Review into bullying and harassment at Parliament

The Speaker, Trevor Mallard, has announced an external review into the bullying and harassment of staff at Parliament.

Note that this doesn’t address behaviour between MPs in Parliament or via the media, and it doesn’t address bullying and harassment of MPs by media.


Independent review launched into bullying and harassment at Parliament

Speaker of the House, Rt Hon Trevor Mallard, announced today that an independent external review into bullying and harassment of staff within the Parliamentary workplace will take place.

“Bullying and harassment are not acceptable in any workplace. It’s important that people at Parliament feel respected, safe, and supported each day coming to work,” the Speaker said.

The review will begin in early December 2018 and is expected to take at least four months to complete. It will look to:

  • Establish whether bullying and harassment (including sexual harassment) has occurred and, if it has, the nature and extent of this towards staff employed or engaged since the 51st Parliament (since October 2014). This includes contract staff, who regularly work on precinct, and former staff who no longer work in the Parliamentary workplace.
  • Review how previous complaints have been handled; whether policies, procedures, and related controls are effective; how they compare to best practice and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015; and whether there are any barriers to reporting or making complaints
  • Assess the culture of Parliament as a place to work and allow for consideration of other matters brought up in the review.

A draft report, with findings and recommendations, will be presented to the Speaker and the Chief Executive or General Manager of participating Parliamentary agencies. Following the delivery of the report, the agencies will consider how to action the report’s recommendations.

At an appropriate time, the report will be made public.

Who is leading the review?

Debbie Francis, an experienced consultant and independent external reviewer, will carry out the review. Debbie has previously led performance improvement reviews at Parliament, and elsewhere on behalf of the State Services Commission. Her recent work on bullying and harassment at the New Zealand Defence Force will be of particular value to this review.

The Speaker is sponsoring the review and will work with the agencies for which he is responsible to address the findings.

Participating in the review

The review will provide current and former Parliamentary staff with an opportunity to share any relevant experiences of bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment, within the Parliamentary workplace. The review covers people employed or engaged by the Parliamentary Service, Ministerial and Secretariat Services, and the Office of the Clerk since the 51st Parliament.

 

The non-naming of the National MP raises media issues

The non-naming of the National MP alleged to have had a several year relationship with Jami-Lee Ross continues, despite probably anyone who wants to know knowing who it is.

It is odd to see the media refraining from naming her, still. Neither National nor Labour want this going public, and there may be some journalists worried about where naming one unfaithful person involved in politics may lead.

The Southland Times should have a special interest in this considering where the MP has her electorate. Today’s editorial: ‘Moving on’ is not acceptable

An editorial published on October 25 raised the point that another issue had arisen from the Jami-Lee Ross saga, in relation to the “You deserve to die” text, said to be from a colleague with whom he acknowledged he had been having an affair.

Was it possible this text could be a breach of the Harmful Digital Communication Act, and could the sender of the text really stay in her role as an MP?

So, on November 8, the following questions were put to the National Party

* The “deserve to die” text reportedly came from a married MP. While National has indicated it is doing a review of its culture, has a separate investigation been launched to speak to the MP who reportedly sent his text?

* What discussions has the party had with the MP who reportedly sent a text like that?

* Has that MP been censured, faced internal discipline, or been stood down from duties? If no action has been taken by the party, why not?

* Does the National Party believe that the text message sent breached the Harmful Digital Communication Act?

* Does the National Party still believe the MP, who reportedly sent the text, is still fit to be an MP and represent the National Party, given they reportedly sent a text saying someone deserved to die?

* Has the MP offered to stand down? Or, are they still carrying out their duties as normal?

And wait for it, here’s the no comment from National.

“The National Party has no comment on these matters. Jami-Lee Ross is no longer a National MP and the party is moving on.”

Moving on … we don’t think so.

National may be “moving on” as it puts it, but in its wake it is leaving a trail of distrust, arrogance, and a big finger to its own party values.

Don’t forget that front and centre of National’s core values for building a society are two important words. Personal Responsibility.

Surely by now the MP in question would front up and take personal responsibility.

Hypocrites.

So the Southland Times slams National and the MP – but doesn’t name the MP.  This is a very strange approach from media.

It’s not just media – both National and Labour seem to want this kept quiet. On the AM show yesterday:

Duncan Garner: I’m not going to name names, ok, because um i don’t really know if it’s true or not, but can you tell me this, we’ll keep it generic.

Was Jami-lee Ross having relationships or affairs with National MPs?

Judith Collins: Well I don’t know. What I do know is that clearly there was something going on, but I always try and keep out of other people’s personal business, and what I do know is that that’s one of the things that I’ve always taken, is a given that you never get involved in other people’s business.

