Prime Minister Gillard very welcome

The visit by Australian PM, Julia Gillard, to New Zealand this week has caused some interest and intrigue.  Prime Minister John Key has cited opposition to her speaking in Parliament – and identified the Green Party as opposing.

The background to this is the following. Her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, was visiting last year and had specifically requested to address the NZ Parliament, in session. I was involved in this discussion in my role as the Green Party musterer, our representative on the House Business Committee. 

After considerable discussion the Green Party opposed this proposal. We did so for the following reasons:

The NZ House of Representatives, sitting in session with the mace, is the symbol of national sovereignty. No one apart from New Zealand MPs has ever been allowed to address a sitting session of Parliament, not even our own Governor-General. The reason for this is that sitting sessions of Parliaments are for New Zealand law makers to exercise their democratic powers.

The idea that we would only invite our ‘closest friends’ to address Parliament in session is problematic.  Who might they be, and where might the line be drawn?  Australia might be seen as no. 1.  Perhaps the US would be no. 2, and the UK no. 3.  Which other countries might fit in the top ten?  What would be the criteria?  Where could the line be drawn? Such decisions are intrinsically political, and therefore subjectively influenced by the colours of a particular Government of the day – whereas the issue must be seen as having constitutional implications independent of politics.

The Green Party position, however, pertained only to having a foreign leader address the Parliament in session.  We made it clear at the time that we welcomed the proposed visit as we had with previous visits.

The US Congress formally moves out of session when they receive addresses from overseas dignitaries; our position is consistent with this.
 
The PM, who is effectively acting as host of a state occasion, has decided that Ms Gillard may address MPs (not the Parliament) in the debating chamber, out of session (with no Mace present, and with Dr Lockwood Smith acting as chairman of the meeting and not as Speaker).  While the Legislative Council Chamber would probably have been a better choice of venue, the choice is for the PM to make, and we respect that decision.

We are looking forward to listening to the Australian PM’s address to us.

We think it is healthy to have a debate about this issue but believe such a change should not be made at the whim of a sitting government.

50 thoughts on “Prime Minister Gillard very welcome

  1. When will the greens learn to STFU about the irrelevant trivialities and concentrate on the big stuff – it’s really hard to vote green when you come out with this drivel.

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  2. So the greens did oppose Gillard addressing Parliament.
    The reason was her speech would be ” influenced by the colours of a particular Government of the day – whereas the issue must be seen as having constitutional implications independent of politics”

    Surely you jest. If you you are not joking please give a full explanation of what the implications could possibly be.

    Could you also explain how this stance could possibly help the green party who are on tenderhooks for a 5% threshhold in this election year?

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  3. an anagram of pentwig…is wept gin…

    i don’t know why that is important…

    ..but it is…

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  4. @seanf 7:34 PM

    It is the big picture that the Greens are concentrating on.

    Sure, an address from Julia Gillard to the NZ Parliament is pretty innocuous.

    But what if it were Robert Mugabe? Or Hosni Mubarak, from yesterday? Or George W Bush, from yesteryear?

    The principle is that only elected NZ representatives should formally speak in our Parliament. Otherwise we open the door for all sorts of undemocratic arsehole despots to state their dubious cases in our highest political forum.

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  5. No one apart from New Zealand MPs has ever been allowed to address a sitting session of Parliament, not even our own Governor-General. The reason for this is that sitting sessions of Parliaments are for New Zealand law makers to exercise their democratic powers.

    I am pretty certain that the Governor-General not addressing a sitting session of Parliament is more to do with tradition than anything – the English monarch never went into the House of Commons again after King Charles I failed to walk into a session and arrest a number of MPs.

    My question will sound somewhat stupid, but nevertheless I am keen to know the answer. In the US House of Representatives, there is usually a place for the dignitary (or the US President) to stand when making a speech. In our House of Representatives, there is no place, as each MP is allocated their own seat – in which case, if Gillard were to speak in front of Parliament in the House of Representatives chamber, where exactly would she stand?

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  6. So the greens did oppose Gillard addressing Parliament.

