Rawiri Waititi MP has refused to wear a tie in the New Zealand Parliament, which he calls a cultural problem. Because male MPs are only legally allowed to ask a question if they wear a tie, Waititi has spoken twice from President Trevor Mallard. He was eventually expelled from parliament.
Waititi is one of the leaders of the Maori party. Maori are an indigenous people of New Zealand and wearing a tie does not match the cultural identity of Waititi. “It is not about a tie, but about cultural identity,” he told a local news channel as he left parliament. When Mallard interrupted Waititi a second time to ask his question, he suddenly asked Waititi to leave Parliament. Waititi sees this treatment as “unscrupulous”, adding that he wore professional attire, but that of the Maori.
The other Maori party leader, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, wore a tie in protest. For women, the tie is not a dress code.
Mallard himself says he’s in favor of changing the dress code, but after asking other MPs for advice last week, he’s decided to keep the tie mandatory as a dress code. “A large majority of MPs want to maintain the current situation,” Mallard said after the poll. “That’s why I decided not to make any changes. Business attire remains the norm, with a men’s tie and jacket.
This is not the first time that Waititi has battled the mandatory draw. Last year, he was told to wear a tie in Parliament, otherwise he would not be allowed to enter. Waititi called the badgers a “colonial knot” and said in his first speech “take this knot off my neck so I can sing my song”.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has nothing against popular opposition to the obligation, but believes there are bigger issues. “I don’t think New Zealanders care about badgers,” she says.
Maori have a stronger voice in New Zealand. For example, Nanaia Mahuta became New Zealand’s first female secretary of state, after becoming the first female Maori development minister under Ardern in 2017. Mahuta is one of the indigenous Maori and, like Waititi, has a traditional facial tattoo. .