Yesterday, I was swearing. Swearing the Parliamentary oath, that is.
But, under my breath, I was also quietly swearing about the archaic, colonial form of that oath and its inappropriateness for today’s Aotearoa New Zealand.
To be permitted to speak and vote in Parliament I was required to swear my allegiance solely to Queen Elizabeth II and her heirs and successors. I was not permitted to add anything to my oath of allegiance to refer to my commitment to uphold the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand, Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
The history of this issue is that before 2011 a number of MPs used various ways to include a reference to Te Tiriti within, before, or after the oath we have to swear to the Queen and her successors. However, at the time of the 2011 Parliamentary swearing in, the Speaker refused to permit this. The Standing Orders Committee of Parliament consequently decided that the 50th (i.e. 2011 – 2014) Parliament should review the oath.
The 50th Parliament didn’t do this, instead rejecting the Greens’ call for a review of the oath. National, ACT, and NZ First voted down a Members Bill developed by Māori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell which would have allowed all formal oaths and declarations to reference Te Tiriti.
The new Māori Party MP Marama Fox has committed to reintroducing that Bill and the Greens will be supporting this plan as well as more challenges to the Standing Orders Committee.
The oath we have to affirm to be a Member of Parliament is long overdue for a complete review. We are not in England, or even Scotland, given its recent referendum decision to remain part of the United Kingdom. Unlike the UK, we have Te Tiriti o Waitangi as our founding document, and we have the relationship that created between iwi and the Crown. Yet we are not permitted to acknowledge Te Tiriti in our oaths of allegiance, under threat of expulsion from Parliament for an unspecified time until we swear the oath in its prescribed colonial form.
There are many ironies about a Parliament which refuses to address rituals that are a legacy of colonialism and preventing its Members from swearing our allegiance to upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We in the Greens will keep challenging on this issue, because Parliament can and should do so much better than this.