Air NZ's Saudi scandal and the Māori Party rids itself of a colonial noose - what you need to know about Parliament this week

The first week back at Parliament was dominated with news of Air New Zealand's dealings with the Saudi Navy, the country's vaccine roll-out, and finished with a first-term MP's speech on Berocca and deer velvet.

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Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi was previously kicked out of Parliament for refusing to wear what he called a “colonial noose”. Source: Breakfast

While many were off work on Monday, 1 NEWS' Benedict Collins revealed Air NZ's gas turbine unit had a third party contract with the Saudi Navy, although he could have avoided working on the public holiday had the national carrier not spent weeks ignoring his questions. 

Once the story broke condemnation of the deal was swift, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying it "doesn't pass New Zealand's sniff test", given the Saudi military's role in the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Coincidentally, Air NZ's annual review was held yesterday, which meant chief executive Greg Foran and Board Chair Dame Therese Walsh faced a committee of MPs that grilled them on the deal. Foran revealed it would have been former CEO, now National MP Christoper Luxon  who was leading the company when the deal was signed, but due to the small size of the contract (a $3m third-party contract) it would have not ended up on his desk. 

Once Air New Zealand acknowledged the work was being done, after Collins had been forced to go to shareholding minister Grant Robertson, it started concealing some of the activities highlighted on its website when it became obvious the news was going to hit the headlines.

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The airline today apologised to MPs and promised to be more transparent in future. Source: 1 NEWS

There is currently an internal review, an external review, a QC reviewing procedures and MFAT is also looking into Air NZ's dealings. 

Parliament's tie debate came to a head this week - with Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi booted from the House on Tuesday for his continual refusal to don a tie, instead wearing a heitiki. On the way out, Waititi said, "it’s not about ties it’s about cultural identity".

A temporary truce was reached on Wednesday afternoon, while a late-night meeting of MPs from across the House saw the Speaker ditch the rule that saw Waititi gain international coverage and support from Sir Richard Branson

Moves to ban conversion therapy finally gained support from National this week, after confirmation from leader Judith Collins. Labour promised at the last election to ban conversion therapy, in which a person attempts to change another's sexual orientation. Ardern said she wanted to see the first step to banning conversion therapy in Parliament this year

The Government signed off use of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine and revealed the rules around it, such as a minimum age of 16 to have the jab and a 30 minute observation period. It was announced today the rollout date for New Zealand's first batch of Covid-19 vaccinations will be brought forward, meaning some Kiwis will get them earlier than expected, from February 20. 

New Zealand also suspended all high level political and military contact with Myanmar, pledged to not deliver aid that benefits the military and it will implement a travel ban for military leaders in light of the military coup

Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March, who went back to Mexico to visit family said it was a "risk worth taking". Menéndez March went to Mexico to care for his sick parents, travelling with his partner back to New Zealand.

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Ricardo Menéndez March travelled to Mexico because of a “serious family matter”. Source: 1 NEWS

And finally, new Labour MP Anna Lorck raised eyebrows during her first speech in Parliament during the Dietary Supplements Regulations Bill.

She spoke at length about Berocca, collagen and deer velvet. A spoof video uploaded by National MP Chris Bishop saw him taken to the Privileges Committee by the Speaker over using the Parliamentary footage.