Harawira defends absence allegations

Hone Harawira
Hone Harawira
Mana Party Leader Hone Harawira says Prime Minister John Key's criticism of his record of attendance at Parliament is "petty" and he is one of Parliament's hardest-working MPs.

This year sees the introduction of a register of attendance at Parliament for MPs who now face penalties of at least $295 a day for each unexplained absence after three days.

Mr Key said the public paid a lot of money for MPs to attend Parliament and while there always reasons why they might miss the House, " I think there's been a situation where some MPs, frankly, have taken the mickey and they've treated the place with not enough respect".

"Hone Harawira's an obvious one. You go and have a look at the number of days he was here in the 2011 2013 period not very many."

This afternoon Mr Harawira was asked about reports he was absent from Parliament for 68 days last year.

"I checked with the Speaker's office and I've had no unauthorised leave of absence from Parliament.

"Every day I've been away has been approved by the Speaker's Office", he told reporters " I haven't been slacking off in fact I consider myself to be one of the harder working members of this House."

He said Mr Key's remarks were " just a continuation of his petty bickering about my going to South Africa."

Meanwhile, Mr Key's own Chief Whip Louise Upston refused to release records of National Party MPs absences from Parliament.

Instead, she said National had " a robust leave system and I would be very clear if anyone was away without permission and that's what the (new regime) will require public disclosure of."

The only party to release their attendance records this afternoon were the Greens.

A spokesman said the record showed that Green MPs were in attendance for 82 per cent of the hours that Parliament sat during the current Parliamentary term.

Co-leader Metiria Turei said that when Green MPs weren't in Parliament, " they're doing the work the public have asked them to do, they're out with the public at meetings so we're pretty pleased with our result".

A spokesman said Labour didn't believe it was appropriate to release its MPs' attendance records because the leave was often applied for "for various personal reasons".

NZ First Leader Winston Peters said it was rare for his MPs to be absent from Parliament.

"One of these days if you if you want us to trawl through the whole lot we will, but it's so few in number, about 50 days for all MPs all up which is substantially less than a lot of the MPs, that I don't think we've got a problem at all."

- By Adam Bennett of New Zealand Herald

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