    We only opposed her addressing a sitting session of the House. These things usually take place in the old upper chamber – which is in Parliament. I’ve not heard a good reason to change this. It is just political expediency on the govt’s part, the Maori Party probably thought about it for two minutes, and Labour probably did for much longer, but couldn’t say no because she is a Labour PM (I have no idea how Act thought processes work). None of these are good reasons to change.

    The reason was her speech would be ” influenced by the colours of a particular Government of the day – whereas the issue must be seen as having constitutional implications independent of politics”

    That’s not what it says. It says the reason for future invitations would be influenced by the politics of the govt of the day, which is surely true.

    Could you also explain how this stance could possibly help the green party who are on tenderhooks for a 5% threshhold in this election year?

    We don’t make policy based simply on what’s popular, which I’d have thought was obvious.

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  7. What drivel is that seanf that we should STFU about?

    Toad

    Otherwise we open the door for all sorts of undemocratic arsehole despots to state their dubious cases in our highest political forum.

    Exactly! There’s no point in breaking the rules just because of our relationship with Aussie. Not that Gillard is a despot, I’m sure she will understand the Greens principles. It’s a pity the general media coverage was so bias though, it even made me cringe. What the hell are we going to do about it?

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  8. Read John Armstrong in the Herald today, as he nails just why the Green position on this is the right one. I hope it’s online soon.

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  9. @Todd 8:46 AM

    US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron or German Chancellor Angela Merkel would likely be invited to speak in Parliament if they visited New Zealand, Prime Minister John Key indicated yesterday.

    Not Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi? I would have thought, given Key’s comments about wanting to be Tiger Woods or Shane Warne, Berlusconi would have been top of the list.

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  10. “The NZ House of Representatives, sitting in session with the mace, is the symbol of national sovereignty.”

    Who gives a toss? The NZ House of Representatives has been happily giving away bits of our sovereignty like plastic animals in a box of cornflakes over the last few decades, to the WTO, to anyone willing to sign a free trade agreement, and to foreign military forces and intelligence agencies.

    The most appropriate symbolic use of the mace would be for MPs to ritually drop it on their own feet prior to every session.

    The NZ government has hosted all sorts of despots and officials from dictatorships, giving them honour guards, receptions, slap-up dinners and occasionally carefully parking buses to screen them from embarrassing protests.

    Getting finicky about whether parliament is in session or not when foreign politicians address it is a triviality.

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  11. Who gives a toss?…The NZ government has hosted all sorts of despots and officials from dictatorships, giving them honour guards, receptions, slap-up dinners and occasionally carefully parking buses to screen them from embarrassing protests.

    I understand the frustration, but surely that’s the exact reason we don’t want to see Hu Jintao or a George Bush asking to address Parliament. Once this precedence is set, are you sure a National govt – or even a Labour govt – would say no with such a huge trade relationship at stake?

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  12. “Once this precedence is set, are you sure a National govt – or even a Labour govt – would say no with such a huge trade relationship at stake?”

    No, I don’t for a minute think they would say ‘no’. I just don’t care.

    This is the same sort of nonsense I heard from MFAT officials when I critiqued them over their wheeling and dealing with Burmese government officials – “Yes, we have them at multi-lateral meetings, do deals and they get to take part in NZ government-funded programmes – but it’s OK because we aren’t polite to them – if they ask questions we ignore them!”

    There’s no point getting your knickers in a twist over something that’s basically symbolic when the substance of the relationships are unaltered.

    And I’m not frustrated, just pissed off.

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  13. This is the same sort of nonsense I heard from MFAT officials when I critiqued them over their wheeling and dealing with Burmese government officials…

    No it’s not. We’ve opposed all the stuff your pissed off about. There’s no reason to say we shouldn’t oppose this too.

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  14. The “protocol” being signed off by Key and Gillard means that Australian companies can waltz in and pick up NZ without ANY real oversight. These “Australian” companies can of course be owned by ANYONE – for example the Aussie banks are owned via the UK. And, in the case of Australia the political strings are pulled by mining companies. So, while there is concern about the “Free” Trade” agreement with the USA (and Monsanto etc), the reality is we are about to be pillaged by locusts from across the ditch. Talk about a back door loophole!!

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  15. “There’s no reason to say we shouldn’t oppose this too.”

    Yes there is – you are wasting time.

