National's Simeon Brown condemns 'lowering of standards' in Parliament after ties made optional

The National Party MP Simeon Brown has condemned Speaker Trevor Mallard's "disappointing" decision to make neckties optional in Parliament following a highly-publicised dispute in the House this week.

On Tuesday, Māori Party co-leader and Waiariki MP Rawiri Waititi substituted a traditional tie, formerly a requirement under the parliamentary dress code, for a hei-tiki - a large pounamu pendant considered to be taonga, a treasured possession, by Māori people.

In the debating chamber, Waititi was twice prevented from asking a question by Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard, who warned the MP he would not be able to enter the House again without wearing the correct attire. The second time Waititi attempted to pose a question, Mallard ejected him from Parliament.

Waititi later wrote an impassioned piece on social media, comparing the tie to the assertion of Pākehā power.

Following a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee and a submission from Te Paati Māori on Wednesday, Mallard announced that ties would no longer be a requirement under the parliamentary dress code for male MPs.

Later that evening, Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown publicly opposed the decision, branding it as a "lowering of standards".

"The Speaker has changed his decision regarding wearing ties in Parliament and now they are optional. A lowering of standards," Brown, 29, wrote on social media.

"Whilst this isn't the most important issue facing our country it is a disappointing decision made for the wrong reasons.

"Parliament is an institution which should have high standards - as we make decision [sic] which affect every New Zealander in significant ways."

Brown concluded that he will continue to wear a tie in Parliament as a mark of respect for "the institution" and "those who put [him] there".

Wednesday's alteration to the House dress code was a quick reversal from last week's decision, which maintained that neckties would still be considered "appropriate business attire" in the chamber. 

After consulting MPs on what constituted "appropriate" attire, Mallard announced that he had sided with the "significant majority of members" who wanted the existing dress code to remain.

"A significant majority of members who responded opposed any change to dress standards for the debating chamber," Mallard said last week.

"Having considered those views, I have decided that no change in current standards is warranted. Business attire, including a jacket and tie for men, remains the required dress standard."

Yet according to Wednesday's update, the majority of the committee were "in favour" of removing ties as a requirement for male MPs in the House, although a consensus was not reached.

"As Speaker, I am guided by the committee's discussion and therefore ties will no longer be considered required as part of 'appropriate business attire'," Mallard said in a statement.

"I acknowledge those who felt this was an important issue worthy of further consideration."