Marlborough Express - Being sworn in

Columns
Thursday, November 6, 2014

Although the induction process for Qualifying Members of Parliament gave me a taste of life as an MP, our time in the house was still more of a rehearsal than the real thing. This week, with the official opening of parliament, being sworn in and giving my maiden speech, at last I have had a taste of the real thing.

The week started with the Commission opening of the Parliament on Monday, where MPs are sworn in and the Speaker of the house is elected. We were sworn in in alphabetical order which being a Smith was a long wait for me. When the moment came, I had an overwhelming feeling of the privilege and the responsibility that was bestowed upon me.

On the Tuesday we had the State opening of the 51st Parliament. The reason for there being two ceremonies is that the House cannot carry out any business until the members are sworn in and the Speaker elected. The Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mateparae, came to Parliament House to deliver the Speech from the Throne. This speech indicates what the Government’s agenda is for the term ahead. The speech was given from the Legislative Council Chamber as the Sovereign never enters the House as a symbol of the independence of the elected representatives. Outside on the forecourt of parliament, there was a military parade and a flypast of RNZAF helicopters and First World War aircraft. This marked the centenary of the declaration of the First World War.

There was much pomp and ceremony over the two days, with traditions dating back centuries still being carried out. To witness and partake in the same customs as so many great men and women from generations before me was a humbling experience. The traditions, although perhaps seemingly strange in today’s world, are an important link to our history and provide continuity within our country and our government. We were ‘roped in’ for the Speech from the Throne, dating back to when MPs were reluctant to hear what the Monarch had to say. Though these traditions sometimes stem from rather grim reasoning, these days they’ve become more of an opportunity for laughs such as our Whips having the chance to ‘drag’ newly elected Speaker Rt Hon David Carter to his chair. The Speaker of the House in the past was in the precarious position of being the first to feel the wrath of the Monarch if he or she was unhappy with the parliament, hence their reluctance to accept the role.

Although the first two days were full of excitement, Wednesday was one of the biggest moments for me – giving my maiden speech. It is an honour to represent the people of my electorate of KaikĊura, and now being sworn in and having spoken in the House, I feel like I am a real MP. I look forward to the challenges ahead.