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  16. john-ston,

    If no monarch has walked into Commons since the Charles 1 tried to to arrest MP’s – is it only “tradition” that stops this occuring today (via the GG), after all our shared “constitution” is not a written one but an unwritten one.

    It speaks to rights and liberties of the people and the nature of sovereignty of the people – notable that this same parliament is soon to reduce the ability of lawyers to defend clients and removing the right to a jury trial to most people charged with an offense (nominally to reduce court costs and the time taken to prosecute and convict people, but in reality to restore fear of establishment authority – this goes hand in hand with greater surveillaance of the people and the evidence of willingness to prosecute known activists/dissidents).

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  17. Are the Green MPs honestly “looking forward to” Gillard’s little talk? When Green MPs start publically worrying about where the mace is, while falling over themselves to assure us that Gillard is “welcome”, they respect Key’s decision as to the venue etc. etc. I think they are losing perspective, not to mention their sense of humour.

    Ask whether her trip is carbon neutral? Whether she is a climate refugee? tell the Aussies if they want to speak in “our” pariament they should pay for it, just as we pay to use their (previously “our”) banking system…

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  18. Yes there is – you are wasting time.

    You’re welcome to your opinion, but as a cynic, I hope I don’t end up as cynical as you.

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  19. I noticed that in his interview on TV1 this morning Phil Goff indicated that he had no idea how our sovereignty would be undermined by allowing Julia Gillard to address a formal session of Parliament by invitation. I am perplexed too especially when Australian parliamentarians are entirely comfortable with such a procedure. Please help educate me on this point Kennedy.

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  20. Why don’t the greens focus on the sale off of Solid Energy and Meridian Energy etc, and build a strong campaign on climate change…?

    While parliament rules are lovely, our planet is choking and needs urgent ACTION, not endless parliament talk.

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  21. The greens should be focused on climate policy in Australia, and getting the big polluter to cut its coal exports!!!

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  22. “…as a cynic, I hope I don’t end up as cynical as you.”

    Good grief! I criticise MPs, whose salary I pay, for fiddling around with points of protocol and irrelevant ‘constitutional’ niceties about whether parliament is in session or not when some almost certainly dull diplomatic speech is being made, and this is cited as evidence of deep cynicism?

    I’d reckon I’m in good company with a large chunk of the population in saying “who cares?”.

    I also reckon that it’s this sort of game playing – “we can’t stop the government dealing with tyrants, but we can ensure that they can only come into parliament when the mace isn’t on the table” – that further discredits politicians by suggesting they live in some sort of ritualised fantasyland and expect us to take it all seriously. If that’s what you want, go right ahead.

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  23. @treesoftomorrow 12:30 PM

    The greens should be focused on climate policy in Australia, and getting the big polluter to cut its coal exports!!!

    Yep, but how credible is that going to look if at the same time New Zealand is beginning to mine Southland lignite for fuel conversion.

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  24. Not to mention their sense of humour.

    I thought that was one of my best one liners Joe.

    The point is that much of the media blew it out of proportion and misrepresented the issues. Not the Greens. There’s nothing wrong with being principled.

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  25. “There’s nothing wrong with being principled.”

    Couldn’t agree more – so is reverence for the silly points of protocol that exist in parliament a Green Party principle nowadays?

    “The point is that much of the media blew it out of proportion and misrepresented the issues. Not the Greens.”

    Golly, we’d never have expected the media to do that! Poor old Greens – taken by surprise by the completely predictable yet again.

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  26. “We are looking forward to listening to the Australian PM’s address to us.”

    Well, here’s a sneak preview of what you’ve got to look forward to, based on the Aussie PM’s press conference:

    “The bond forged at Gallipoli is now a dynamic partnership, say Julia Gillard and John Key.

    “It is underpinned by a shared recognition that as nations we need to make our way in a changing world and be prepared to shape our future.

    “Since the CER came into effect in 1983, annual growth in transtasman trade has averaged 8 per cent…

    “But there is no room for complacency. We need to continue to work together to build on and sustain our competitive edge. That’s why we are working hard to keep up the momentum of transtasman economic integration.