Michael Wood: …look, the Prime Minister from the top down in our Government has said that we don’t want to get involved in this stuff. We’ve got our job to do, going down the personal track with this kind of thing is not a healthy route for our democracy and our politics.

So that’s a clear message that Labour don’t want to get involved in personal relationships.

Given how much the parties attack and criticise each other over all sorts of things this is a curious situation.

More so the media’s reluctance to reveal a name – lest it become names? Jami-lee Ross threatened to ‘lift the bed sheets’ on Parliament, and if that happened it would be likely to name and out more than just MPs.

Graham Adams at Noted has concerns about this apparent pact of silence – The Jami-Lee Ross saga: Questions around cover-ups continue

Cover-ups — or allegations of them — leave a lingering stench that no amount of air-freshener can disguise. Simon Bridges may have tried to clear the air this week by testily telling journalists that he is moving on from Jami-Lee Ross and doesn’t want to talk about him any more but that seems much more like wishful thinking than acknowledging political reality.

But as the messy Jami-Lee Ross saga rolls on, accusations of cover-ups are not being levelled only at Bridges, Paula Bennett and the National Party. The news media — and particularly Parliament’s press gallery — have been accused of their own cover-up regarding the questions they are not asking in relation to the married National MP who apparently had a long-standing affair with Ross.

She was one of the four anonymous Newsroom complainants who made allegations about being bullied by Ross and she was later also reported to have sent Ross an abusive text that included the words, “You deserve to die.”

Richard Harman, who publishes the authoritative Politik newsletter, recently asked on the Kiwi Journalists Association Public Group Facebook page (which can be read by the public “in order to promote transparency, which as journalists we expect from others”) whether his fellow journalists thought he should publish her name.

Harman wrote: “Like most political journalists, I believe I know who that MP is… The inexorable pressure is now moving towards naming the MP. It’s a very difficult ethical issue. I certainly have emails from people on the left making the same allegation as Whaleoil — that the Press Gallery is party to a cover-up. But equally at what point does this simply become prurient gossip?”

There is certainly a difficult issue in how much personal relationship information should be made public. It would be bad if every little pash and bonk made the headlines. But there must be a line somewhere in between minor and major, rather than a comprehensive brick wall.

Although nearly all the opinions in response (including mine) were in favour of naming her, Harman concluded that he would be guided by the aphorism that “What the public is interested in is not necessarily in the public interest” and that she should remain anonymous.

Is ‘public interest’ the overriding factor here? Or is it self interest from media who fear what might come out?

In fact, there are very good reasons in the public interest to name her, and the Facebook discussion canvassed most of them. Obviously, there is the old-fashioned test of hypocrisy. If the married MP is indeed the one who has been widely named on social media, she represents a conservative electorate, is a social conservative herself, and publicly espouses family values. At the very least, you might think, voters might like to be told who she is so they could decide whether to continue supporting her.

It’s likely that many in her electorate will know who it is and may judge her accordingly at the next election, but that doesn’t excuse the media being some sort of moral guardian.

It’s not as if political journalists don’t know who the MP is either if they want to ask questions. All the news organisations to which the abusive text was leaked must know, including RNZ. And Heather du Plessis-Allan and others who work for Newstalk ZB must also know because in an interview with Ross he named her (which was bleeped out).

The hypocrisy test can also be used to judge the media alongside the MP. Certainly, the argument that it is not in the public interest to name her stands in stark contrast to the media feeding frenzy that erupted in 2013 when news of a sexual liaison between Auckland mayor Len Brown and a junior council adviser was made public on the Whale Oil blog.

Once the name is published it may open the floodgates, but not even Whale Oil has gone as far as naming her on this occasion – Slater has all but named her, but not ‘crossed the line’.

The fact that five years later the media is so coy about naming a married National MP who anonymously gave Newsroom highly personal details about her relationship with another married National MP inevitably raises uncomfortable questions — including whether there is one rule for Parliament which has a dedicated press gallery that operates in a symbiotic relationship with politicians and another for councils which don’t.

A casual observer might conclude that when you’re a woman like Chuang who is an ambitious nobody you’re fair game but when you’re a woman like the National MP who is an ambitious somebody the media will protect you.

And that’s hardly a good way to inspire trust in the media’s impartiality or its willingness to upset powerful people.

I suspect that some of the difference between Brown/Chuang and Ross/Dowie is national versus local politics. Local body politics is much more fragmented, both elected representatives and media.

Parliament is not just a grouping of MPs frequently in one place, it is also a media gallery of journalists who work alongside each other and alongside MPs a lot. It’s like some sort of club that has adhered to ‘what happens on tour stays on tour’.

