MPs sworn in for new Parliament

02:48, Dec 20 2011
Lockwood Smith
COME HERE: Lockwood Smith (C) being dragged to the Speaker's chair by National's whips.

The 50th New Zealand Parliament has met for the first time and MPs have been sworn in.

Lockwood Smith was re-elected Speaker unopposed.

Smith told the newly elected MPs he was "deeply honoured" and thanked MPs from the previous for the "better natured tone".

Governor General Jerry Mateparae has also formally confirmed the appointment of Smith as Speaker.

Dressed in a wig and black robe Smith presented himself to Sir Jerry at Government House.

Prime Minister John Key, Chief Justice Sian Elias, representatives of most political parties and members of Smith's staff were present at the ceremony.

Sir Jerry said the brief ceremony had a historic legacy.

Earlier at Parliament, Key said Smith had shown he was a person of "good judgment".

"You have served this House with great distinction," Key said.

In his first words in the debating chamber as Labour leader, David Shearer acknowledged Smith's even hand. He joked that Smith had been so successful in working with Labour's shadow leader of the house, Trevor Mallard, that he might come and see him for some advice.

Earlier, Clerk of the House, Mary Harris, administered the oaths and declarations of allegiance of all 121 MPs, including 25 new comers.

A handful of MPs, including the Green Party's Julie Anne Genter and Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell have sworn their allegiance in te reo Maori.

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira, who has protested against swearing an oath to the Queen, also gave his oath in te reo. Before taking the oath, however, he informally spoke in te reo acknowledging his people.

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Labour MP Sua William Sio was granted leave to give the oath first in English and then in Samoan.

The first ever profoundly deaf MP, the Greens' Mojo Mathers, won spontaneous applause from fellow MPs after giving her oath.

OATH DEBATE

This morning  Key said MPs who had an issue with the oath should "get on with it".

The Green Party this morning said the parliamentary oath should be modernised and that there was public support for a change.

Co-leader Metiria Turei said the party would raise changing it with the Speaker.

An online survey of more than 650 people, conducted by the Greens, had found around three quarters opposed the current oath to the Queen, while more than 90 percent would support an alternative oath in which MPs pledged to do their best for Aotearoa/New Zealand.

More than 70 percent supported including commitments to protect the environment and honour the Treaty of Waitangi.

"The Green Party wants Parliament to be modern and unique to New Zealand and who we are now. The current oath is old fashioned and out of step with who we are as a nation," co-leader Metiria Turei said.

"Our survey indicates the public support change. All too often, Parliament lags behind the will of the people and where they are at."

Harawira has twice challenged the oath by substituting his own words and was this year tossed out of Parliament for it by the Speaker.

Following his re-election in the Tai Tokerau by-election Harawira caused a furore when he swore his allegiance to the Treaty of Waitangi and voters in his electorate, before swearing his allegiance to the Queen.

Parliament's rules have since been changed to stop MPs challenging the oath by using their own words.

Key said MPs were required to pledge allegiance to the Queen as New Zealand's Head of State.

"That's the constitutional monarchy system that we have and I think every MP therefore is bound by that and should swear their allegiance."

Harawira was just playing games and did it for grandstanding purposes rather than because he didn't support the constitutional monarchy, he said.

"Frankly I think he should just get on with it like every other Member of Parliament."

Key said it was a special day and an exciting time for new MPs.

"You must take the oath very seriously, what happens in that Parliamentary chamber is important and you are bound by that oath, your word is your bond."

He did not believe the oath needed to be looked at.

Debate over the oath was a perennial issue, he said.

The oath:
I, ..., swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.
In te reo Māori:
Ko ahau, ko....... e oati ana ka noho pūmau taku pono ki a Kuini Irihāpeti te Tuarua me tōna kāhui whakaheke, e ai ki te ture. Ko te Atua nei hoki taku pou.