    “More investment in the end means jobs and prosperity for both our peoples…

    “And we look forward to advances in new areas…

    “We also have complementary strengths in our innovation systems and need to build on these to position Australasia as an agile, creative hub of…

    “Another priority will be to leverage the historic Asean-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, which creates a new regional market of 600 million people.

    “We’ll share the lessons learned from CER with our Asean partners who have embarked on a similarly ambitious process of economic integration.

    “Our partnership, though long-standing, is today thoroughly modern. The Anzac spirit is not just about shared memories – it is about a shared vision for our countries in the future…”

    If you’re looking forward to more of this twaddle, the Green’s MPs are even more bored than I thought.

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  27. Your the one who posted it Sam. I’m not that interested in the subject either, so wonder why you’re so vehement in your rebuttal? Personally I have no problems with closer ties with Australia, however a shared currency is another question.

    It’s not too much to ask for factual reporting by the way… Has it been so long that we can’t even expect the facts to be published these days? Perhaps a complaint to the New Zealand Press Council is in order? Something needs to happen about all the propaganda and rubbish out there, sooner rather than later.

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  28. This is silly, the Greens have stood up and made a difference on this – because they were able to, as only one dissenting voice required a consensual solution.

    And people say they should not have bothered.

    People such as NBR right-wingers and some journalists – such as Armstrong respect the effort – it adds to, rather than detracts from Green credibility on other issues.

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  29. “People such as NBR right-wingers and some journalists – such as Armstrong respect the effort – it adds to, rather than detracts from Green credibility on other issues.”

    Naturally NBR right-wingers would love to see the Greens dealing with issues such as this. That is the sort of thing serious credible politicians should do – much better than have them messing around with coal mining, privatisation, motorway construction and cuts to social welfare.

    “Your the one who posted it Sam.”

    If you’re referring to the Key/Gillard statements – I posted it because of Kennedy Graham’s claim that Green MPs are looking forward to hearing Gillard speak.

    Quite frankly, I don’t believe it – I think its an example the sort of telling lies for public consumption that becomes second-nature in political circles, but is no less dangerous for being commonplace.

    I agree with you on complaints to the Press Council et al.

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  30. “People such as NBR right-wingers and some journalists – such as Armstrong respect the effort”
    Yes, it shows that when the Greens are under pressure they can be relied on to play the game just like any other party. Diplomatic niceties are lies. I’m not too worried that the Greens tell lies about looking forward to hearing Julia. I am worried this will become a habit if the Greens are trying to get the respect of the Right.

    I’ve heard too many diplomatic niceties about horrors to ever feel comfortable hearing them.

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  31. If people were saying the Greens should stick to the environment and not focus on social and economic issues also related to a sustainable society – would you agree? Here you are saying stick to policy issues and not bother about the principles underlying the democratic tradition political parties operate under in their own house – parliament.

    A party (and party leader) that cannot even understand or defend their parliamentary heritage – as Key and Goff and Turia and Sharples and Dunne and Hide could not – is unworthy. No wonder they betray our sovereignty on a range of other issues and are a threat to our people. They participate in the growing inequality and also the failure to protect the environment – like the fools they are unable to protect even their own legacy in parliament. let alone the peoples well-being.

    Principles that are based on political and economic rights (human rights) are traditional (are our taonga that past generations fought for)- understanding how they connect to development of a sustainable economy is a work the Green Party is leading , but leadership here is not achieved by abandoning the democratic inheritance but by building on it and saying why.

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  32. “Here you are saying stick to policy issues and not bother about the principles underlying the democratic tradition political parties operate under in their own house – parliament.”

    Not at all. I’m saying that suggesting it’s OK for Gillard (or whoever) to address the New Zealand parliament in the debating chamber, but not to address the New Zealand parliament in the debating chamber if it is in session and the mace is on the table, is standing on an important principle (or is even part of a ‘democratic heritage’, is a load of old codswallop.

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  33. So your position is that Greens should have forced the MP’s to listen to Gillard in the legislative chamber then.

    Kennedy Graham addressed this point in his opening here – that was not possible. Only if the mace is present (when the house is sitting) can the Green MP’s block Gillard making the address in the parliamentary area. Now do you get the relevance of the presence of the mace and the power that MP’s wield on our behalf when it is present?

