In a speech in Parliament yesterday Green co-leader James Shaw has hit back at John Key and the Government and National after Key’s remarks in Parliament about opposition MPs supporting rapists and murderers and ‘child molesterers’.
He said that Key ” lacks leadership” and his comments were “completely unparliamentary”, and until Key withdraws his comments “this House will continue to see a high level of disorder”.
He also said that “the members of the Opposition now have no confidence in the procedures of this House and no confidence in the Chair” (the Speaker) and “you have to accept that because of the nature of those rulings that we are going to see continued disorder”.
Shaw got into tricky legal territory in turning the focus on Key’s and National’s embarrassing secret – this is currently subject to court ordered suppression so some details are edited and PLEASE TAKE CARE IF COMMENTING.
JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green): The last couple of days have been a very sad time in this Parliament. Given that the last speaker, the Hon Hekia Parata, spoke about the quality of leadership provided by our Prime Minister and some of the statements that he has chosen to stand by, to not resile from, and to not apologise for, I am just going to read out a few other quotes of his that I think he may want to stand by in the future as well: “He made a very significant contribution to our caucus.” “He’s a loss in terms of the contribution I’ve seen him make as a politician.” “I’m very happy for him to continue in the position that he does.” “He is a fully functioning member of the caucus.” Those are in relation to [Edit – identification of person]. So when we stand accused of backing rapists and murderers we take great offence.
Alfred Ngaro: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Those comments—that current issue is actually before the courts and so I would like to take a point of order about it being sub judice.
Mr SPEAKER: I think on this occasion those remarks are OK within the general debate. I will listen more carefully. If there is any reference to a matter that is before the courts, that would of course be out of order. At this stage the speech is in order and it can continue.
JAMES SHAW: So when we stand accused of backing rapists and murderers and paedophiles, I say that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. The quality of leadership—so-called—that has been provided by our—
Mark Mitchell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to draw your attention to the fact that in the member’s speech he spoke about [Edit – identification of person] and then immediately started talking about rapists and drawing the Prime Minister into the debate. I do not know whether that is appropriate. I do not think it is because he is trying to link the two together.
Tracey Martin: Speaking to the point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, I do not need assistance from the member. It is a dangerous territory that we are in. At this stage I have ruled that the speech can continue. If it moves to an area that is before the courts, then I would cease the speech immediately, because I am very conscious that Parliament has the responsibility that the judiciary has. In future if any members wish to get close to this line, the Standing Orders are quite clear that you need, in writing, to take this matter up with Speaker so he can be better prepared. But I have ruled that the speech at this stage and certainly where it has now moved to can continue. I do not want further objections unless we go into an area of territory that is dangerous, and, frankly, I will be listening very carefully, so I will be the first on my feet, I suspect.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled on the matter. Is it a fresh point of order?
Chris Hipkins: It is a fresh point of order. I will try to be very careful in doing so. It is that where members suspect that the particular Standing Orders that you are referring to—and I think we all know what they are—are being transgressed, I think we get ourselves into some difficult territory that it may be useful for you to provide some further guidance on to the House. Members may interpret a comment a member is making as traversing that material that either was not intended or so, but in raising a point of order they may themselves actually introduce material that links comments that either were not intended or were not intended in that way. I wonder whether you can give us some clarity on how members can raise that without themselves getting into the difficulty with the courts.
That’s an interesting and valid point. While initial comments may go close to a legal line it’s possible that comments in response could combine to threaten to trip over that line.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Well, I do not think there is any guidance I can give on that, but I accept the point the member is making. The issue now has been highlighted by the points of order raised. That is, effectively, what the member is saying. As I said, I have not ruled anything out at this stage but I am listening carefully. I invite Mr Shaw to continue his contribution.
JAMES SHAW: When we stand accused of backing rapists and paedophiles and murderers, we take great offence—particularly those members who have been the victims of rapists and paedophiles and murderers and who have fought for years and years and years for the rights of those victims. I find it absolutely extraordinary that the Prime Minister has chosen to distract from his own troubles by choosing to go on the offence and to say—for some inexplicable reason—that the records of members on this side of the House in fighting that fights are somehow the exact opposite. That is what he is accusing them of.
Key obviously hit a raw nerve. His attack was deliberate but he may not have considered the potential rammificatins of what he said.
That is an extraordinary thing. I mean, the lines that he is using—I get that they have been dreamt up in the Australian offices—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Crosby/Textor.
JAMES SHAW: —of political consulting firm Crosby/Textor, because they have been trotted out here and in Australia. He wants to look tough on crime, and I know it is a dog whistle to the kind of red meat brigade who consistently vote for National. But it is absolutely unacceptable in this House to accuse members of the Opposition of backing rapists and murderers. It is completely unparliamentary. It lacks leadership. It brings this House into disrepute. It is quite clear that until an apology is made for those comments and until they are withdrawn that this House will continue to see a high level of disorder. Mr Speaker, I would like you to reflect on your own rulings. I recognise that you have made a number of rulings in relation to this matter over the last several hours and looked at the events of yesterday, but you have to accept that because of the nature of those rulings that we are going to see continued disorder. Essentially, what has happened is that the members of the Opposition now have no confidence in the procedures of this House and no confidence in the Chair.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will stand and withdraw that comment.
JAMES SHAW: I withdraw and apologise, Mr Speaker—unlike our Prime Minister, who does not have the grace to do so.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just carry on with the speech.
JAMES SHAW: What we have seen here is that the Opposition has been attempting to hold the Government to account on its human rights record, attempting to hold our Australian friends to account for their transgressions of human rights.
What has happened is that in order to distract from that issue and in order to look tough on crime and boost the poll ratings amongst the sort of “Stamp them on the neck until they stop what they’re doing” crowd, the “Lock them up and throw away the key” crowd—I think it is the Prime Minister who should be locked up.
Emotions were obviously high but that’s starting to look like tit for tat abuse.
The extraordinary thing here is that they have just gone on the offensive and decided that in order to distract from all of that they are going to lay it on this side of the House—that for some reason members who have been abused, members who have stood up for the victims of abuse for their entire career are somehow backing rapists and murderers and paedophiles. It is utterly absurd. It is completely offensive. It lacks leadership. It is unparliamentary, and it brings into disrepute this House and our proceedings.
Parliament looks set to be a very unhappy place unless this is dealt with apropriately by all concerned.