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Jason Walls: The week the Greens and Te Pati Māori lost the moral high ground

Jason Walls,
Publish Date
Sat, 11 May 2024, 5:00am

Jason Walls: The week the Greens and Te Pati Māori lost the moral high ground

Jason Walls,
Publish Date
Sat, 11 May 2024, 5:00am

“People are watching, and they do deserve better of us.”

That was the line used by former Green MP Golriz Ghahraman, after a National MP was censured by Parliament for “threatening behaviour” at a Select Committee last year.

She said she hoped the incident would prompt a conversation about the way MPs treat each other, and that the bad actions of MPs can be harmful to debate within the House, and outside it.

That conversation might have happened for many in Parliament – but Ghahraman’s words clearly fell upon the deaf ears of her own party.

None more so than Julie Anne Genter.

After her shocking display in the House last week, where she displayed clear intimidatory behaviour to National Minister Matt Doocey, all eyes were on Genter’s return to Parliament on Tuesday morning.

The stakes were raised over the weekend, after two separate allegations of aggressive behaviour towards members of the public hit the headlines.

Genter was “working from home” the day after the incident in the House – an unusual move for someone with both an electorate office and an office in Parliament.

Eyebrows were raised.

Then came news she was going to the Chatham Islands for a “long-planned trip to attend the annual Chatham Islands Stakeholder Forum”.

Eyebrows were raised even higher.

If it wasn’t for 1News Political Editor Maiki Sherman’s tenacious stakeout of Wellington’s Airforce base – where Genter’s plane to the Chathems was leaving from – the Green MP’s plan to dodge media and accountability would have been complete.

If that wasn’t bad enough – the Party’s co-leaders made things worse.

After investigating the incident in the House, Speaker Gerry Brownlee referred the matter to the powerful privileges committee.

It’s that committee of high-ranking Members from all sides of the House that will recommend the punishment for the embattled MP.

A privileges punishment usually amounts to a slap with a wet bus ticket.

National’s Tim van de Molen was found by that committee to have displayed intimidatory behaviour to Labour’s Shannon Halbert at a select committee meeting last year – he was made to apologise to the House.

The real punishment, however, came from National leader Chris Luxon – who stripped him of his Defence, Veterans, Building and Construction, and ACC portfolios.

A clearer precedent couldn’t have been set.

Despite this, Green co-leader Marama Davidson said Genter would not be losing any of her portfolios.

"She’s one of this country’s most experienced and passionate MPs when it comes to transport,” Davidson said, when defending her decision not to punish Genter.

In terms of the consequences of her actions: “I think she’s already feeling some of them, and has been for the past week”.

As the co-leaders gave Genter a get-out-of-jail-free card, they’re yet to provide an update on another embattled caucus member.

It’s been almost two months since the Greens said it would take a few weeks for an investigation into alleged incidences of migrant exploitation at the e-cycle shop new MP Darleen Tana used to run with her husband.

That investigation, the Greens leaderships say, is ongoing while Tana receives full pay.

Meanwhile, Te Pati Māori continues in its quest to find new ways of jumping the shark.

Mariameno Kapa-Kingi shocked those in the House last week by accusing the Government of having a "mission to exterminate Māori".

After criticism, Kapa-Kingi doubled down; as did co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.

It’s not the first time the party’s used such inflammatory language.

Ngarewa-Packer has accused the new Government of “deliberate, systemic genocide” over its policies to roll back the smoke-free policy and the Māori Health Authority.

Te Pati Māori, quite rightly, called out Winston Peters after he likened the previous Government’s moves around Co-Governance to the Nazi regime.

But they’re quickly losing the ability to hold other parties to account over inflammatory language when they so frequently and unapologetically engage in the same behaviour.

As are the Greens when it comes to holding other political parties to account over the actions of their MPs.

In a somewhat ironic twist of fate, Te Pati Māori and the Greens need to pay closer attention to Ghahraman’s words – who, after multiple shoplifting convictions, clearly didn’t abide by them either.

“People are watching, and they do deserve better of us.”

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