I think that the media should name the MP who is at the centre of this issue, but if the do they should also look at the wider issue of relationships and sex amounts MPs, journalists and staff.

Journalists should disclose personal relationships if it relates to politicians they are reporting on and giving their opinions on. There are issues with journalists straying more and more into political activist roles, so the public has a right to know who may be influencing their opinions and their choice of stories and headlines.

The naming of the MP may be uncomfortable for parties and politicians, but they have long records of keeping things private and secret of they can get way with it.

It is up to journalists and media to investigate and to reveal pertinent political secrets. When they don’t want to go near the sex and relationship thing it suggests they could have secrets of their own they don’t want disclosed.

This is not a good situation for the supposedly without favour fearless fourth estate to be in.

Protest over Parliamentary prayer

There was a sizeable protest at Parliament yesterday against the removal of ‘Jesus’ from Parliament’s prayer (I think that ‘god’ should also be removed from it).

‘Judas Mallard’ is rather over the top.

In January: New parliamentary prayer a compromise, says Mallard

One of the first things Trevor Mallard did after being appointed Speaker last year was to update the prayer read out at the start of each question time.

Mr Mallard said the reference to Jesus was a Christian one, and he wanted the prayer to be more inclusive of other religious beliefs.

He said the prayer was still a work in progress, and he will “keep thinking about”.

There had been consultation and feedback from MPs across the Parliament.

The majority, he said wanted a secular prayer, but he has settled on what he described as a “compromise”.

Yesterday: Protesters push to put Jesus back in Parliamentary prayer

Today’s rally was arranged by the group Jesus for New Zealand and included prayers by pastors from a number of evangelical churches.

Event organiser Ross Smith said New Zealand had a Christian heritage that he did not want erased.

“It’s a legacy. The principals and the values that are in this nation are based on our Christian-Judea roots.”

Removing the name would destroy those roots, he said.

New Zealand is supposed to have democracy separated from religion, has largely moved on from traditional Christian practices.

It is also important to note that some significant principals and the values that are in this nation are based were pre-Christian Aotearoa.

Petition of Pastor Ross Smith for Jesus for NZ – Include Jesus Christ in Parliamentary Prayer

Petition of Pastor Ross Smith for Jesus for NZ, That the House of Representatives revise the Standing Orders to provide that the parliamentary prayer must include the name of Jesus Christ

Stuff: Parliamentary prayer rally calls for speaker to reinstate references to Jesus

Mallard said in a statement that he had no plans to make further changes to the Parliamentary prayer but respected the views of those who protested at the rally.

What about praying for no religious prayer in Parliament? Will that work?

 

Jami-Lee Ross ‘improving’, uncertainty over future

Jami-Lee Ross is said to be improving after surviving a “very real situation” on Saturday night and being sectioned and admitted in mental health care, but it will likely take time to find out what impact this will have on his future as a now independent electorate MP after the National caucus ejected him last week.

The Mental health Foundation is disappointed in how Ross’ mental health situation has been described and discussed in media including social media, and says it is necessary to separate political decisions from mental health problems – but this may not be simple given that Ross’ political decisions have been obviously influenced by his mental health situation.

NZ Herald – Jami-Lee Ross improving, getting the mental health help he needs – friend

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross is improving but remains in the mental health wing at Middlemore Hospital, after surviving a “very real situation” on Saturday night, a friend says.

Concern for Ross’ health has amplified since he was picked up by police on Sunday and sectioned to a mental health facility.

“He’s a bit rough at the moment, but getting the help he needs. He’s in good care. Staff are wonderful,” said the friend, who did not want to be named.

“This was definitely not attention-seeking. It was a very real situation he was in on Saturday night,” the friend added.

It could take some time before we know what will happen from here.

Ross will continue to hold the seat of Botany unless he resigns, National leader Simon Bridges uses the waka-jumping law (a process that takes at least 21 working days), or Ross is deemed unfit due to mental health reasons (a process that takes at least six months).

The friend said there had been no discussion about whether he might resign, as Ross had “more important things” to think about at this stage.

Following Ross’ admission to hospital, several steps need to occur before Speaker Trevor Mallard would be notified that an MP was the subject of a compulsory treatment order.

Mallard said he had not received any such notice, but constitutional lawyer Graeme Edgeler said informing the Speaker was the last step in a process that could take weeks.

It was standard practice to take five days to make a mental health assessment, Edgeler said.

“But if the five days isn’t enough, it can be extended to 14 days. If those have happened and they still wish to compulsorily treat someone, they then ask a Family Court judge.

“If the judge makes a compulsory treatment order or an equivalent order, at that point the court notifies the Speaker.

