Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi suspended from Parliament for day over comment

It's just happened in Parliament.
It's just happened in Parliament. Photo credit: Newshub.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi has been suspended from Parliament for a day over comments he made last week that could breach name suppression.

Last week, he used parliamentary privilege to make claims about an active court case. We can't publish those comments as they could breach a court-ordered suppression.

Speaker Adrian Rurawhe on Tuesday called Waititi's conduct "grossly disorderly".

Waititi wasn't in the House. He is at New Zealand Fashion Week.

In Parliament on Tuesday, the Speaker said he had been considering how to respond to allegations that in the House last week "Rawiri Waititi may have breached a suppression order imposed by a court".

According to Parliament's Standing Orders, matters that are subject to a judicial decision "may not be referred to in any motion, debate, or question, including a supplementary question, subject always to the discretion of the Speaker and to the right of the House to legislate on any matter or to consider delegated legislation".

For the Speaker's discretion to be triggered, the Member must write to the Speaker prior. Rurawhe said Waititi didn't write to him.

The Speaker said he wouldn't inquire further into the matters which may be suppressed as "my doing so may itself be inconsistent with the principle of comity".

The Standing Orders also lists an example of contempt as: "knowingly making reference to a matter that is suppressed by an order of a New Zealand court, contrary to the Standing Orders, in any proceedings of the House or of a committee".

Rurawhe said that in this case "the difficulty is that investigating whether Mr Waititi has done so risks compounding the harm caused by the original breach by confirming the existence of a suppression order and possibly identifying the subject of it". 

He referred a general question of privilege to the Privileges Committee asking them to consider how the House should deal with issues like this where "a Member may have made reference to a matter in breach of a suppression order but investigating could be inconsistent with the order if one exists".

Rurawhe said Waititi's comments indicated "he believed the matter concerned was subject to a suppression order and yet he raised it without first notifying the Speaker".

"Parliament's relationship with the courts is of utmost constitutional importance. Reckless use of the freedom of speech enjoyed by the House damages that relationship and undermines the standing of this Parliament and the privileges on which it depends.

"I consider that within his comments, Mr Waititi's conduct was grossly disorderly."

He then named Waititi and called on the House to judge his conduct on the question that he be suspended. The Speaker decided the 'ayes' have it.

Newshub attempted to ask Waititi about his claim last Thursday but he refused to comment.

Following Waititi making the comment last week, MPs expressed shock. 

"I can't believe frankly what I've just heard," David Seymour said.

"Unusual, unwise and shouldn't be repeated," said Judith Collins.

"I'm just not going to comment on that for pretty obvious reasons," said Grant Robertson.

"I am staying right out of that," said Kieran McAnulty.