A dingo's got our Hone
Where the bloody hell are you?
Maori Party MP Hone Harawira is in trouble after ditching a taxpayer- funded parliamentary trip to Melbourne to visit Aborigines in the Northern Territory instead.
Labour MP Shane Jones said Mr Harawira's tribe were alarmed at his disappearance and were saying: "SOS: A dingo's got our Hone".
His impromptu walkabout has left some MPs fuming – though Green MP Nandor Tanczos says he would have liked to have gone too.
Speaker of the House Margaret Wilson is investigating whether she can dock Mr Harawira's pay for the costs of the trip, which include accommodation in a luxury hotel and business-class airfares to Melbourne.
Mr Harawira slipped out of the city early on Wednesday – ditching his fellow MPs on the justice and electoral select committee. He later e-mailed them to say he was off to the Northern Territories.
His jaunt is now making headlines in Australia, after he launched a fresh tirade against Australian Prime Minister John Howard, whom he had labelled a "racist bastard" last month for intervening in Aboriginal communities. "He's just brought in the military, he's brought in the police, he's brought in the physical, psychological and medical invasions of people's personal selves," Mr Harawira told Australian media.
"He's (the prime minister) introduced a level of racism in the Northern Territory unseen in the whole of the South Pacific."
Mr Harawira told 3News yesterday he did not give a "stuff" if Ms Wilson docked his pay – and he considered it a business trip.
Taxpayers funded the trip because Mr Harawira was supposed to be with MPs inquiring into issues including victims' rights.
Business-class airfares are likely to have cost about $2000 return while rooms at the Hilton Hotel where Mr Harawira and fellow MPs stayed start at about A$280 a night. MPs also have all their expenses, including food and taxis, reimbursed by taxpayers.
Labour's Maori Caucus chairman Shane Jones said news of Mr Harawira's disappearance had caused alarm and surprise: "Hone Harawira's tribe in the north have already been in contact with me and they're saying, 'SOS: A dingo's got our Hone'."
Mr Jones, who grew up with Mr Harawira, said his "cousin" might be a veteran stirrer and activist, but being an MP carried with it an awesome responsibility. "There are people of ours who save four or five years to pay for mum and the mokopunas to make a trip across the Tasman, and as MPs we get all that for free. They deserve for us to respect that."
Justice and electoral committee chairwoman Lynne Pillay said Mr Harawira told them on Tuesday night he was thinking about heading up to Alice Springs with a television crew.
She and others on the trip had asked him not to go but could not dissuade him.
Another MP on the trip, Labour's Charles Chauvel, confirmed that by the next morning Mr Harawira was gone.
They received an e-mail from the MP saying he wanted to observe the Australian system "from the other side of the rabbit fence".
Mr Chauvel said it was disappointing because it detracted from the work the select committee was doing. But Green MP Nandor Tanczos, also on the trip, said he would have gone with Mr Harawira if he could.
Three National MPs pulled out of the trip, calling it a junket.
The Dominion Post