“It would be exceedingly unlikely for a court to be involved at this early stage.”

If the court issued a compulsory treatment order, the Speaker would then ask the Director-General of Health and a medical practitioner to assess if the MP was considered “mentally disordered”.

If so, a further assessment would follow six months later. If the patient was still unwell, the Speaker would be obliged to inform the House and vacate the MP’s seat, triggering a by-election.

So unless Ross resigns the uncertainty looks like extending well into next year.

Early last week Ross said he intended resigning from Parliament on Friday, but on Friday he said he had changed his mind and would remain in Parliament.

It’s hard to see how Ross could function effectively now as an electorate MP, and he is likely to have lost a lot of support in Botany. Even if he recovers mental health-wise he would also have difficulty operating alone and discredited in Parliament.

Also uncertain is whether Ross will resume his threatened attacks on National and whether he will try to ‘uncover the bed sheets’ in Parliament. He seems to be confusing consensual promiscuity, which appears to be common amongst some MPs and associated staff and journalists, and the harassment and abuses of power that he has been accused of.

Cameron Slater, who has been giving mixed messages about his involvement with Ross before he was committed to a health facility, has threatened a number of times over the weekend to reveal some sort of information – “Just wait and watch what happens this week.”

One might think both Ross and Slater have enough problems to deal with already without lashing out further – they both may have little more to lose politically given how toxic and isolated they have both become, but as has been demonstrated in the weekend they are at personal risk from the pressures they create for themselves.

 

How Jami-Lee Ross stands in Parliament now

On Tuesday Jami-Lee Ross stated that he intended resigning from the National Party and from Parliament (he said ‘on Friday’). He has since reneged on that commitment. What is his current position in Parliament?

Sitting date: 16 Oct 2018

SPEAKER’S RULINGS

Jami-Lee Ross

SPEAKER: Under Standing Order 35(1)(c), I have been advised by the senior Opposition whip that the National Party’s parliamentary membership has changed and that Jami-Lee Ross is no longer a member of the National Party for parliamentary purposes. Accordingly, under Standing Order 34(5), Jami-Lee Ross is, from 16 October 2018, regarded as an Independent member for parliamentary purposes.

Another seating plan: https://www.parliament.nz/media/5252/house-seating-plan-as-at-17-october-2018.pdf

While that is at the far back of the Opposition side Ross may sit uneasily beside and behind his ex-colleagues. He must be just about the least trusted MP ever.

Officially he still seems to be on two select committees. He lost most of his responsibilities when he went on leave at the start of the month.

Ross has been removed the National Party ‘team’ website page.

Presumably he is still theoretically operating as an electorate MP, but he may be isolated there too.

I don’t know how Ross will be able to function in Parliament or as an electorate MP.

Added:

Newsroom:  National mulls party-hopping action as Ross clings on

National says it is considering its options – including whether to use the controversial “party-hopping” law – following rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross’s decision to cling on to his seat in Parliament.

Earlier in the week, Ross had said he would resign from Parliament on Friday and contest a by-election in his Botany seat as an independent.

However, in an interview with Newstalk ZB and subsequent remarks on Twitter, he said National had “changed the rules”, alleging the party’s involvement in a Newsroom investigation into his conduct towards women, and said he would stay on as an MP and “continue speaking out about the internal operations of the National Party”.

Ross’s decision has now raised the spectre of whether National and its leader Simon Bridges will use the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Act, legislation it has opposed bitterly, to force their MP out before he does further damage.

Electoral law expert Graeme Edgeler said under the legislation it was up to Bridges and the National caucus, not Speaker Trevor Mallard, to determine whether Ross had distorted and would continue to distort the proportionality of Parliament.

If the caucus voted by at least a two-thirds majority in support of using the party-hopping legislation, after Ross was given the required 21 working days’ notice to respond to his potential expulsion, Bridges could then deliver a letter to Mallard which would trigger Ross’s removal from Parliament and a by-election in his Botany seat.

There will no doubt be more said about what Ross may be allowed to do.

 

MP mother wants more free travel for partners

MP Kiri Allen had a baby at about the same time she got into parliament via Labour’s list. She is trying to get more free travel for MPs with young children so they can have more time with their family together.

Every parent who works has to compromise on family time, it just goes with the job.

MPs already have fairly generous pay and travel allowances.

Stuff:  Mum MP calls for travel cap change to help politicians with babies

One of Parliament’s new parents, Kiri Allen, has argued for a cap on taxpayer-funded travel for MPs’ partners to be lifted for those with young babies.

While MPs’ partners used to be allowed unlimited travel to be with the MP, the so-called “perk” was cut back in 2014 after excessive use by some.

