Maori Party MP Hone Harawira has pulled out of a Parliamentary committee's itinerary in Australia to go walkabout, Parliament was told today.
Members of Parliament's justice and electoral committee from Labour and the Green Party and Mr Harawira were in Victoria to meet a range of people and organisations to study election finance law and victims' rights.
Last week National MPs pulled out of the trip, calling it a junket, and now Mr Harawira is absent without leave.
NZ First MP Ron Mark asked the Speaker whether Mr Harawira's actions were appropriate.
Mr Mark said Mr Harawira had taken a film crew to the Northern Territory and had lambasted Australian authorities.
Last month Mr Harawira caused a storm when he labelled Australian Prime Minister John Howard a "racist bastard" for his decision to send in the military to sort out problems in aboriginal communities.
Mr Mark said there were serious issues to be addressed.
"He is away on official select committee business and on that basis his vote counts, his proxy counts. The question has to be how many times has his vote been cast in this house improperly?" Mr Mark asked.
"The second question has to be the financial implications in so far as a member being away on select committee business funded by the house but using that opportunity to do other business."
Ms Wilson said the Clerk's office was already looking into the case.
The committee is meeting representatives of the Victoria Electoral Commission, Department of Justice, Australian Electoral Commission, Law Reform Committee, police and victim support organisations.
National MPs Chris Finlayson, Chris Auchinvole and Nicky Wagner pulled out of the trip saying there was only about 20 hours' work for the week and the trip could have been held over two days.
Labour MPs Lynne Pillay (committee chairwoman) put out a statement yesterday and released the itinerary saying it had only been finalised, was very full and National had not raised concerns with the committee.
Mr Harawira told a TV One reporter in Alice Springs that he had gone to visit aboriginal camps to see what life was like for them.
He said he saw his side trip as a "work trip" and he "couldn't give a stuff" if his pay was docked.
His intention had been to support the people at the camps. "I consider to be my cousins."
His visit had reaffirmed Mr Howard's approach was not the right one.
"It just reaffirns the view that sure there are problems, there are always going to be problems, but after 200 years of colonisation basically ruining the situation of our indigenous people, coming in with a hammer at this stage ain't the way to get it fixed," he said.
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said the office of Parliament's Speaker Margaret Wilson was dealing with the issue.
The party had been advised of the situation and had discussed this with Ms Wilson.
"We have confidence that due process will be followed," Dr Sharples said, adding the party would make no further comment at this point.
But while Mr Harawira's side trip was criticised by some, a group called International Indigenous Solidarity said it would hold a rally in support of Mr Harawira.
The rally, with the theme "Hone is our hero" was to be held at Parliament at midday tomorrow, the organisers said.
The group said Mr Harawira was only of the only voices in New Zealand standing up to Australian racism.
"We should be thanking Hone for exposing the land grab by the Howard government," it said.
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