An Open Letter To Mps Regarding Their Behaviour In The House
As i trooped on down to the House on the last sitting day of 2003 to watch you all in action, i realised how privileged we, as members of the public are to be able to observe the legislative process within the House of Representatives, and how privileged you are to be in such a safe country, environment and parliament where you don't need to worry about Joe Bloggs carrying a grenade and throwing it from the gallery seats. This says alot about our country and we should be proud of it!
While sitting in the gallery, observing some interesting and intelligent speakers - i also came to realise how negative and abusive some of you can be towards eachother.
It is sad that leaders of society behave in the way that many of you do. Why is it acceptable that MPs can yell and scream at eachother, and get away with it? Why do MPs insult eachother? Why attack the person instead of the issue? What makes it appropriate for an MP to abuse someone in the House? No doubt, if an MPs Secretary were to speak that way to an MP - they would be sacked. Why the double standards?
I have been told over and over again by many of you that Parliament needs to have rigorous debate and at times this will need to be hard and tense. But you can't tell me that abuse and violence are neccessary in order for you to have robust and strong debate.
I witnessed a number of times this year MPs being evicted from the chamber by the Speaker- and it reminded me of when i used to be a little brat at school and insult the teacher so i could be popular among the other kids. That's what some of you look like at times, little children who throw tantrums and shout abuse as if its the only way to get attention and be heard. It is really dissapointing.
Of course i understand that Parliament must have rigorous debate and that the Government must be challenged etc, and i accept that MPs need a certain amount of priviledge in order to express themselves freely. But what i do not understand is why MPs are allowed to be so abusive and get away with it. Is this really neccessary to insult? Is it realy appropriate to yell/scream at another human being?
I support the idea of implementing a Code of Conduct for behaviour in the house because from where i'm sitting there is obviously a need for one.
I note that Wellingon High School students did a report last year, and in it they said "the behaviour is at a level that would not be accepted in a school playground" and "we expect our leaders to be role models and lead by example". It certainly seems bizarre that it takes children to point out to adults that their behaviour is innapropriate. I was very proud of my fellow secondary school students for what they wrote because it was honest and true. It was supposed to be a reality check. So it is dissapointing that the Standing Orders committee totally ignored what they had to say. But i was not suprised, perhaps some members of this committee are too proud, or guilty, or perhaps not strong enough to make a stand opposing violence, bullying and abuse.
Furthermore when i was in the house last month observing question time, a young boy who looked about 5 years old asked his mother "Mum, why is he being naughty? are they allowed to be naughty Mum?". On many occasions i have heard school children comment on how they find MPs behaviour in the house (particularly question time) innappropriate. What was the mother to say? Here were Members of Parliament showing a 5 year old child what sort of behaviour is acceptable in society.
Though many of you may not realise what sort of image you portray when debating in the house, i am sure that you are aware of your low standing in society and i have no doubt that behaviour in the house contributes to this. And the sad response that some MPs give such as "you can't judge all of us by the behaviour of a few" just doesn't work because that is exactly what happens! My suggestion is that MPs should not just sit there and allow the minority to behave negatively because we expect you to be cleaning up New Zealand - and a good place to start is in Parliament itself.
In my observation of the house, certain MPs stand out in terms of their behaviour. I am not going to point out those that let the house down, but people like Simon Power, Sue Kedgley, Jeanette Fitzsimons, Gordon Copeland, Judy Turner, Deborah Coddington and Tariana Turia (and a few others) are well disciplined and have a good image in the house. These people stand out because they are respectful and polite and at the same time they are strong and alert. They could teach some of you a thing or two. They are examples that you don't need to yell or scream or insult or abuse eachother to get your point accross. In the house, they are role models and i commend them.
My plea to MPs for the new year is that you clean up your act and follow these role models. There is a need to implement a Code of Conduct for behaviour in the house. It needs to start from the top, leaders need to lead by example because New Zealand deserves nothing less! Respect eachother as equal human beings.
Areti Metuamate - NZ
Don Brash's New Policies
Hey, I'm writing to let the readers out there know what many NZ'ers think of Don Brash and his new policies, that is the other side of the story.
Now i'm no racist, so don't get me wrong, i believe the maori culture is a beautiful thing that should never be lost. However the Waitangi claims have gone on far too long.
Don Brash is right in saying that what happened at Waitangi, and before may have been a mistake from the Europeans at that time, but why are we as a people still having to pay for their mistakes?
It happened over a hundred years ago, not one person alive today was there. Why are the NZ europeans still being blamed for someones mistake of which we had no say over. We weren't there to say "hey buddy you shouldn't really be doing that," yet we are still blamed for there crimes, even though we had nothing to do with it....
He is also right in saying that maori in NZ have have more preferential rights in this country. Why is it that when i tried, and i tried very hard, to find scholarships to NZ universities, i found literally hundreds of scholarships for maori, which european nz'ers where not allowed to apply for. Is that right? Is that equal opportunites for all???
Why is it that when applying to go to medical school in Otago for example, a maori NZer doesn't need the high grade a non-maori NZer does to apply. So does that mean that a non-maori NZer has to work twice as hard to get the same opportunites that a maori NZer does?
