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Parliament to honour Dame Kiri Te Kanawa ahead of Question Time

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Chlöe Swarbrick will ask her first question of Prime Minister Christopher Luxon as Green Party co-leader at today’s Question Time, which appears related to the Government’s change in approach to unruly Kāinga Ora tenants, announced yesterday.

The Greens’ other co-leader Marama Davidson is also named as having a question for Luxon.

Today is likely to feature the Opposition needling the Government on its plans for Budget 2024, its approach to unruly Kāinga Ora tenants and what financial support it will provide police officers.

Hipkins’ fiscal holes interrogation

Labour leader Chris Hipkins is trying to interrogate the Government on its reported fiscal holes, including asking whether Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters was correct when he agreed with a report of a $5.6 billion hole facing the Government.

Hipkins continued to highlight examples of how revenue-raising or cost-saving measures proposed by National prior to the election did not line up with current estimates.

Luxon refused to entertain Hipkins’ questioning line, saying he would not let Hipkins lecture him on economics and cited how the previous Labour Government increased spending and took on more debt – something Luxon said he would not do.

Sitting next to Luxon, Peters has in front of him a two-pack of Superwine biscuits which is an obvious reference to his recent comment that Hipkins would get drunk off one wine biscuit – part of the pair’s war of words following Peters’ State of the Nation address on Sunday.

It’s unclear whether Peters brought them himself or was given them.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters appears to have a sleeve of wine biscuits with him in Question Time. March 19, 2024. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters appears to have a sleeve of wine biscuits with him in Question Time. March 19, 2024. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa honoured

In a rare move, politicians have honoured Dame Kiri Te Kanawa’s ongoing legacy as she turns 80.

Members from each party in Parliament have delivered a short speech to honour the world-famous soprano. A waiata was also sung.

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Paul Goldsmith gave the first speech, telling those in the House of his memories of the singer performing at Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding and feeling proud of the Kiwi connection.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa smiling as MPs acknowledge her 80th birthday in Parliament, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa smiling as MPs acknowledge her 80th birthday in Parliament, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Labour MP Willie Jackson heralded Te Kanawa’s support of te reo Māori within the arts, noting that he and Te Kanawa are related.

He also cheekily encouraged Te Kanawa to get in touch should she ever want to enter politics, noting that Labour had some ground to make up in the Māori electorates, which they almost completely lost to the Māori Party in the 2023 election.

Te Kanawa appeared to be enjoying the speeches, regularly smiling and nodding.

Act leader David Seymour remarked on stories of Te Kanawa’s skill in pheasant shooting with the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Noting that Jackson had just offered her a Labour membership, Seymour joked Te Kanana would be more suited to Act – a party that advocated for strengthed firearm possession rights.

”I’d hate to think what [Labour] would tax you,” Seymour added, prompting laughs around the House.

Labour police spokeswoman Ginny Andersen is set to question Police Minister Mark Mitchell, most likely on the Government’s latest pay offer for police which was deemed “insulting” by the Police Association.

The association and police met this morning in the latest round of negotiations.

Labour finance spokeswoman Barbara Edmonds will also question Finance Minister Nicola Willis amid speculation she is facing a multi-billion dollar fiscal hole ahead of the Budget in May.

One matter that could be referenced during Question Time was Winston Peters doubling down on his comments likening Te Pāti Māori statements to Nazi Germany.

That’s despite Luxon speaking to Peters about the issue yesterday, and saying publicly that such comments by political leaders were unhelpful – although he has steered clear of directly criticising Peters for it.

This morning, Peters referenced what he considered “the most deliberate misrepresentation” of the comments he made during his State of the Nation address on Sunday in Palmerston North, where he was speaking as New Zealand First leader.

During his speech, Peters appeared to compare Labour’s use of co-governance to “race-based theory”, as seen in Nazi Germany.

NZ First leader Winston Peters made his State of the Nation speech in Palmerston North on Sunday. Photo / Mark Mitchell
NZ First leader Winston Peters made his State of the Nation speech in Palmerston North on Sunday. Photo / Mark Mitchell

He later clarified his “Nazi Germany” comments were referring specifically to comments made by Te Pāti Māori regarding Māori genes.

Peters this morning argued statements from Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi claiming Māori DNA was superior to others was something Peters had seen “in other countries”.

Peters then hit back against anyone who claimed he had referenced the Holocaust and promised to make further statements on the matter later today.

“I never mentioned the Holocaust, I never mentioned genocide and all that crap that these people are trying to fit me up with, and [I’m not] going to accept it.

“I’m going to kick back real hard, I think people are entitled to be reported properly.

“I’m not going to shy away from this appalling bias that says you can run this country on the basis that some are superior in breeding and DNA than others.”

His comments drew warnings from the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand about the use of such terminology by politicians.

“It is actually offensive to the memory of those who died and to those who survived in the Holocaust to start throwing around terms like ‘Holocaust’ or ‘Nazi’ willy-nilly,” Holocaust Centre of New Zealand spokesman Ben Kepes said.

Adam Pearse is a political reporter in the NZ Herald Press Gallery team, based at Parliament. He has worked for NZME since 2018, covering sport and health for the Northern Advocate in Whangārei before moving to the NZ Herald in Auckland, covering Covid-19 and crime.



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