Two current events

Since I’m in the middle of deadline crush, and I spent yesterday afternoon socialising instead of working, just a couple of quick notes.

Vulnerability of Labour’s Capital Gains Tax:
Overall my initial impressions of the CGT and associated policy is that it’s pretty good, but vulnerable to attack. There are the usual economic and ideological objections — full of loopholes, won’t raise enough revenue, raises rents, punishes people for getting ahead, will require more borrowing in the medium term, and so on — but for mine the best attack line rests on the coincidence of taxation rates between CGT and GST. If I were running the National party’s attack campaign, I’d be leading with “Tax off fruit & veg, tax on houses”, or better yet, “tax on bricks & mortar”. Just another of many reasons why GST off fruit & veg is bad policy.

Misunderstanding of Hone Harawira’s Oath Stunt:
So Speaker Lockwood Smith ejected Hone Harawira from Parliament for swearing his oath to the Treaty of Waitangi rather than to the Crown — despite having pulled a similar stunt in 2005 without incident. There is the usual sort of wailing and gnashing about this around the traps, and it seems to have pressed everyone’s ‘sanctimonious outrage’ buttons. What I find strange is that people seem reluctant to see the stunt for what it is — mutual base-arousal, brand politics for both Harawira and Smith. Hone Harawira was, to a large extent, elected to anger and infuriate uptight honkeys like Smith and the KBR and the talkback haters, and inasmuch as his defiance of procedure has achieved that he’s winning. Smith, for his own, has brought a new dignity and solemnity to Parliament, and his personal brand of conservatism requires that he takes a firm stance. Both acted perfectly well to type, and in a sense each has done the other a favour, by granting an opportunity to grandstand. The people who are hating on Hone were never going to vote for him; and likewise for Smith. To an extent there’s also some base arousal by the māori party, too — they have fallin in behind Hone, and are calling for the Treaty to be included in the oath. That’s a useful societal discussion to have.

I find it particularly ironical that the sort of people who are so scathing and disrespectful about Māori ceremony have their dander up regarding this rather minor infraction of procedure; many seem to be raising the counterfactual of ‘imagine the outcry if this happened on a marae!” The thing is, though, in Te Ao Māori as elsewhere, kawa are made to be broken. How and when and why they are broken, and by whom, is key. With suitable mana, ihi, wehi, you can get away with a lot. There is a famous account of Dame Whina Cooper lifting her skirts to remind the men present to respect where they came from. I think, in these terms, it was much worse for Hone that his korowai fell off.

Contra this view, however, Annabelle Lee-Harris from Native Affairs says she’s heard from left-wing Māori who are angry with Hone for trivialising and causing another sideshow; that they thought he was “indulgent when Māori in Te Tai Tokerau are in dire straits’. So maybe I’m wrong. But the bottom line is: Hone Harawira was elected to Parliament by a higher power than the Speaker; all else is procedural.


8 thoughts on “Two current events

  1. Hi Lew

    I largely agree. Hone’s performance plays right to his activist/revolutionary base. His actions were, for want of a better term, a not so subtle fuck you, your procedures and your institutions. Hone is signalling that he intends to change the system, not so much play by his own rules, but inject his values (read Maori values) into the system. I know his stunt, if you can call it that, has excited his supporters, however I am not so cool with it all. I count myself as one of Hone’s moderate supporters and his actions yesterday annoyed the hell out of me. I have no more time for symbolic politics at the moment, or sideshow politics perhaps, Hone needs to turn his attention towards substantive politics. This has Matt McCarten’s gratuitous politics written all over it. I respect Matt, but his skills lay largely in stunt work as opposed to spin, substantive politics and other areas.

  2. Patience being a virtue is something that was not exercised or even considered yesterday in the HOR. Hone being a devil’s advocate just had to test the system and he kinda of failed and succeeded. I listened to the so-called jeers of ‘shame’ and ‘whatever’ and thought – most of the members of this place have passed laws that have had mightier consequences than Hone (not) getting his “p’s” and “q’s” in order. Whilst he allowed his freudian behaviour to show – with the slipping of his korowai to the floor – had he been permitted to continue the house would have heard him utter those sweet words acquiescing to queen liz. a matter hone says he will address when the house next sits.

  3. Has a strong whiff of a premeditated decision by NACT/Lockcock to advance the Honehate wagon, for mine.
    The immediate clampdown on what was a minor symbolic deviation (not unprecedented or even unusual according to IS) that would have passed practically unnoticed if ignored, looked just a bit too promt and firm; “Hone Harawira, you will…” – especially when coming from the oleaginous Mr Bumptious-Unctuous himself.
    Wouldn’t be at all surprised if Hone had pre-warned them out of courtesy and the decision was made in the principal’s office to teach the naughty third former a lesson for wearing his socks down and paint him further with the “stunt” brush.
    A cunning stunt
    by NACT, in fact
    The kind of stunts
    we expect
    from…the National Party

  4. I tend to agree with ak, it was National adopting the polarising Kiwi and iwi card, it had been decided that Smith would associate advocacy of a role for the Treaty in our law with a threat to the supremacy of the Crown and the authority of its colonial settlement. It sort of explains a rationale for the SIS to target Maori activists as threats to the state.

