament, and while there decided to take the opportunity to skip away to Paris for a day. Now it seems like everyone back here is all in a tizz about it - so here’s the scoops.
I met with the person chairing the meeting, the night before I went to Paris, and we discussed a wide range of issues that would be coming up the next day, including trade, illegal immigration, parliamentary activities, local government, music, art, history, travel, and other matters of interest (including the imminent visit of the All Blacks).
I also talked with other MPs and officials who would be at the meeting the following day, and discussed a number of issues including sporting relationships and European perceptions of New Zealand.
And I met with one of the European MPs from Finland with whom I discussed the similarities between the Saami people and Maori, and made tentative arrangements for a future visit to Finland to see how the Saami parliament was run.
Because of the range of issues we had discussed, I decided to ask the chairperson whether she would mind if I skipped the next day and went to Paris. When my request was translated for her she burst out laughing and said how she’d love to come but she had the meeting to chair, so I told her I would make up for it by introducing her to some All Blacks when she came down here!! She positively glowed with happiness at the thought, so after all the speeches were over I did the honourable thing and closed the evening with a haka which brought the house down.
AND YOUR QUESTIONS ARE …
Did you go to Paris outside of formal arrangements of the delegation? Yes.
Did you consider your Paris excursion to be a breach of parliamentary protocol? Yes, but not a breach of the requirements of the trip because I discussed the issues which would come up the next day with the chairperson and other European MPs before going.
Did you miss anything from the meeting you didn’t attend? No. I checked later and found out that most of the issues that were discussed, I’d canvassed with MPs the night before.
Did you think your Paris excursion was a drain on the NZ taxpayer? No. I paid for that part of my trip myself.
Do you think you should have to pay any of my trip costs back to parliament? No - given that I notified the chairperson before going to Paris, covered all the issues before going, and have had follow up contact with European MPs who were there about future activities.
Is this the same as your trip to Alice Springs? No. Different place, different time, different issues.
Would you do it again? Hard to say. You take the action you consider to be appropriate at the time, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
Any chance of you getting another overseas trip? That’s for somebody else to say.
Did you enjoy your day in Paris? Hell yes. A man would be dumb to go to Europe and not take the opportunity to visit such a wonderful city and see such iconic places and images. I’m glad I did it.
Any flak from your party leaders about it? No. Not yet.
Any adverse reaction from your constituents? No, not at all. In fact, every comment I have had has been really, really positive. In fact one Pakeha lady stopped me to say she loved my article about the Paris trip and said she could picture the places I talked about as I described them. The only adverse comments I’ve had are from the press.
Media contact: Raewyn Harrison 04 817 6955 or 021 649 553