…the partners of ordinary MPs get 20 trips a year maximum while ministers’ partners get 30 trips a year. The caps are set by the Remuneration Authority and can only be used to accompany MPs on work-related travel.

Twenty free trips a year doesn’t sound too bad to me.

Allen said the cap was difficult when her baby was less than six months old as it restricted her partner and baby to visiting Wellington only once every six weeks at a time the family wanted to spend as much time together as possible.

Speaking to the Herald afterwards, she said she knew calls to widen the entitlements could be “politically unpalatable”.

“But that would be an amendment I would advocate for if we were striving to make Parliament more family-friendly. I would advocate for an amendment for people for those first six months of a baby’s life.”

She said the entitlement should also be extended to caregivers rather than just partners.

So parents with babies can have anyone they like travelling with them to help them?

Parliament sits for 30 weeks per year between Tuesday and Thursday, and MPs living out of Wellington get to fly home at the end of short weeks in Parliament so it is hardly a long amount of time apart from both parents.

And being a list MP Allen doesn’t have the weekend commitments that electorate MPs have. It really isn’t a very onerous job for a fback bench list MP.

Allen knew what sort of job she was putting herself forward for, and will have known she was pregnant when campaigning to become an MP. But she wants more perks laid on.

I think she is trying to push her working conditions too far.

 

 

Fuel tax law passes, more price rises

Parliament has passed the regional fuel tax legislation, just in time for 1 July implementation in Auckland. TYhisn will bump petrol prices up 11.5 cents a litre, but there are claims the real increase in the near future will be double that.

RNZ: Regional fuel tax becomes law

The government’s regional fuel tax changes have become law this evening, ahead of its planned introduction in Auckland on Sunday.

The bill passed 63-57 last night with Labour, NZ First, and Greens in voting in favour, and National and ACT opposed.

It means Aucklanders will be paying another 11.5 cents at the pump, in order to pay for major transport projects.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford told the House he was excited about the possibilities for transport infrastructure, and coming solutions to congestion, once the tax is implemented in New Zealand’s biggest and most congested city.

Mr Twyford told the House that Auckland Council would be accountable for how it uses the money.

But wait, there’s more (increases). NZH: Auckland motorists face two new petrol taxes hiking pump prices by up to 15.5c a litre

The council’s regional fuel tax of 11.5 cents a litre is due to come into effect on July 1.

Weeks later, the Government looks set to increase the fuel excise tax nationwide by between 3c a litre and 4c.

Papers released to the Herald under the Official Information Act show the Government intends to increase the fuel excise tax on September 1.

A spokesman for Twyford today said the tax is part of a draft 10-year transport plan due to finalised shortly.

Raising the excise tax happens often. Over nine years the National government raised excise tax six times, once by 2 cents and five times by 3 cents (that’s a total of 17 cents).

Petrol prices rose to near record highs recently before settling back a little.

Auckland prices look set to rise by 14.5 to 15.5 cents soon, plus GST – this will be on top of normal fluctuations.

Other local bodies are lining up to also get their regional fuel tax, but areas outside Auckland may be hit regardless as petrol suppliers often shift price increases around. Regions with less price competition tend to get whacked with higher prices.

 

Parliament disarray continued

On Wednesday Paula Bennett walked out of Parliament in frustration at Speaker’s rulings. Yesterday Trevor Mallard ejected Bennett from the House in frustration at an ongoing and escalating stoush between the Opposition and the Speaker.

Question 4 was the big blow up but it was far from the only confrontation yesterday.

Question No. 4—Transport

4. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Transport: Does he remain committed to his proposals for new and increased fuel taxes in light of recent reports of petrol prices reaching record highs; if so, what consideration, if any, will he give to the increased cost of living his fuel tax proposals will have on New Zealand families?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): I am committed to striking—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! Can I ask—Ms Bennett, can you just wait at least until the Minister’s started answering before you start your interjections.

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I am committed to striking a balance between affordability and taking urgent action on the transport infrastructure deficit that we inherited. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates that the changes to fuel taxes will see an average family in Auckland pay an extra $5 per week. By contrast, our Government’s Families Package will put $75 a week into the pockets of 384,000 low to middle income families. In terms of considering the impact of taxes on fuel prices, I intend to follow the same process as the Hon Simon Bridges did in 2015.

Jami-Lee Ross: If petrol prices continue to increase, will he revisit his proposals to increase fuel taxes, which will raise petrol prices even higher?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: International oil price fluctuations have a far greater influence on petrol prices than the policy of the previous Government and this Government of regular, small excise increases. As successive Governments have shown, it makes no sense to make major infrastructure investment decisions based on highly volatile oil price fluctuations. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I’m just going to ask Mr Hudson and Mr Stuart Smith just to turn their volume down a little bit.

