5:00AM Friday August 10, 2007
By Angela Gregory
Hone Harawira is defending his decision to leave a Parliamentary visit
to Melbourne and "go walkabout" in the Australian Outback.
The Maori Party MP is under fire for leaving the justice and electoral
select committee two days into its week-long trip to Victoria to study
election finance law and victims' rights.
On Wednesday, he flew to northern Australia, where he described the
Federal Government's intervention in Aboriginal communities as racist.
Mr Harawira told the Herald from Alice Springs yesterday he had gone
to the Northern Territory to discuss indigenous issues with Aboriginal
He met tribal authorities and was last night accompanying patrols to
"I want to see the other side of the rabbit-proof fence," he said.
He has criticised the Australian Government's emergency legislation to
intervene in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities to try to stop
sexual abuse of children.
"I wanted to discuss the racist piece of legislation that no one out
here has been consulted on," he said.
Mr Harawira told the ABC on Wednesday he wanted to highlight what he
described as a racist military invasion by the Australian Government.
He also accused the Labor opposition of political cowardice.
His comments came a month after he labelled Australian Prime Minister
John Howard a "racist bastard" because of the radical policies.
He said on Australian radio yesterday that Mr Howard had introduced
into the Northern Territory a level of racism previously unseen in the
Mr Harawira said he had been invited to the Northern Territory "at the
last minute" by an Aboriginal council.
He had paid for the flights to Alice Springs, which were bought before
he left New Zealand, but said he did not make up his mind to go until
Mr Harawira told the select committee members on Tuesday night.
"They said 'well, have a good think about it Hone'."
Mr Harawira said he based his decision on what he believed to be right
and "not the politics of anyone in Wellington".
He thought it particularly appropriate because yesterday was the
International Day of the World's Indigenous People.
Mr Harawira said he was not worried about how his trip was seen in New
Zealand, and he had no regrets.
He said in television interviews last night he did not care if the
Speaker Margaret Wilson "docks my pay".
Ms Wilson told Parliament yesterday the Clerk of the House's office
would look into Mr Harawira's trip and once its report was completed
"suitable action" would be taken.
New Zealand First MP Ron Marks had asked how Mr Harawira was able to
"go AWOL" while on select committee business.
He said Mr Harawira had unleashed a "tirade of abuse" on Australian
authorities while there were child abuse issues in New Zealand that
needed to be addressed.
There were financial implications as his trip to Melbourne was paid
for by Parliament, and it raised questions of how select committee
members should operate, Mr Marks said.
The select committee chairwoman, Labour MP Lynne Pillay, said from
Melbourne she asked Mr Harawira to stay with the group but he had felt
strongly that he wanted to go.
Ms Pillay was disappointed to learn the return airfare to Alice
Springs was bought before Mr Harawira left New Zealand.
But she said Mr Harawira had been "really constructive" and a good
member of the committee in Melbourne.
The select committee was already down in numbers because three
National MPs boycotted the trip, saying it was a junket.
Ms Pillay had had to explain to the Australians why those MPs were not
present, which was "a little unfortunate".
She then had to tell them that Mr Harawira had "gone up north", which
was "not a biggie".
Prime Minister Helen Clark declined to comment on Mr Harawira's
actions despite his first outburst against Mr Howard prompting her to
last month warn New Zealand politicians against commenting on
Australia's domestic affairs.
Labour MPs Dover Samuels and Shane Jones yesterday criticised Mr
Harawira for making a scene in Australia when Maori had social
problems in New Zealand.
Mr Samuels accused Mr Harawira of hypocrisy.
"He wants to come home instead of going over there badmouthing what
Australia is doing," he said. "He should be worrying about his own
back yard and how Maori are treating their mokopuna."
Maori Party co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples declined to