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John MacDonald: Don't turn a blind eye to last night's spectacle

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 May 2024, 12:32pm
Green MP Julie Anne Genter. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Green MP Julie Anne Genter. Photo / Mark Mitchell

John MacDonald: Don't turn a blind eye to last night's spectacle

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 May 2024, 12:32pm

One of the cliches people often use when they’re talking about politicians and the way they behave in Parliament is that they behave like “a bunch of kids”. 

I’ve been hearing people say that forever. And, of course, what they’re talking about is the way politicians sometimes lose their rag when they’re debating things in the House. 

But Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter went next level last night, walking across the debating chamber and going-off at National's Matt Doocey. 

She was waving a pamphlet and yelling right into his face. You can see it online, it’s everywhere, thanks to Parliament being filmed all the time these days.  

Now she’s apologised and could face further action. And I think she should face further action. In fact, I don’t know why she hasn’t been suspended by the party, that’s what I think they need to do ASAP. 

And she wouldn’t be the first. You’ll remember that another Green MP is currently suspended. This is Darleen Tana, who the Greens suspended after allegations that she was linked to migrant exploitation at a business her husband runs. 

And Golriz Gharaman, of course, was suspended after the shoplifting accusations started to emerge at the beginning of this year.  

Now you could say there’s a difference here because with Darleen Tana, she’s been linked to potential illegal activity. And Golriz Gharaman was accused of illegal activity and subsequently admitted her guilt.  

Whereas Julie Anne Genter just lost her cool in Parliament last night. Which is putting it mildly. 

And you’re not going to hear me defend what she did but I’m sure, like me, you can appreciate that politicians are pretty highly skilled when it comes to getting under each other's skin. And I know from our dealings on the show, that Matt Doocey is pretty skilled in that department.          

Nevertheless, she lost it. And she should be stood down because of it.  

I see one of her fellow Green MPs, Steve Abel, is saying there was no physical contact and Genter had returned to her seat as soon as the Deputy Speaker —who was running things at the time— asked her to. 

Which is nonsense.  

To say there was no physical contact so nothing to see here, is just ridiculous. Because you imagine if I went out into the office at work with a piece of paper and started waving it around and yelling into someone’s face.   

Do you think my bosses would say to the person ‘oh yeah, but he didn’t actually hit you, there was no physical contact, so stop your whinging’? Of course, they wouldn’t.    

And I think National MP Vanessa Weenink is making a very good point today, saying that if it was her (instead of Matt Doocey) and a male MP had confronted her in the same way as Genter did, then things would be viewed differently. 

And I think, sadly, that would be the case. Because, unless the Greens do suspend her, what they’re doing is they’re telling Matt Doocey that he’s a big boy and he should be able to handle a woman going off at him. 

Now chances are, Julie Anne Genter will be referred to Parliament’s Privileges Committee - which, like all select committees, is made up of MPs from across Parliament and considers complaints made about the way MPs behave. 

Recently, we’ve had the likes of Jan Tinneti and Grant Robertson referred to the Privileges Committee. Back in 2008, Winston Peters was referred for failing to disclose a large donation.  

Speaking of Winston, you might have heard him saying on Newstalk ZB this morning that he doesn't think Julie Anne Genter’s apology cuts it. 

He said: ”I think she just lost the plot.” And her saying “I made you feel unsafe and I’m sorry” just ‘doesn’t cut it’." And I agree.  

So, she is likely to end up in front of the Privileges Committee, providing there’s a complaint from another MP about what she got up to last night. But that’s not enough, as far as I’m concerned. 

What needs to happen is, behind the scenes, the Green Party needs to tell the likes of its MP Steve Abel to stop trying to defend what she did. To stop this nonsense about it not being so bad because she didn’t actually hit Matt Doocey. That’s behind the scenes. 

And publicly, it needs to come out today and announce that it is suspending Julie Anne Genter for her behaviour, because just leaving it to the Privileges Committee isn’t enough. 

If she isn’t suspended, then the Greens will be saying loud and clear that what she did last night is fine by them. 

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