Marja Lubeck: What reports has he seen of past Governments varying the amount of fuel tax levied to match variations in the global oil prices?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: None.

Jami-Lee Ross: Is he concerned that the rising cost of petrol will increase even further if he is successful in increasing fuel taxes by up to 25c a litre?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, as I’ve tried to make abundantly clear to the member, the increase in fuel excise is a very, very small increase compared to oil price fluctuations. And I would point out to the member that instead of paying $400 million to the wealthiest 10 percent, this Government’s putting—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!

Jami-Lee Ross: Is he saying that his proposal to increase fuel taxes in Auckland by up to 25c a litre—as he’s announced—is small?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, what I would point out is that 25c is the maximum rate that was consulted on in the draft Government policy statement. It’s not necessarily the rate that we’re going to settle on. It applies only in Auckland, where the regional fuel tax is in place, not to the rest of the country. The reason that we are investing in our transport system is because we’ve inherited a legacy of an infrastructure deficit after nine years of totally unbalanced transport policies. We’re committed to doing the right thing for this country and the right thing for the economy.

Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question earlier was ruled out because we were referring to 2017, yet the Minister seems to be able to make comment about the last nine years as he wishes to, and I’m just asking for some clarification.

Mr SPEAKER: I have a feeling the member’s trying to relitigate a ruling I made quite some time ago. I think I will ignore it.

Hon David Bennett: Oh, you can’t do that. You just ignore things.

Marja Lubeck: What lessons will the Minister take from past increases of fuel excise while international petrol prices were high?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: In 2015, the fuel excise was increased after petrol prices increased by 40c per litre. Prices later stabilised and returned to $1.70 per litre by the end of that year, 2015. I’ve learnt from that experience that you cannot make infrastructure investment decisions based on international oil price fluctuations. They’re simply too volatile. I learnt also from the former transport Minister that those fluctuations dwarf the changes in the fuel excise.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! David Bennett will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon David Bennett: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member knows absolutely that he interjected an unparliamentary remark in my direction during the asking of the supplementary question.

Hon David Bennett: And what for? Why do I withdraw and apologise?

Mr SPEAKER: Sorry?

Hon David Bennett: Why do I withdraw and apologise, Mr Speaker?

Mr SPEAKER: Why?

Hon David Bennett: Yes.

Mr SPEAKER: Because the member made an unparliamentary remark and it was exacerbated by the fact that it was done during the asking of a supplementary question.

Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What was the unparliamentary remark?

Mr SPEAKER: I’m not going to repeat what the member said about me. Withdraw and apologise.

Hon David Bennett: Mr Speaker, I need an explanation—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will withdraw and apologise now or I will take more serious action than has happened in the House for quite some time. Is the member going to withdraw and apologise?

Hon Paula Bennett: Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I’m not having a point of order. I am waiting for Mr Bennett to decide whether he will comply with my instruction to withdraw and apologise for reflecting on the Chair while a supplementary question was being asked. Is the member going to withdraw and apologise?

Hon David Bennett: Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I’m not having a point of order, Mr Bennett. You’re either going to withdraw and apologise or I will name you. [Interruption] Order!

Hon David Bennett: I withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: Thank you.

Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Sorry, sir, but it is in reflection to me yesterday having to withdraw and apologise. I genuinely do not know what it was for. I did not make a comment as I left, and this is leading to this kind of disorder, when we don’t know what the actual line is as to what you find offensive and what you don’t. I’ve looked at Hansard. I know what I said as I left. I made no disparaging remarks about you last night, and this leads to my colleagues in a position now where—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. The member will resume her seat. If she wants an explanation for how she breached Standing Orders yesterday, I suggest she watches the TV, either on Parliament TV or on at least one of the news channels to see herself interjecting on her feet as she left.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Is it a new point of order, Mr Brownlee—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yes.

Mr SPEAKER: —or is it a relitigation?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, it’s a new point of order. People might like to look at the TVNZ clip that’s currently running, of a member challenging the Speaker on frequent occasions and ultimately being required to leave the House, and being quite messy all the way through. On none of those occasions was the member named. My question simply is: why do we go suddenly from a position where the Speaker does not want to, apparently, make people leave the House, does not explain what an offence might be, but then simply requires people to accept the arbitrary decision of the Chair or be named, which everyone knows is quite an extreme step for anyone in this House? It seems the step that—we’ve gone from a very, very simple straightforward position of how you deal with these things to one that is quite Draconian. And I think that is the problem we’ve got with the inconsistency of the way the Chair’s operating at the present time.

