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The Green MP resigned yesterday after facing allegations of shoplifting
The Green MP resigned yesterday after facing allegations of shoplifting

The BulletinJanuary 17, 2024

Golriz Ghahraman’s resignation raises questions about life in political spotlight

The Green MP resigned yesterday after facing allegations of shoplifting
The Green MP resigned yesterday after facing allegations of shoplifting

The Green MP resigned yesterday after facing allegations of shoplifting. Bearing similarities to the circumstances that led to Kiri Allan’s resignation last year, questions have been raised about parliamentary culture and the normalisation of threatening behaviour directed at MPs, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

Green MP Golriz Ghahrama resigns after shoplifting allegations

Following allegations of shoplifting, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman resigned yesterday. As Stewart Sowman-Lund reports, the MP said her mental health had been “badly affected” by stresses related to her work, which had led her to “act in ways that are completely out of character”. She apologised and was clear in not wanting to excuse her actions but explain them. In a statement, Ghahraman said, “People should, rightly, expect the highest standards of behaviour from their elected representatives. I fell short. I’m sorry.” She has requested space and privacy. Green party co-leader James Shaw said yesterday that Ghahraman was subject to “pretty much continuous threats” during her time in parliament. These were sexual and violent in nature and included death threats. In 2019, it was reported that Ghahraman would be accompanied by a security guard following a series of death threats. Ghahraman revealed she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2020. Newshub’s Laura Walter looks back at her political career. The Herald’s Thomas Coughlan says her resignation will be a huge loss for the Greens, citing the expertise and advocacy Ghahraman brought to her portfolios — including foreign policy and electoral reform.

Questions raised again about the realities of political life

Once again, bearing bleak similarities to the circumstances that led to Kiri Allan’s resignation last year, questions have been raised about parliamentary culture and the normalisation of abusive and threatening behaviour directed at MPs. Professor Joanna Kidman, the director of He Whenua Taurikura/National Centre of Research Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism said despite the reports that had been completed on Parliament’s workplace culture, it remains an adversarial environment, often without support for people who have been targeted.

Elizabeth Kerekere, Golriz Gharahman and Kiri Allan have all left politics in dramatic fashion in the past 12 months (Design: Archi Banal)

This morning, Spinoff editor Mad Chapman writes, “As we watch brown woman after brown woman succumb to “the pressures of the job”, it’s worth remembering that not all MPs have the same pressures. If you’ve never worried about how your wider community might react to your work or the decisions you make, that’s one less pressure. If you’ve never ignored a casually racist or sexist or homophobic remark at your expense, that’s one less pressure. If you have always been confident that your bosses have your best interests at heart, that’s one less pressure.”

Shaun Robinson’s advice after Kiri Allan’s resignation on how to respond to a person’s actions in the context of their mental state also holds plenty of relevance in this situation. “Empathy and accountability can go hand in hand,’ he wrote. Emily Writes also reflects on our choices when responding to a very public “fall from grace”.

Former Wellington mayor to enter parliament

As the next person on the Green party list, former Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown will now enter parliament. The Spinoff’s Wellington editor, Joel MacManus, profiled Wade-Brown during last year’s election campaign. There are now two former mayors of Wellington in parliament this term, with Wade-Brown joining NZ First’s Andy Foster. Ghahraman’s resignation and Labour’s Ibrahim Omer’s loss in the Wellington Central seat means we no longer have any MPs in parliament who entered New Zealand as a refugee.

Government rejects four of expert panel’s recommendations on electoral reform

Ghahraman was the Green party’s electoral reform spokesperson, championing lowering the voting age to 16 and giving all prisoners the right to vote. Her Electoral Strengthening Democracy Amendment Bill was drawn from the biscuit tin in May 2022. It didn’t make it past the first reading, largely superseded by the then government’s review into electoral law. The Independent Electoral Review released its final report yesterday (summary here) after delivering a draft in June last year. The panel, chaired by Deborah Hart, has over 140 made recommendations. The government has already rejected four of them, including lowering the voting age to 16, allowing all prisoners to vote and stand for parliament, freezing the ratio of electorate to list seats and repealing the offence of ‘treating’ voters with refreshments and entertainment. The recommendation to have a referendum on the length of a term of parliament is already being looked at by the government. Act leader David Seymour described the proposal to lower the voting age as a victory for the Greens and “Chairman Mao”. “Combine voting at 16 with civics delivered by left-wing teacher unionists and you’ve got a recipe for cultural revolution, pitting indoctrinated socialist youth against the parents and taxpayers who pay their bills,” he said. As Newsroom’s Marc Daalder writes (paywalled), the review still leaves the issues surrounding how political campaigns are funded up for serious debate. “The report proposes something of a swap – parties would give up access to unlimited donations revenue in exchange for greater state funding,” he writes.

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