Rawiri Waititi getting kicked out of Parliament makes global headlines

Rawiri Waititi has made international headlines after the Māori Party co-leader was ejected from Parliament for not wearing a necktie.

On Tuesday, the Waiariki MP was twice prevented from asking questions in the chamber and subsequently ordered to leave by Speaker of the House, Trevor Mallard, who argued that Waititi was not "properly dressed" for Parliament.

Waititi, who had opted for a large pounamu, or greenstone, in place of a traditional tie, asserted that the pendant was "Māori business attire".

But Mallard did not agree with Waititi's argument, warning the MP that he would not be able to enter the House again without the appropriate neckwear. Male MPs are not permitted to ask questions in Parliament unless they adhere to the dress code, requiring them to wear ties. 

The story has since been picked up by international news outlets, including the BBC and The Guardian.

In an article on Tuesday, the BBC noted Waititi's past aversion to the accessory, which he has previously dubbed "a colonial noose".

It then revisited a previous "tie-based spat", with Waititi given a warning on the same grounds late last year for failing to wear the correct attire in the House.

A Dunedin-based journalist for The Guardian also covered the story, noting that the Māori Party co-leader had chosen to wear the cultural item in defiance of the dress code.

As Waititi left the chamber, he declared: "It's not about ties, it's about cultural identity, mate."

Professor of Communication Design at Wellington's Massey University, Claire Robinson - a contributing writer to The Guardian - also wrote an opinion piece earlier in the week, calling the "phallic" necktie an "outdated symbol of white male rule in New Zealand's Parliament".

Robinson's piece followed Mallard's decision last week to maintain the dress code requiring male MPs to wear ties in Parliament's debating chamber. Ater consulting MPs on what constituted appropriate business attire in the House, Mallard announced his decision to side with the "significant majority of members" who wanted the existing rules to remain.

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

"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."

Rawiri Waititi has previously worn ties beneath his pounamu.
Rawiri Waititi has previously worn ties beneath his pounamu. Photo credit: Getty

During Tuesday's heated exchange, Waititi was shut down by Mallard when he attempted to pose a question during Question Time.

"No. I've indicated to the member that I will not call him when he is not properly dressed. The member will resume his seat," Mallard said.

When Waititi tried a second time, Mallard ordered him to leave the chamber. 

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngawera-Packer - who wore a tie to the chamber despite not being required to as a woman - attempted to defend Waititi, questioning why Mallard was denying Māori their cultural attire.

Waititi told reporters that Mallard's treatment of him was "unconscionable".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had no personal objection to ties not being worn in Parliament, but she thought there were more important issues to discuss in the debating chamber.

"I don't think New Zealanders care about ties," she said. 

In an opinion piece shared to social media on Wednesday morning, Waititi declared that the necktie has "nothing to do with a dress standard" and "everything to do with asserting Pākehā power".

"In my maiden speech I quoted our Te Whakatōhea tīpuna Mokomoko, who said "tangohia te taura i taku kakī, kia waiata au i taku waiata" [Take the noose from around my neck so that I may sing my song]," he wrote.

"I took off the colonial tie as a sign that it continued to colonise, to choke and to suppress out Māori rights that Mallard suggests gives us all equality."