An obvious abuse of power

Newshub reports:

The woman who shut National MP out of a citizenship ceremony says the “political pillow talk” attack on her and her husband is “offensive”

, who is married to Labour’s likely Mount Roskill candidate Michael Wood, described Dr Parmar’s allegation she was blocked from the ceremony to give him a political advantage as “sad”.

“As a woman in politics, I identify as a feminist, I’ve been involved in women’s issues for a long time and I find it pretty frustrating to be reduced to basically an appendage of my husband and it happens more than you think in this day and age,” Ms Fairey said.

Dr Parmar put out a press statement saying she was stopped from going because of “political pillow talk” and has laid an official complaint with Auckland Council.

Ms Fairey is the Puketapapa local board chair and decides who can attend the ceremonies.

The row has blown up because Mr Wood and Dr Parmar are likely to face off in a Mt Roskill by-election later this year if Phil Goff wins the Auckland Mayoralty. 

Ms Fairey said she was within the rules as only locally elected MPs were allowed to come — and Dr Parmar was a list MP. 

Mr Wood is allowed to go because he is also an elected member of the Puketepapa local board.

I’m sorry but this is fairly outrageous behaviour.

Sure only Electorate MPs have a right to attend, but many many Councils invite or allow any local MPs. I know Chris Bishop in the Hutt Valley has attended ceremonies as a List MP.

The question to Ms Fairey has to be what harm is done by allowing other local MPs to attend. Does she think aspiring citizens want fewer MPs at their ceremonies? Is Ms Fairey acting in the interests of the aaaspiring citizens by refusing a local MP to attend?

The fact her husband is the likely Labour Party candidate against Dr Parmar is of course relevant. Nothing to do with being sexist. If it was Ms Fairey standing for Labour and Mr Wood the local Chair blocking Dr Parmar, the behaviour would be just as objectionable.

Citizenship ceremonies should not be partisan affairs. Any MP should be welcome. So should any Councillor. The aspiring citizens certainly would want more representatives there, not less.

Auckland Council says it is bound by the Local Government Act and can’t change the rules. 

There is no rule that says only certain people are allowed. In fact the Citizenship Regulations 2002 says:

The oath of allegiance set out in Schedule 1 of the Act, or an affirmation to the same effect, may be taken—

  • (a)in New Zealand, before—

    • (i)a District Court Judge; or

    • (ii)a solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand; or

    • (iii)a Justice of the Peace; or

    • (iv)a member of Parliament; or

    • (v)the mayor or deputy mayor of a territorial authority; or

    • (vi)the chairperson or deputy chairperson of a regional council; or

    • (vii)the chairperson of a local board of the Auckland Council; or

    • (viii)the Secretary; or

    • (ix)an officer of the Armed Forces who holds a rank not below that of lieutenant-commander in the Navy, major in the Army, or squadron leader in the Air Force, in the case of a person who is a member of the regular forces, reserve forces, or territorial forces (as those terms are defined insection 2(1) of the Defence Act 1990):

Note it refers to a Member of Parliament, not just Electorate Members of Parliament. So if all MPs are eligible to actually perform a citizenship ceremony, doesn’t it look very petty to ban one from attending?

UPDATE: Also the sensible think for Ms Fairey to do would have been to recuse herself from decision making on the attendance of Dr Parmar, on the basis she is the likely opponent to her husband.

UPDATE2: Fairey has commented below. It turns out that the Board and Council was acting illegally as the law mandates that citizenship ceremonies must be public.  An updated story is here. It remains a very bad look to not just have tried to block Dr Parmar from attending, but even worse to not know they are public meetings, not private meetings.

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