Te Ururoa Flavell Speech: Review of Standing Orders

Speech – The Maori Party

Review of Standing Orders : Report of the Standing Orders Committee Te Ururoa Flavell, MP for Waiariki Wednesday 5 October 2011Review of Standing Orders :
Report of the Standing Orders Committee
Te Ururoa Flavell, MP for Waiariki
Wednesday 5 October 2011

I am pleased to stand here today, to acknowledge the important amendments that have been made to the Standing Orders.

And I want to pay tribute to the members of the committee; which I was proud to be a fellow member of.

The very first amendment – to add a new paragraph to Standing Order 13 – is one that we have considerable interest in – indeed we believe it is fundamental to good government. It is the amendment which will require any member taking the oath to only use the words required by law.

We are in two minds about this very first change.

While we endorse the importance of consistency; and of formalising the most sacred oath of allegiance to this House; we do not agree that the current wording of the Oath is sufficiently robust as an oath for Aotearoa. Te Tiriti o Waitangi is our founding document and people who hold public office should not be deprived of giving it recognition.

Two months ago, my colleague, Rahui Katene, announced that the Maori Party is proposing a private members bill that will give politicians, police officers, members of the judiciary and public office-holders an option to uphold the nation’s founding document when they swear their oath of allegiance.

The Treaty is a fundamental basis of our identity as a nation. It provides us with the foundations for our parliament in this country, Aotearoa New Zealand. The Oaths and Declaration Bill moves us further in the journey to nationhood as another step in upholding the Treaty of Waitangi.

In effect, the impact of this private member bill is that any person who elects to state that they will uphold the Treaty of Waitangi may do so by making the following statement at the end of the affirmation:
· I will uphold the Treaty of Waitangi; or
· Ka whakaūngia e au te Tiriti o Waitangi.”

The Maori Party has been lobbying to bring legislation into the context of statutory oaths and declarations since July 2006. The Maori Party upholds Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding constitutional document of this nation. It is incumbent on the Parliament to deal with matters involving tangata whenua in particular on the basis of Treaty principles – mutual respect, reasonable co-operation and the utmost good faith. Endorsement of the Treaty would be an easy and efficient way of expressing this commitment.
We would ideally hope that the proposed amendment would be supported on the understanding that we seek to amend the Oath as an immediate priority in the new Parliament, to best reflect our adherence to Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of this land.

The most significant advance that we want to acknowledge in this debate; is Amendment 14 which amends Standing orders 139 and 151 which refer to the casting of a proxy vote.

The Māori Party raised the issue of the casting of proxy votes because we believed it to be unfair. Prior to this report, a party could only lodge up to 25% of its vote by proxy. In this sense, the Standing Orders penalised minor parties with more than one MP.

We say this because single-MP parties can be absent and their vote still counts while a Party with four or five MPs can have two MPs present in the house and still not be able to cast a full complement of votes. We believed this to be unfair.

We are pleased to see the amendment to Standing Orders 139 and 151 to enable any party of up to five members to have their votes cast on their behalf, notwithstanding the need for the party to still have a member in the precincts.

The third change I want to refer to is Amendment 19, which affects Standing Order 248 that the Government must, not more than sixty working days after a select committee report has been presented, present their response.

This issue arose for us following the Maori Affairs Select Committee tobacco inquiry, and the difficulty of considering an extremely complex issue within the constraints of a condensed report back. The report-back was scheduled over the summer break and so it greatly condensed the amount of time that officials could respond over the Christmas holiday period.

Following the tabling of the Government’s response, my colleague, Tariana Turia wrote to the Speaker asking for consideration of a consistent time frame for report backs. She asked for consideration to be given to working days rather than the 90 calendar days referred to in the Standing Orders, to ensure fairness.

We do not support Amendment 6 – which is the proposed change to Standing Order 277 which suggests that urgency may be accorded to the first reading of a bill despite the bill not being available to be set down for first reading.

The recommendation suggests that this would allow the Government to introduce a bill without having to wait for urgency to be accorded – thereby making bills dealt with under urgency available sooner to MPs and the public. We believe it could in fact set a precedent that first readings of bills could be taken under urgency without parties having access to the bill in advance.

I want to articulate the support of the Maori Party for the new initiative described in the cognate bill. This is specifically addressed in Amendment 20 which provides for the business committee to determine that bills may be regarded as cognate bills.
This was an initiative which first entered this house in May this year with the passing of the first readings of three bills – the Nga Wai o Maniapoto (Waipa River) Bill, the Ngati Porou Claims Settlement Bill, and the Ngati Pahauwera Treaty Claims Settlement Bill.
We welcome the opportunity for Parliament to consider bills concurrently – bills which are debated together but voted on separately, and we acknowledge the opportunity remains for the select committee to report them back to the House individually.
I want to refer to the issues raised at the end of the report, and brought together in a section described as Communicating Parliament.

Over the last few weeks, in the process of the valedictory speeches, we have heard various comments passed about the war zone we call the debating chamber. The conduct of some of the members and parties within the house is quite simply unacceptable for the elected leaders of the country. Shouting across the chambers while others are speaking, organised heckling and jeering has to stop.

And I am mindful that in 2008 the minor parties signed a voluntary code of conduct for the house. The measures within the document are very reasonable and would contribute to a more honourable showing in the house. Our submission on behalf of the Maori Party suggested that the code of conduct should be considered as part of the Standing Orders.

Another suggestion we made is that the Kawa Paremata, which guides the behaviour of Maori Party MPs, could work alongside the code of conduct for the house. The Kawa Paremata is, at its core, about respecting other people and showing whanaungatanga to others.

Finally I refer to the comments around attendance of members mentioned on page 18 of the report which specifically states that a Member’s first duty is to the House.

We wholeheartedly agree with the requirement for members to attend the House as being important to maintaining respect for the institution of Parliament.

And although it would be inappropriate – indeed a breach of the standing orders to name a member who was not in the House – I can not avoid making mention of the fact of a significant absence of one political party between July and September this year which failed to even lodge a vote for a staggering twenty bills.

It was not as if these bills were of no consequence. They included the extremely controversial Policing (Storage of Youth Identifying Particulars) Amendment Bill; the Student Loan Scheme Bill; the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill; and the Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Bill to name a few.

And I repeat, for the record, a key statement in the report, “The House would be brought into disrepute if members were seen to be able to simply abandon their duty to it without penalty”.

Mr Speaker, the valedictory speeches of departing members have consistently repeated the concept that to serve in the House of Representatives is a privilege and an honour. I endorse the sentiment and hope that the amendments to the Standing Orders we debate here tonight, will help to enable us to continue to uphold that solemn responsibility.

Authorised by Te Ururoa Flavell, Parliament Buildings, Wellington

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