Māori Party walks out of House denouncing 'racist questions'

Author
Michael Neilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 12 May 2021, 5:36PM

Māori Party walks out of House denouncing 'racist questions'

Author
Michael Neilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 12 May 2021, 5:36PM

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi has again been ejected from the House after taking aim at what he called "racist" rhetoric by the National Party.

He led an impassioned haka on the floor as he was kicked out this afternoon, joined in solidarity by co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and by Green MP Teanau Tuiono.

Waititi told reporters outside the House he was "sick and tired of Māori being used as a political football".

National and the Act Party have been attacking the Government over what they call a "separatist agenda", focusing questions in the House on the proposed Māori Health Authority, the document He Puapua which advises on Māori realising self-determination, and reform at the Department of Conservation.

On Wednesday Collins was questioning Ardern over further details about He Puapua when Ngarewa-Packer interjected, asking Ardern for her views on if Collins' "continued attack on Māori was racist".

House Speaker Trevor Mallard said it was outside the scope of the Prime Minister to answer.

Collins resumed questioning, with part of Ardern's response: "What the member characterises as separatism I characterise as partnership."

Waititi then raised a point of order, challenging National on its rhetoric.

But Speaker Trevor Mallard said Parliament was a "House of Representatives" and there was a "broad range of views within the House".

"Part of my responsibility is to allow those views to be aired."

But Waititi was not satisfied with the answer and tried to challenge him by raising another point of order.

Mallard told Waititi his challenge needed to be fresh as he had made his decision. But when Waititi tried to canvas the same issue, Mallard ejected him from the House.

"When it comes to the rights and views of indigenous peoples – those views must be from those indigenous people," he told the House, taking aim at National.

He asked MPs that if this attitude is acceptable in the House – "constant barrage of insults to tangata te whenua" – he found the House to be "in disrepute".

Mallard told Waititi to take his seat – instead, Waititi performed a haka. He was then kicked out.

Waititi had objected to the question lines from Collins to Ardern before in the past fortnight, but had not brought it to a head until today.

Last Wednesday when Collins was questioning Ardern about the Māori Health Authority, Waititi stood and said "I'm wondering why two Pākehā women are talking about Māori issues when they're not talking to Māori themselves. There's a room full of us."

Speaking to media outside the House today, Watiti said the Māori Party was "sick and tired of Māori being used as a political football".

He said National's rhetoric around its opposition to a separate Māori Health Authority had led to the incitement of racism towards Māori on social media.

"We won't stand for that anymore," he said.

That means his party is prepared to leave the House again if he feels the same "racist" rhetoric from National continues.

Waititi claimed that some people have cans thrown at them in supermarkets in "racially premeditated attacks", suggesting National's rhetoric on this issue spurred this.

National has denied that its opposition to separate Māori-specific entities was racist.

Ngarewa-Packer told reporters Collins started this "but it's the House that determines the behaviour".

She said it was the Māori Party's job to call National's rhetoric in the House to order.

"It's not about shutting down the National Party – it's about shutting down racist rhetoric."

Waititi said he would have liked a few members of Labour's caucus to follow the Māori Party out of the chamber today as well.

Collins told reporters she would continue to ask the questions until Ardern gave answers.

She denied they were racist, saying that was a "lazy" depiction.

"I will not stop asking questions in Parliament about constitutional changes the Prime Minister is working on until she answers them directly.

"I would like all Māori to know this is not talking about Māori, but about constitutional arrangements the Government is clearly talking to Māori about. My question is when are they going to have that conversation with every other New Zealander."

Ardern responded to Collins: "What the member characterises as separatism I characterise as partnership."