Tamati Coffey slams Rawiri Waititi for 'fighting' with Speaker Trevor Mallard about Parliament's tie rule

Labour Party MP Tamati Coffey has slammed Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi for "fighting with the Speaker" about Parliament's rule that requires men to wear ties.

Waititi was kicked out of the House during Question Time on Tuesday for not wearing a tie.

Speaker Trevor Mallard initially told him that he wasn't going to call on Waititi if he wasn't wearing a tie, and warned he wasn't allowed to enter the House again without wearing one.

Waititi was wearing hei tiki, a Māori necklace, in place of a traditional tie, and said this was "Māori business attire".

The Speaker later booted Waititi from Parliament after he tried to speak multiple times during Question Time.

Coffey, who is the former MP for Waiariki, the electorate Waititi now represents, said representing that constituency is "a privilege" and a "responsibility no one should take lightly".

"Your job is not about you. You are there to represent our people, to help our people - to be the loud voice of our people," Coffey wrote in a Facebook post.

"You are not there to fight with the Speaker about ties. That kind of politics serves no one but yourself."

He said while Waititi is "having a standoff" with the Speaker, Labour's Māori caucus "will be over here getting Māori histories taught in kura next year, getting ready to celebrate our first Matariki public holiday, and urgently passing Māori Wards legislation through Parliament".

"You know the saying bro - you do you. But while you're doing that, we'll take care of everyone else."

Some commenters disagreed with Coffey, saying Waititi was "fighting racism in Parliament".

"Not being allowed to wear taonga in place of a tie, while another member can wear a Mexican tie (and rightly so), is racist and isn't fair," one person said, appearing to refer to instances where other cultures had been allowed to wear attire in Parliament that is appropriate for them.

"The people of Waiariki voted for a Māori Party candidate, for the betterment of Māori people in their electorate, and fighting systemic racism in a colonial parliament is important for the betterment of Māori who aspire to be MPs."

Another said they saw nothing wrong with Waititi wearing his pounamu.

"It's time this was changed! I don't believe it was all about him. Pounamu is ours, tangata whenua, so for me it represents us as Māori."

Rawiri Waititi argued he was wearing Māori business attire.
Rawiri Waititi argued he was wearing Māori business attire. Photo credit: Parliament TV

After Waititi was kicked out of Parliament, he and fellow co-leader Debbie Ngawera-Packer addressed the situation in a Facebook live.

Waititi explained that Mallard sent an email saying business attire was to be worn in the House, including a jacket and tie for men.

"As you can see, I'm wearing a jacket and I'm wearing a tie," Waititi said, gesturing to his hei tiki.

"This is our tie. There's nobody else as qualified as iwi Māori to determine what a Māori tie looks like and what my appropriate business attire looks like."

He added Mallard "should've been specific" and said "Pākehā business attire" was what is required.

"We've gone in there thinking we were within our rights to dress like this and wear my hei tiki as my tie. Not just a tie in terms of the dress but my tie to my people, my tie to my commitment, to our cause," Waititi said.

"After a weekend that's dedicated to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, I find this very, very difficult to swallow for the non-ability for Māori, especially tangata whenua, to be able to express their cultural identity in Parliament."

Ngawera-Packer said they're going to keep pushing against this rule, saying "this isn't about how we dress".

"This is about how we stay grounded and how we assert ourselves as tangata whenua in this Pāremata, in this kaupapa."