Parliament should embrace equality for women

The Herald reports:

Parliament’s Speaker, David Carter, has sought a review of Maori protocols at Parliament after two senior women MPs were asked to move from the front row for a welcome ceremony to visitors.

He said he wanted to “modernise” the protocols. “Parliament needs a protocol that is modern and acceptable to a diversified Parliament.”

Parliament’s longest serving woman MP Annette King and her Labour colleague Maryan Street were asked to move from the front bench during a powhiri at the start of the Youth Parliament several months ago.

That prompted the Speaker to begin a process to review protocols that were put in place 15 years ago with the oversight of the Wellington iwi, Te Atiawa.

On a marae, the protocol is set by the host Iwi. They can set whatever rules they want (and of course bear any criticism of those rules). But in Parliament, the rules should be set by Parliament, and they should and must embrace equality. It is offensive to women MPs to be told during Youth Parliament they can not sit on the front bench during the powhiri.

Ms King and Ms Street came in late and when they sat on the front row alongside the Speaker, they were asked to shift by Kura Moeahu, who assists Parliament’s kaumatua, Rose White-Tahuparae.

“They were asked to move and I thought that was embarrassing to them,” Mr Carter told the Herald.

He had had feedback from other MPs.

“I have initiated the discussions with Te Atiawa and I haven’t had feedback from those discussions. But the matter won’t rest. I intend to follow it up in the New Year. I want Te Atiawa to talk to other iwi so that we can modernise protocol but do it in a way that respects Maori tradition,” Mr Carter said.

It sounds like the Speaker is determined to get change, which is excellent.

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