Mr SPEAKER: I note the member’s comments but, as the member knows well, naming is—I think Standing Order 90—the punishment for being grossly disorderly. And refusing to withdraw and apologise for quite an extended period of time is grossly disorderly.

Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: If it’s the same matter, Ms Bennett, you’re running a serious risk of losing a number of supplementary questions from your team from the first Tuesday back.

Hon Paula Bennett: So, to be clear, Mr Speaker, what I wish to be is actually not unruly in this House. So I need clarification that it was yesterday when I said “It’s a waste of time” that you took such offence to that I had to come back and—well, when I come back you insisted that I withdraw—

Mr SPEAKER: That’s exactly right. If the member had not said that she was leaving the House, I would have required her to withdraw and apologise then. But seeing as she was self-banishing herself, I thought that that was the best way of dealing with it and we could get on with business. I did reflect to the member later on that on a previous occasion, when I had done exactly the same thing—made a comment as I was self-banishing—the Speaker sent for me and made me come back and apologise, and then booted me out again. The member was treated pretty leniently.

Hon David Bennett: Yeah, didn’t get named though.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, the member will resume her seat. Mr Bennett will withdraw and apologise again.

Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No. The member will withdraw and apologise.

Hon David Bennett: I just want to table a withdrawal, because I might as well be using it all the time, the way the House is going at the moment.

Mr SPEAKER: So the member’s declining to withdraw and apologise?

Hon David Bennett: No, I’m seeking your guidance—

Mr SPEAKER: No, you’re not seeking my guidance; you’re going to withdraw and apologise.

Hon David Bennett: Mr Speaker, what for? I just—I need to know what I did wrong.

Mr SPEAKER: Mr Bennett, you reflected on the Chair, on my ruling—again. I mean, the member understands what he does. He is not an unintelligent member. It’s not something that happens accidentally. But the member should be able to remember sort of 30 seconds after he made a comment that he did. The member will withdraw and apologise.

Hon David Bennett: [Member pauses] I withdraw and apologise, sir.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is the Chair immune from the provisions of Standing Order 120?

Mr SPEAKER: Sorry, can the member say that a little bit more loudly?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yes—is the Chair immune from the provisions of Standing Order 120?

Mr SPEAKER: No.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Then isn’t simply requiring members to withdraw and apologise, without some explanation of the reason for that, impugning improper motives against a member?

Mr SPEAKER: For goodness’ sake! Mr Brownlee, this has got to the point of being ridiculous, the member is—[Interruption] Paula Bennett will leave the Chamber. [Interruption] The member will leave the Chamber.

Hon Paula Bennett withdrew from the Chamber.

Mr SPEAKER: Now, I’ve lost where we were at.

Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think I’m next up, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question—David Bennett.

Hon David Bennett: No, primary question.

Historical homosexual convictions able to be wiped

Last night the Criminal Records (expungement of convictions for historical homosexual offences) Bill passed its third reading with Parliament voting unanimously for a Bill that will allow men convicted of homosexual ‘crimes’ up until the offences were scrapped in 1986 to have their convictions wiped from their records.

This bill was started by the previous National-led Government and continued by the current Labour-NZ First-Green Government.

RNZ: MPs vote for historical homosexual convictions to be wiped

Parliament has voted unanimously to support legislation allowing men convicted of historical homosexual offences to have them wiped from their records.

Consensual sex between men aged 16 and over was decriminalised in 1986, but convictions for offences before that time remained on record and can appear in criminal history checks.

The scheme will allow people to apply to the Secretary of Justice to have their convictions expunged, without formal court hearings or needing to appear in person.

 

It was terrible law that was scrapped in more enlightened times, but sadly failed to address the damage done for a further thirty two years. At least sorting things out belatedly has the full support of all parties and MPs.

Last July Men convicted for homosexual activity receive apology from govt

The Justice Minister has formally apologised to New Zealand men who were convicted in the past for consensual homosexual activity.

Parliament decriminalised consensual sex between men aged 16 and over in 1986, but convictions for offences before that time remained on record and can appear in criminal history checks.

Advocates for the men say the stigma of the convictions has been devastating for many, but the apology is a step in the right direction.

Amy Adams delivered the apology in Parliament this afternoon, during the first reading of a bill that expunges those historic convictions.

“Today we are putting on the record that this house deeply regrets the hurt and stigma suffered by the many hundreds of New Zealand men who were turned into criminals by a law that was profoundly wrong, and for that, we are sorry.”

Ms Adams said it was unimaginable today that New Zealand would criminalise consensual sexual activity between adults.

“Almost four years ago, this Parliament passed [the marriage equality law] to allow same-sex couples to legally marry, and I was proud to vote in favour of it.

