Te Pāti Māori accuses Speaker, Govt of vilifying 'our Party and our people'

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi has accused Speaker Trevor Mallard and the Government of vilifying “our party and our people", labelling a tense debate in Parliament on Thursday a "desperate attempt to distract from the Government's incompetence". 

The party wants an apology and a retraction, saying Mallard's actions were "grossly inappropriate and unbecoming of your position as Speaker". 

The debate began after Waititi asked the Prime Minister "does she accept that if she hadn't consistently ignored the advice of Māori health experts since the first outbreak last year, the Māori vaccine rates would now be much higher?"

Waititi was referring to the Māori pandemic group Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā, set up in March 2020, which includes leaders such as Dr Rawiri Jansen. 

Waititi was told by Speaker Trevor Mallard it was an assertion, which meant it couldn't be asked in the House.  

Rawiri Waititi

Currently, 46 per cent of Māori have had both doses of the vaccination, compared to 67 per cent for the general population. 

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins later asked, "does having prominent Māori political figures actively discouraging people from being vaccinated help or hinder the vaccination effort?"

Answering on Ardern's behalf, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said that there was "hesitant people in a number of communities, including the Māori community, and I want to thank members of this House who have stood up as community leaders". 

Waititi told the Speaker that Hipkins’ comment "sounded like an assertion that there are Māori political people out there who are discouraging the vaccination". 

Speaker Trevor Mallard reflects on how Parliament has changed since the introduction of MMP, and answers questions from political editor Jessica Mutch McKay about the opposition’s complaints about him.

Mallard replied, "there are some things which are assertions and there are some things which are matters of fact".

"My old propping mate Pem Bird, who I played quite a bit of rugby against in the King Country some time ago, is properly described as a leading political figure."

Bird, a former Te Pāti Māori president and Murupara kaumātua, recently told Te Ao he was waiting to have a different vaccine from the New Zealand-approved Pfizer vaccine. 

Waititi made a complaint about the incident and around the Speaker's call on what was an assertion, saying they did "not believe it is appropriate for you as Speaker to determine what is a fact".

Mallard's response to 1News about the complaint was that as a general rule, he does not comment on correspondence between himself and members. 

The Government has been criticised in light of the low vaccine rollout for Māori, with Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare earlier this week hitting out at "a lack of strong leadership" and a "problematic" f unding distribution from some District Health Boards .

On Monday, 1News reported Tairāwhiti locals who were struggling to get vaccines raised over$123,000 for a mobile clinic.