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Hopeful Henare keen on speaker's role

DANYA LEVY
Last updated 12:11 11/09/2012
Tau Henare
KNOWS HOW TO BE BAD: National Party MP Tau Henare wants to be speaker.
Lockwood Smith
MAARTEN HOLL/Dominion Post
IN THE CHAIR: Speaker Lockwood Smith.

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Controversial National MP Tau Henare says he would make a good speaker of the House because he knows how to be bad.

The speaker is expected to be replaced early next year when Lockwood Smith is tipped to quit Parliament to become High Commissioner in London.

Parliament's referee, the speaker's role is to enforce the rules and maintain order.

Ministers David Carter and Maurice Williamson are seen as the front runners to replace Smith.

Henare has now thrown his hat into the ring.

Known as the "Minister of Twitter" for his prolific use of social media, Henare angered health organisations in July by suggesting it was okay for pregnant women to smoke.

Prime Minister John Key was forced to speak to him last September after an Auckland woman complained he gave her the finger after she tooted at him for failing to indicate while changing lanes.

Today, he said the job was an opportunity he wanted.

"I've played the game in the House so I know how to be bad and I know how to be good as well."

Henare said he was "wrongly" thrown out of the House a few weeks ago.

Key yesterday stressed there had to be a vacancy before the next speaker was decided on.

"The person would have to be acceptable to all political parties," he told reporters in Japan.

Key said he would not critique Henare's suitability for the role.

Henare confirmed he had discussed the position with Key but refused to reveal the prime minister's response.

"Some people didn't think he was going to be a good prime minister and he's turned out to be a wonderful prime minister."

Carter today said he would take up the role if the prime minister wanted him to do it but said it wasn't a matter of his attributes against Henare.

In 2007, Henare was punched by Labour MP Trevor Mallard after he taunted the then senior Cabinet minister in the debating chamber with comments about his private life.

Today Mallard said Henare would be an "interesting" speaker.

"The poacher turned game keeper theory is a good one. I can't imagine him getting out of the chair to chase me. Doing a round with the speaker would have a new meaning."

Henare was very experienced, he said. "He's got some ambition and he should be congratulated on that."
Ahead of last year's election Henare was demoted down 14 places on National party's list from 26 to 40.

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Henare admitted being "pissed off" at the time but took it as a message he needed to win the Auckland seat of Te Atatu, which he lost to Labour's Phil Twyford.

At the time, Key said there was a message in his demotion and he was sure Henare would "continue to work very hard" for National in the future.

- Stuff

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