“Today is another historic day for the New Zealand gay community and their families, as Parliament formally apologises for the hurt cause by the convictions and takes the first reading of a bill to expunge those convictions.”

During the debate of the bill, Labour’s Grant Robertson told the house that the imprisonments, the arrests and the fear did not just ruin lives, it killed people.

“Hundreds, possibly thousands of lives have been lost because men could not bear the shame, the stigma and the hurt caused by this Parliament and the way that society viewed them as criminals.

“It is for all of that, that we must apologise.”

So now the apology has been followed by legislation that allows men to set their records straight. It won’t undo all the damage done to people’s lives – some of which have been lost – but it will help those who have been burdened by convictions.

Te reo Māori in Parliament

An interesting post by William Asiata on the use of te reo Māori in the New Zealand Parliament (also with some interesting history of Hansard, not covered here).

Te Pūnaha Matatini: Te Reo Māori in New Zealand Parliament, as recorded in the Hansard Reports

As one of two summer 2017-18 student interns for the Kōrero Māori project with Dragonfly Data ScienceTe Hiku Media and Te Pūnaha Matatini, we were assigned to help collect corpus of te reo Māori text that would be used to train the written language model component of a te reo Māori computer natural language processing engine. When ready, the natural language processor will be used as the base for making software like Apple’s artificially intelligent ‘Siri’, that will be capable of understanding te reo Māori.

One text source in particular was identified that is publicly available online and known to contain te reo Māori – that is the New Zealand Parliamentary Debates as recorded in the Hansard reports.

The written record of Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) make up over 700 volumes of text that span from 1854 to the present day, and daily reports continue to be published onlinewithin a fews hours of each new thing spoken in Parliament.

Across the 700+ volumes, the programme has sorted through over 420 million words to detect about 7400 speech segments that are at least 50% te reo and have a combined total of about 390,000 Māori words.

History of Te Reo in Parliament

Several interesting discoveries were made after examining the result and making a graph (see figure below):

  • Up until the 1980s the proportion of te reo Māori speech in Parliament was barely anything – less than 0.1% for more than 130 years. However over the last 2-3 decades the growth trend in the percentage of te reo spoken in Parliament is very remarkable, even reaching as high as 2% in a year.
  • We found that Māori words make up about 0.2-0.4% of what people say in Parliament on average if they aren’t speaking in te reo Māori – most probably common words like names.
  • A cluster of te reo speeches around the 1940s.
  • Several MP speeches that include other polynesian languages are counted to contain about 50% – 70% “Māori” words – this is due to similarity between languages and alphabets.

Interpretation of the growth trend

The growth in te reo Māori used in Parliament appears to parallel the time period from when Te Kohanga Reo and Te Reo Māori revitalisation movement began, as well as from the time when the process of settling Tiriti grievances began.

That’s not surprising.

Closing thoughts

The sudden upswing in te reo in Parliament in the last 20 – 30 years is astounding. From practically 0 to 1-2% in a couple of decades, imagine what it could look like in years to come:

  • When the percentage of Te Reo spoken in Parliament begins to match the size of the Māori population (~15%).
  • When the percentage of Te Reo spoken in Parliament approaches 50%, and the nation is almost 100% Māori bilingual.

I don’t think it’s astounding. It part it parallels a change of attitude generally to the use of te reo in schools and elsewhere in New Zealand society. In Parliament it has been impacted by MMP, more Māori MPS, even a Māori party has been in Parliament for most of this century, from 2004 (when Tariana Turia won a by-election to retain her Te Tao Hauauru seat after she split from Labour) to 2017 when they dropped out of Parliament.

Will the percentage of Te Reo spoken in Parliament ever reach the approximate size of the population that identifies as Māori? There is some justification for some use of te reo, but if MPs want to reach the widest possible audience then they have to use English.

It’s hard to see the percentage of Te Reo spoken in Parliament approaching anything like 50%, in the foreseeable future at least.

And it’s hard to see the nation becoming anywhere near 100% Māori/English bilingual. Everyone in New Zealand knows some te reo through numerous Māori place names, and most of us know some common terms and phrases.

Being able to understand conversational te reo (or te reo speeches in Parliament) is far less common.

It would be good to see te reo Māori not just survive but also to thrive, but is it necessary for it to become anywhere near as widely used and understood as English?

As well as being the common language of New Zealand, nearly everyone can use some English, it is also the most widely used language around the world, so it is likely to continue to dominate in general use and in Parliament here.

Te reo Māori in Parliament is good for some purposes, but mostly symbolic.Those who want to communicate with the most people will use English most of the time, as happens now.