Hone Harawira defends his absences
Mana leader Hone Harawira says Prime Minister John Key’s comments about his parliamentary absences are "petty, nasty and unbecoming."
Key said this morning, "some MPs are frankly taking the mickey" because they are away from Parliament so often.
"Hone Harawira is an obvious one," he told reporters.
"You go and look at the number of days he was here in the 2011-12-13 period - not very many."
However, the National Party is refusing to release attendance records for its own MPs.
Harawira was at Parliament for the first sitting day of the year. Records for this Parliament (from 2011 to present) show Harawira had approval for 68 days leave. The MP for Te Tai Tokerau defended his record - and said he had not been absent without permission from Speaker David Carter.
"Absolutely I haven’t been slacking off," he said.
I consider myself to be one of the hard-working members of this House," he said.
"I am proud of that record and I intend to ensure I maintain that record ... I think it is just John Key being nasty, and petty and unbecoming."
He had to outline where he was going before approval was given, he said.
"I could be in many places ... in Whanganui talking about housing, in Gisborne to talk about gang issues there ... it could be anything."
Harawira said he attended debates on every bill "that is important to Mana".
His party also ensured its views were reflected in votes cast on their behalf by the Greens.
"Quite simply, I don’t think I should have to be here ... it doesn’t require that I have to be in this House all the time to be effective," he said.
Harawira said he did not take time off for birthdays or family holidays.
National Party whip Louise Upston told Fairfax Media she would not release details of National MPs’ attendance, but Key denied he was being hypocritical and said he was unaware of the refusal.
"They haven’t raised it with me ... I’ll go away and talk to our people," he said.
Key said he stood by his remarks about Harawira.
"All of us can add up ... and see who’s there," he said.
"I’m away a lot, I’ve made quite clear but when it comes to Hone Harawira as a back-bench MP, the record stands for itself."
KEY ALSO ABSENT
The prime minister was absent for almost half of the days Parliament sat last year.
The Green Party calculated that he missed 40 of the 92 days (44 per cent) MPs were required to be present.
As is customary, he skipped every Thursday to attend events or visit electorate across the country. This totalled 30 days.
GREEN PARTY RESPONDS
Green party co-leader Metiria Turei said the public didn’t get to see much of the work that was carried out in Parliament.
"At the same time, the point is to be really accessible to them," she said.
"If members of the public want us to come to their meetings, we do our very best to get to those meetings - that’s part of the job of an MP."
She said there "may well be" some MPs who took more leave than was required.
"They certainly aren’t any of ours, and so I’m really pleased with our level of attendance in Parliament. It’s very high for all of the Green MPs."
But Turei said it "wasn’t necessary" for her to release all the hours Green MPs were recorded as being in the Parliamentary precinct.
"What I can tell you is we keep a track of every hour an MP is in the house or has leave," she said.
"We’ve looked at those records [and] on average our MPs spend over 80 per cent of the sitting time in this building.
"When they’re not here, they’re at the public meetings and they’re responding to public requests, so we’re pretty pleased at those results."
Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said Maori party MPs in particular, were expected to spend a large amount of time in their electorates.
"There is an expectation that ministers - in particularly our case - that they go out and visit Maori communities and follow through on ministerial portfolios," he said.
"Sure it puts more pressure on a single MP to step behind here, but our votes are still covered because of the rules and regulations that are already in place so we’re fine with it."
He said Maori had high expectations that their ministers were accessible, but MPs were paid to bring those issues to Parliament.
"The other side of the coin, we’re being paid to come in here to represent their views," Flavell said.
"So it’s fine to be on the outside, but it’s no use unless those issues are brought to Parliament and are able to be debated and brought in front of the public."bf