    There is an underlying McCarthyism to the idea of an internal threat from international support for indigenous peoples.

    I however disagree with Lew about the CGT and GST, given the bricks and mortar excludes the family home (and even the family bach that passes on with inheritance to family) and includes only rental property – even National will resort to another approach.

  5. The idea that Lockwood Smith was doing anything other than simply enforcing the law like a number of speakers before him is a pathetic joke indicating only the bias of the commentator.

    The idea that the oath should be changed to include the ability to swear allegiance to New Zealand’s primary constitutional document is worthy of further examination. It is right that the oath should be important. For republicans, atheists and agnostics to be forced to go through a charade they cannot honestly and with integrity believe in is not right.

    Americans swear to uphold the constitution. The ToW is New Zealands founding document whatever peoples differing interpretations may be.
    It seems reasonably clear that once treaty settlements are completed a satisfactory agreement on New Zealands longer term constitutional arrangements are necessary. Could I honestly swear allegiance to King Charles? No.

  6. Except, Phil, Lockwood Smith simply is not doing what previous speakers have done before — previous speakers have permitted non-standard oaths; Smith himself has even permitted non-standard oaths, including oaths very similar to that attempted by Harawira. In some cases he made the MP repeat the correct oath, but he did not eject them from the house for a full sitting day.


  7. Lew – Hansard below. Lockwood Smith makes clear that legal advice says the alternate oath is breaking the law and he has already told Harawira that. Previous speakers have not accepted non standard oaths but they have not ejected the person from the chamber, I agree. I stand by what I said. Harawira is at fault but I understand and accept what he did.

    Mr SPEAKER: I understand that Hone Harawira is present and wishes to affirm. Would he please come forward to the chair on my right.

    HONE HARAWIRA (Leader—Mana) : Ko ahau ko Pani Tamati Waka Nene Harawira, ka ōati kia piripono me te tino āmene atu ki te Tiriti o Waitangi; kia pono, kia aro nui aku mahi kia ahu whakamua ai ngā tika o ngā iwi o Te Tai Tokerau; kia whakapaua e ahau aku kaha—

    [I, Hone Pani Tamati Waka Nene Harawira, swear to be loyal to the Treaty of Waitangi and to concur with it; that my work be valid and highly focused on advancing the rights of the Northland tribes; that I expend my efforts—]

    Mr SPEAKER: That is not the affirmation required by law. Hone Harawira will now leave the Chamber, and return to this Chamber on a sitting day when he is prepared to make his affirmation according to the law of this land. Hone Harawira will now leave the Chamber. [Interruption] The member will now leave the Chamber.

    Hone Harawira withdrew from the Chamber.
    Mr SPEAKER: I thank honourable members for their constructive points of order. Members, so that you are aware, what has taken place is Hone Harawira was advised prior to his taking the affirmation that the law of New Zealand, of this country, required the affirmation to be taken in a certain way. Our Standing Order 12(e) makes it clear that members must “take the oath or make the affirmation required by law”. The Oaths and Declarations Act of 1957 provides for the making of an affirmation in te reo Māori in a form set out in the regulations made pursuant to section 30A—the Oaths and Declarations (Māori Language) Regulations of 2004. So, members, I want you to be aware that, as Speaker, I did not make this decision lightly. There has been a tendency in recent times to abuse our law. It is not just a custom in this House; it is the law of this country. Hone Harawira was advised of the need to comply with the law. He chose not to.

    CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When I made my affirmation, I was asked to repeat it—I was given that opportunity—because I also had mentioned Te Tiriti o Waitangi. I am not sure why that was not allowed in this case.

    Mr SPEAKER: The member raises a perfectly reasonable point of order. The practice that the member herself admits to doing is actually breaking the law. For members to set that kind of example in this place is unacceptable. We must all remember that we, as members, are not above the law. Had I not made it clear to Hone Harawira prior to his seeking to make his affirmation, I would not have taken this course of action. But the law was made very clear to Hone Harawira. He is welcome to come back, on the next sitting day of the House, when he is prepared to make his affirmation in accordance with the law.

  8. I’m not disputing that Smith was within his rights to do so, either — only that he was inconsistent with previous Speaker’s rulings, including his own. He’s allowed to change his mind, of course, but it shouldn’t go without being noted, and the particular sort of political advantages to be gained here are, I think, pretty notable.


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