    You may not care about symbols of national sovereignty, but it’s more likely those who do who will actually try to do anything to protect our national sovereignty. Before they can they have to defend their ability to do so as MP’s. And whether you care for the niceties of the form of it or not.

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  34. Why don’t the greens focus on the sale off of Solid Energy and Meridian Energy etc, and build a strong campaign on climate change…?

    Have you signed the Keep it Kiwi no asset sales petition? Russel takes it with him everywhere.

    While parliament rules are lovely, our planet is choking and needs urgent ACTION, not endless parliament talk.

    We have to vote on these issues that come up. I just can’t see an argument for voting the wrong way. We didn’t make a media fuss about it and Key could have chose not to as well. Instead he lied and said that they were worried about Gillard being embarrassed by being denied leave of the House to speak, when the second arrangement was in place from when Rudd was coming, so leave of the House would never have been sought anyway.

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  35. Good grief! I criticise MPs, whose salary I pay, for fiddling around with points of protocol and irrelevant ‘constitutional’ niceties about whether parliament is in session or not when some almost certainly dull diplomatic speech is being made, and this is cited as evidence of deep cynicism?

    No, I think it is cynical that you don’t care that a foreign dictator would be allowed to address Parliament.

    I’d reckon I’m in good company with a large chunk of the population in saying “who cares?”

    Most could at least claim to be ignorant given the media’s butcher job of the issues.

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  36. Couldn’t agree more – so is reverence for the silly points of protocol that exist in parliament a Green Party principle nowadays?

    I don’t think opening the door further to Hu Jintao is a silly point of protocol.

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  37. Valis says “No, I think it is cynical that you don’t care that a foreign dictator would be allowed to address Parliament.”

    You’re right. Best keep the foreign dictators away from parliament. If they see our parliament in sesion with all it’s petty squabling, no one will ever be able to convince them that democracy is a good idea.

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  38. “No, I think it is cynical that you don’t care that a foreign dictator would be allowed to address Parliament.”

    You are sounding increasingly desperate in trying to justify this trivial nonsense. Now accusing me of not caring if a foreign dictator is allowed to address parliament – which is bloody low accusation and completely unjustified by anything I’ve said.

    To put it very simply yet again – I don’t see any real difference between somebody addressing parliament when it is in session and the bloody mace is on the table, and addressing parliament when it isn’t.

    And nobody seems to be able to cite a difference other than to point to symbolism and undefined ‘principles’. What next? Will the Greens ensure that the next despot to get welcomed at parliament is greeted with a maroon carpet, instead of a proper red one, and claim to have taken an important stand for sovereignty and democracy?

    “I don’t think opening the door further to Hu Jintao is a silly point of protocol.”

    Another desperate justification. In fact, this precedent is going to make it much easier for Hu Jintao to address parliament. Had a precedent been set by which a foreign politician can address parliament only when it is in session, and therefore with the consent of all MPs, it would take only one MP to block it, as has been pointed out above. Very doubtful that any government would invite a tyrant to address parliament knowing it will only take one objection to cause a major embarrassment.

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  39. Greens did what they could to separate the sovereign parliament in session from our diplomatic relations. That’s an achievement they could make and did.

    As to whether they can do more, they could propose legislation barring leaders of non democratic nations speaking in the parliamentary chamber.

    What other party would oppose it?

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  40. “As to whether they can do more, they could propose legislation barring leaders of non democratic nations speaking in the parliamentary chamber.”

    Fine, nice gesture. Of course, we’d still trade with them, train them, do deals with them, let them buy our assets, send our military to back them, etc. etc.

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  41. Fantastically short-sighted poor form to slight Julia Gillard.
    Our other neighbours are Penguins – guess they’ll get a go.
    Hopelessly xenophobic and blind withall Greens!
    Give you a premise and watch it erode!

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  42. Well, just heard a very moving speech from Julia in the OZ parliament – truly if you non-eventers were part of MY family – I’d kick you loose.
    Today!

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  43. There’s no point in breaking the rules just because of our relationship with Aussie. Not that Gillard is a despot, I’m sure she will understand the Greens principles. It’s a pity the general media coverage was so bias though, it even made me cringe. What the hell are we going to do about it?

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