Prime Minister John Key scored an embarrassing own goal yesterday after launching an attack on Hone Harawira’s attendance record.
Key accused the Mana party leader of "taking the mickey" over his frequent absences from Parliament. Mr Harawira has taken 68 days leave – all approved by the Speaker – since 2011. National, along with Labour and the Maori Party, refused yesterday to release the records of its own MPs.
However, the Green Party used Hansard, the official record of Parliament, to calculate that over the same period Mr Key was absent on 81 of 186 sitting days. Three of these were urgency days on a Friday or Saturday.
"The New Zealand public pay us a lot to turn up here and represent them," Key said. "...Some MPs, frankly, have taken the mickey...They don’t turn up and they should be held to account."
Te Tai Tokerau MP Mr Harawira was in Wellington for the first day of the parliamentary calendar. He defended his record, saying on each occasion he was granted permission by the Speaker.
"I haven’t been slacking off," he said. "I consider myself to be one of the hard-working members of this House... I think it is just John Key being nasty, and petty and unbecoming."
Harawira pointed out his electorate was much larger than those of most other MPs, and he lacked the support of a caucus.
The stoush erupted after the introduction of a register of attendance for MPs and an increased penalty for truancy. Those who are absent without leave for more than three sitting days will be fined 0.2 per cent, or $295, on the fourth day and for every subsequent day.
Speaker David Carter released the records of single MP parties yesterday after a request from Fairfax.
Harawira, at 68 days, had the most leave, and UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne, on 13, the least. However, this does not include when those MPs left the parliamentary precinct for part of a day.
Whips of the other parties keep their own records. The Greens said their MPs were present for 82 per cent of sitting days. Co-leader Metiria Turei had the highest amount of leave, about 30 days a year.
"This is consistent with our policy of Metiria being in the community on Thursdays, in the same way that the leaders of National and Labour are also out of the house on Thursdays," a spokesman said.
NZ First said that in 2013, 50 leave applications from its MPs were approved over 31 House sitting weeks. This included for part of a day.
Leader Winston Peters called on National to release the details of MP attendance saying the public had a right to know.
Independent MP Brendan Horan has had 21 days permitted leave since December 2012. "If I’m not here then I’m out doing important work within the community," he said.
Labour’s chief Whip Sue Moroney said her party supported "the new transparency" around attendance – but would not release details of retrospective leave.
"This private information is not shared by the Whips with other MPs or even the party leader," she said.
ROLL CALL - leave granted out of 186 sitting days this term
JOHN KEY: 81 days leave
MANA: Hone Harawira - 68 days leave *
ACT: John Banks - 29 days leave*
INDEPENDENT: Brendan Horan - 21 days leave (since December 2012)*
UNITED FUTURE: Peter Dunne - 13 days leave since December 2011*
NZ FIRST: no details for individuals but in 2013, 50 leave applications were approved over the 31 House sitting weeks
GREENS: Metiria Turei - 331 hours
Russel Norman - 220 hours
Kevin Hague - 175.25 hours
Catherine Delahunty - 249.75 hours
Kennedy Graham - 241.75 hours
Eugenie Sage - 94.25 hours
Gareth Hughes - 208.25 hours
David Clendon - 222.75 hours
Jan Logie - 212.75 hours
Steffan Browning - 148 hours
Denise Roche - 216.25 hours
Holly Walker - 224 hours
Julie Anne Genter - 212.75 hours
Mojo Mathers - 206.25 hours
NATIONAL: refused to say
LABOUR: refused to say
MAORI PARTY: refused to say.
* does not include leave taken for part of a day
- Fairfax Media