A leader of the Maori Party has been ejected from the New Zealand parliament for breaching the dress code.
Male MPs can only ask questions in the debating chamber if they are wearing a tie as part of formal business attire, and Speaker Trevor Mallard twice prevented Rawiri Waititi from asking questions.
After being stopped for a second time, Waititi continued with his question until Mallard ordered him to leave the chamber.
“It’s not about ties, it’s about cultural identity, mate,” Waititi said on leaving the chamber, local media reported. He called the speaker’s treatment of him “unconscionable”.
He accused ties of being “a colonial noose” and was wearing a greenstone pendant instead which he told reporters was “Maori business attire”.
Co-leader of the Maori Party, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, who was herself wearing a tie, pleaded her colleague’s case but to no avail.
In his first speech to parliament, Waititi said: “Take the noose from around my neck so that I may sing my song.”
Speaker Mallard has said he personally supports a change to the rules on compulsory ties, but Waititi had not responded to a recent consultation on whether to scrap the tie rule, although a “significant majority” of MPs who did reply believed they were still a requirement.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she does not object to people refusing to wear ties, but that there are bigger things to be focusing on.
“I don’t think New Zealanders care about ties,” she said.
Writing in the New Zealand Herald, Waititi said the tie rule was not about dress standards but about “asserting Pakeha power”, “pakeha” being the Maori term for white New Zealanders.