The AM Show tie debate: MP wearing tie hails end of rule, while MP without tie says keep them compulsory

In a slightly surreal debate, an MP wearing a tie has argued against being forced to wear the decorative accessory while in Parliament, while another - without a tie - put forward the case that they should be compulsory.

Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard this week declared ties optional, after Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi sparked a debate by wearing a Māori hei tiki instead. Mallard on Tuesday booted him out for not wearing proper "business attire", but by Thursday had updated the rules to make traditional Western neckties optional. 

National MP Simon Bridges appeared on the AM Show on Friday "wearing basically shorts and a T-shirt", in host Duncan Garner's words.

"I'm being forum-appropriate. I'm trying to fit in here," Bridges protested, after Garner accused him of looking "rough, tough and undressed" ("Underdressed, not undressed" newsreader Amanda Gillies quickly clarified).

"Mark (Richardson, co-host) is always in the floral and the paisley - I just sort of want to be part of all of that at some level. This is a linen shirt, I think it's the only one I've got. But this isn't Parliament."

Parliament, tie-hard Bridges explained, isn't "a public bar, it's not a business - it's our national Parliament. We should wear ties."

Appearing with Bridges was Labour MP David Parker, dressed smartly in a suit and tie. But don't expect him to dress up every day, now that he doesn't have to.

"I support it being voluntary. I'll probably wear a tie most of the time, but don't think you should have to. I think it's time to move - standards of dress have changed over time and we look a bit anachronistic."

Bridges and Parker.
Bridges and Parker, dressed ironically. Photo credit: The AM Show

Mallard's handling of the matter has been criticised. 

"I think Mallard had a complete shocker on this - it was yes, then it was no," said Bridges. "He should have just done a deal with Rawiri Waititi, who was wearing this... very expensive but priceless pounamu hei-tiki, worth more than the cheap polyester numbers that David probably wears, and we could have kept the rule."

Former MP Peter Dunne - rarely ever seen without his trademark bow-tie - told Newstalk ZB Mallard had "made a pig's breakfast of the whole thing", and agreed Mallard and Waititi should have sorted it out amongst themselves. 

"I think it's quite good politics from Mr Waitit's point of view," he said in a separate interview with RNZ. "He's making his point, he's getting in the media and we're talking about him." 

Rawiri Waititi.
Rawiri Waititi. Photo credit: Getty

Mallard said he was just enforcing the existing rules, which were changed on Wednesday after a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee. 

"The majority of the Committee was in favour of removing the requirement for ties to form part of 'appropriate business attire' for males," he said in a statement. 

"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'."