Jul 30, 2013

The ethics of a walk out

Youth Parliament sat last week. In response to a speech from one of the Youth MPs, 30 others staged a walk out. Tariana Turia weighs in:

Māori Party co-leader Tariana Turia says youth MPs were wrong to walk out on a speech by one of the Māori Party’s representatives to last week’s youth parliament.

[Redacted], who was Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell’s selection for the event, spoke against the marriage equality law.

She said her elders had never told her gay marriage or being gay was OK.
Mrs Turia says [redacted] is entitled to an opinion.

Two points: firstly, the speech was delivered in Parliament. Parliament is the heart of our democracy. Opinions - however odious - have a right to be aired. Parliament wouldn’t function if MPs staged a walk out in response to odious opinions. The Youth MP was entitled to an opinion and a platform. A Parliament that censor the views of its members is no Parliament.

However – and this is the second point – odious views don’t have an absolute right to be heard and taken seriously. MPs and Youth MPs aren't entitled to a captive audience. The walk out represented a powerful condemnation of homophobia. Too often homophobia is minimised as 'an opinion'. Cloaking the offensive behaviour as 'an opinion' compounds the hurt. Homophobia is homophobia, racism is racism, sexism is sexism, ableism is ableism and so on.*

The Youth MP wasn't articulating the Maori position, but imposing a personal prejudice over that position. That can't stand. 

Post script: I think naming the Youth MP adds a level of stigma that's unacceptable. Hence I'm not linking to the article or the speech itself.

*A quick note: I’m always disappointed when members of one marginalised group, like Maori, don’t stand in solidarity with other marginalised groups, like the LGBT community. I think it’s a duty and it hurts to see it broken.


  1. What’s going on at the Maori party they are 5 steps behind still lingering in opposition to gay marriage bill when the nation is opposing the GCSB Bill. Maori party were a simple nullity at the nationwide protests yet Tuhoe are the primary target of the GCSB Bill. Maori party have taken their eyes off the ball and are focused on kids in parliament talking about homophobia when the GCSB Legislation is a real tangible threat.

  2. " A Parliament that censor the views of its members is no Parliament."

    But a walk-out does not constitute censorship.

    "The Youth MP wasn't articulating the Maori position, but imposing a personal prejudice over that position."

    I expect the Youth MP in question would disagree.

    1. No. I'm unsure how you came to that conclusion.

      I expect that she would. But then she would be wrong. The speech has met heavy condemnation including from a number of Maori religious leaders.



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