Time for MPs' oath to sit the Treaty next to the Queen?

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

The Māori Party is committed to changing the oath MPs have to swear before they can join Parlament to have the Treaty of Waitangi included.

Co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngawera-Parker say that the traditional oath doesn't recognise Māori and their place as the treaty partner. 

For over 150 years of New Zealand governments, the words have remained the same. "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" (with the exception of the monarch changing as  in Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII and George Vi before Elizabeth).

For long-serving MP's like National's Nick Smith, the tradition is worth celebrating.

An MP can decide to say the oath or an affirmation. Both variations state that the MP "will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law."

There is no mention of the Treaty of Waitangi or tangata whenua.

Earlier today MPs met at Matangireia, the Māori meeting room in Parliament, to pray before a copy of the Treaty. The room was full of Māori and non-Māori, all showing respect to the country's founding document.

But when will the writing on the wall make it into the great halls of Parliament? 

Māori Party challenge

Tai Tonga MP Adrian Rurawhe says it's worth a discussion in Parliament while Speaker Trevor Mallard says he's not sure if it is a pressing issue and it recognises that, if the Queen is the head of state, then she should have a place in the ceremonial process. 

The Māori Party is challenging the oath. Co-leader Rawiri Waititi performed a chant before saying the oath and explained to media that his words said he will challenge the system that has oppressed his people.  

And it's not the first time the oath has been challenged in the halls of power. Hone Harawira made the infamous move that led to him being forced out of the debating chamber. 

One question still remains: Is including three words really that hard to do? 

Mallard says it is a conversation to be had and he's sure MPs will be in support of the inclusion of the Treaty.

The Māori Party co-leaders say they are committed to making the change via a member's bill.