Over the last 48 hours I have watched National and Labour/Green Members of Parliament tearing into each other in ways that make me sad. However I have also seen that there is a major problem with the way the New Zealand House of Representatives is run by a person with a politically non-neutral stand point.
Of course at some point or another all Opposition parties have that feeling of frustration or disgust that they are not getting a fair hearing from the Speaker of the House. In the previous Labour Government of Prime Minister Helen Clark, its former Attorney General Margaret Wilson who was the first woman to hold the office of Speaker, presided over the chamber from 2004 to 2008, during which time she was accused of bias by the National-led Opposition. Ms Wilson began in 2004 when she was elected to replace the outgoing Speaker and re-elected under a deal that Labour worked out with other parties after they were re-elected to Government in 2005.
It is true that at times Parliament can be a combative place with conflicting personalities. It is also true that Parliament is a place that New Zealanders are supposed to look up to and respect, which is something many find very hard to do when they look at the antics of both the Government and the Opposition in terms of their conduct in the House. It could also be true that perhaps the sanctions for Parliamentary misconduct are ripe for an overhaul.
But bias is bias, and that is clearly what has been on display in the last couple of days from the Speaker, who has shown his clear preference for National Party Members of Parliament. When Labour and the Greens tried to raise the subject of the alleged criminal histories of the detainees on Christmas Island things got heated and Prime Minister John Key accused them of supporting rapists (despite there being no evidence of any of the detainees having committed such an offence). To sexual abuse victims this is an incredibly insensitive thing to say – it often brings back memories of their own suffering. The Speaker of the House, instead of respecting the personal histories of the female Members of Parliament from the Greens and Labour who spoke out today, elected to eject them from the House. In response numerous M.P.’s walked on their own accord.
Perhaps the Speaker of the House needs to be a neutral person. Perhaps in deciding who should govern New Zealand, the public should also look at who they want to run the House of Representatives as well. Perhaps a case can be made for members of the Governing political party holding the office of Speaker, but given individual parties have their own political orientation and interpretation of how to read the rules, why should we think that one interpretation of rules by a particular party is any more proper than another.
Unfortunately the ultimate outcome for me from these past two days of politicking is that I no longer as a tax paying, voting member of the New Zealand public, have confidence in the Speaker of the House. He is not fit for his job and should resign.