Opening of Parliament: What happens today and how some MPs will navigate swearing allegiance to the Queen

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi says he will not pledge allegiance to only the Queen when he is sworn into Parliament this afternoon.

Instead, he will include Ngā Rangatira o ngā Hapū o Aotearoa and Te Tiriti o Waitangi in his Oath of Allegiance, which will also acknowledge the sovereign and head of state.

It’s understood he will read his own oath in te reo as he moves through the seats in House to take the official parliamentary oath, like Hone Harawira did in 2011.

Waititi told Māori TV’s Oriini Kaipara on Tuesday he believed he’d found an “alternative” to his oath.

“I don’t want to swear allegiance to the Queen of England.

“It’s okay if Ngā Rangatira o ngā Hapū o Aotearoa and the Treaty of Waitangi are also added. I will agree with that because of the burden our ancestors carried … but it’s a bit of a problem if it’s the Queen alone.”

A number of the 40 new MPs have expressed discomfort with swearing allegiance to the Queen and expressed desire for there to be a third option available to swear on Te Tiriti.

New Green MP Elizabeth Kerekere will read the oath as it’s written in te reo but will hold a facsimile of the treaty which her ancestors signed in Tairāwhiti.

“I’ll be making it really clear to [my ancestors] and the universe that I’m here to get some work done and I’m doing it in their name,” she said.

Kerekere, who was named after her grandmother who was named after the Queen, said when the new MPs were practising the oath a number of them said it “didn’t sit easy”.

“It’s our individual decision to make to take the oath, but the fact remains this is what we have to do to get on with the work and I’m all about the work.”

Fellow new Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March said he was also uncomfortable with swearing allegiance to the Queen but would read the oath as it was written.

After being elected, Menéndez March tweeted a meme about the affirmation to the Queen, which was met with abuse from monarchists who launched a petition to remove him from office.

Menéndez March, who is originally from Mexico, said he wasn’t a republican but said there needed to be a more nuanced conversation around constitutional transformation.

He said he found a lot of the feedback xenophobic from people who said he should move back to Mexico.

The text of the oath hasn’t changed since 1852, when Parliament first sat.

Former Māori Party co-leader Tariana Turia, when she first entered Parliament with Labour in 1999, also pushed to alter the oath or provide for an alternative which included the Treaty.

After the Te Tai Hauauru byelection in 2004, Turia was the first MP to give her oath only in te reo Māori after a law change allowed it.

Harawira was ejected from the chamber in 2011 during his swearing in after he won the Tai Tokerau byelection because he swore allegiance to the Treaty of Waitangi and the people of his electorate, before swearing allegiance to the Queen.

Later that year he swore his own oath as he moved through the seats, pledging to serve te whare (the House of Representatives), Te Tiriti, te iwi (the Māori people), and te pani me te rawakore (the poor and the dispossessed).

Phil Goff made moves to remove the Queen from the oath in 2004, when he was justice minister.

All MPs will be sworn in today with either the affirmation for the non-religious and the oath for those wanting to swear on a book of their choice, such as the bible or the Qur’an.

The oaths have to first be read in Te Reo or English but can then be sworn in any language.

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 pumau taku pono ki a Kuini Irihapeti te Tuarua me tana kahui whakaheke, e ai ki te ture. Ko te Atua nei hoki taku pou.

The opening of the 53rd Parliament

The first meeting of the 53rd Parliament, the Commission Opening, will be held today at 11am when the Governor-General sends Commissioners to formally open Parliament.

All 120 members will then be sworn in with either the oath or the affirmation. Usually, it is read in small groups but because of Covid-19 this year it will happen either individually or in pairs.

The Clerk of the House presides over the swearing in of members then the election of the Speaker before a short ceremony at Government House to confirm the election of the Speaker.

Tomorrow the State Opening of Parliament will take place at 10.30am when the Governor-General goes to Parliament House to deliver the Speech from the Throne, indicating the Government’s plans for this term of Parliament.

The Clerk of the House then presides over the swearing in of members of Parliament and the election of the Speaker

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