Yes, thats exactly how it is. Why is it like that though? Why are the maori given these opprtunites? To make up for a lack of maori Dr.s in New Zealand? Shouldn't they have to work just as hard as anyone else to get to that position? I think so.
Why can't we put the past behind us, can't you see that instead of pulling us together as one people the Waitangi claims are just further pushing us apart.
Another thing which annoys me is the fact that whenever anyone ever says anything about maori it is considered racist. How is Don Brash racist? He wants equal opportunites for all, all races in NZ to be united under one law! Is it racist to think that all people in a country be considered equal?
Is it racist to want to have all people in a country given the same opportunities? Is it racist for a country to have one law for all people? I think not...
However whenever someone thinks that maori may lose their privelidges, and the opportunites they get which noone else does, it is considered racist....
If Don Brash is elected, and his policies go through, then i'll be very happy. We will be able to at last unite as one people, under equal law, with equal opportunites, the way it should be! Don't think that maori culture will be lost, it can never be lost.
_ Adelle - NZ
In the last 24 hours I have been hearing opinions from a range of Maori spokespersons, all considered mainstream or moderates, making a range of threats and statements to the effect that that if Dr Don Brash implements his policies outlined in his Orewa speech, there will be political and civil unrest in this country.
Dr Bruce Gregory essentially threatens Dr Brash not to talk politics at the Waitangi marae on our national day, due to the likelihood of "inflamed tensions" becoming "physical".
The Chairman of Muriwhenua, not exactly a "Ken Mair" figure, essentially insists that Maori will never let go their ambitions to establish a "dual sovereignty", with separate Maori and Pakeha "Upper Houses" governing New Zealand.
What absolutely astonsishes me is that no-one, but no-one in our PC-obsessed national media asks the simplest of questions of these people. Why for example is it acceptable for a Maori to threaten civil disobedience and violence, but the same actions from any other New Zealander would likely be labelled "terrorism".
Why is it that a Maori spokesperson imply that the Leader of the Opposition (a role of some stature in our democracy) should keep silent lest he be manhandled? Surely a white skinned person making such a statememnt would be inviting immediate police attention?
And what precisely do Maori tribal leaders mean by "dual sovereignty" and how do they envisage such a thing operating in practice? And if so, what cultural basis or precedent can they offer to show that such an arrangement might work? A moments' contemplation throws up inumerable questions about the details of this proposal; and in such details lie all the devils. Just one "for instance":
Assume now we have two "Upper Houses". Who determines how the members are chosen? Presumably Maori cultural practice is that those with the "whakapapa", the "upper class browns" would self select from among their number. Why would any of the rest of NZ accept the legitimacy of a House so constituted?
Or would they conduct elections, and who would be eligible to vote for it? For example, I have no Maori cultural identification, yet due to the fact that my grandfather served and died in the Maori Battalion in WWII, on racial grounds I qualify as well as any other of my browner skinned cousins as Maori. Am I then to be compelled to vote in a "Maori plebiscite" in which I have no desire to participate, or do I get to choose which sovereignty I vote for, and can I swap sides at my whim? The same dilemma of mixed racial and cultural identity would afflict huge numbers of New Zealanders. We may not have been "one people" in 1840, but we are rapidily becoming one now.
At the outset we would be told that the two Houses would operate in the "interests of all New Zealanders", but of course there is no point to a seperate Maori legislative House, unless it did promote Maori interests ahead others. With time the distinctions between the two cultural groups would accumulate, and it begs of course the question, where do you draw the line?
Ulitmately one might postulate two sets of laws, two set of taxes, seperate sets of government institutions for each race, a "pakeha police" and an "iwi police". Separate court and prison systems, hospitals, schools (oopps we have them already). What if the Maori and Pakeha governments enacted different traffic laws? One legal regime applying to those those identified as "Pakeha" and the another for those culturally identifying with a tribal iwi, is of course an economic and social absurdity, but if a "dual sovereignty" is the goal of Maori tribal leaders, how else do they think to give effect to it? If Maori leaders have a more sophisticated vision for the future of New Zealand than this, then surely they would not mind explaining it to us. Iif they think it is such a good plan... why are they not pressing it forward for public scrutiny?
Just a few months ago almost everyone imagined the Crown held undisputed authority over the foreshore and oceans. Now we are told this is not so, and that Maori tribes owned it all along.
Recently the Wellington based "Tenths Trust" proudly displayed a map which in a pink colour embraced almost all of the Wellington region as land the tribe still regarded as "theirs". Of course the spokeperson was quick to assure us that the land they are currently seeking restoration of, is only some much smaller blue coloured patches of now very valuable public real estate; but how long then before Maori become bold enough to assert ownership to all their pre-1840 tribal territories as per their "indigneous rights", regardless of whether it is now in Crown or private title? So far non-Maori have been allowed to draw the assumption that privately held title will not be ever claimed, but so we thought of the foreshore and seabed...until just a few months ago.
Philip Wilkie - NZ
Brash Has My Vote
At last we have a Opposition Leader who can raise an issue and keep it alive in the media, who can win over New Zealanders with rational and articulate argument and who is sufficiently able to think on his feet to hold his own against Kim Hill.
Don Brash has my vote.
Michael Williams – Auckland, NZ