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Joyce Backs PM Saying Harawira Incident Minor

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Steven Joyce
Steven Joyce

By Maggie Tait of NZPA

Wellington, Dec 8 NZPA - In an unusual move Prime Minister John Key today suggested police should not charge Maori MP Hone Harawira for driving without a helmet and Transport Minister Steven Joyce is backing him.

Generally politicians avoid commenting on police investigations and do not suggest what they should do.

However, Mr Key today said he did not think it worth prosecuting Mr Harawira for riding a motorbike on Parliament's forecourt without wearing a helmet.

"My own view is nothing should happen," he told reporters this morning.

"For the same reason, I didn't think Shane Ardern should be prosecuted for driving a tractor up the steps of Parliament."

Mr Ardern in 2003 was investigated by police after he drove a tractor called Myrtle up the front steps of Parliament as part of a protest against a "fart tax" over a proposed agricultural levy. Police initially charged him but withdrew it in court after a judge raised concerns.

"At the end of the day it may well be in breach of the rules and regulations and I am certainly not advocating that people ride motorbikes without helmets, obviously for safety reasons that's very important, but sometimes these things are driven off political reasons as opposed to specifically done for safety reasons," Mr Key said.

Mr Joyce said the incident was not concerning.

"I don't have too many concerns on the forecourt of Parliament. I think obviously if someone was out on the streets riding a motorbike (without a helmet) I'd be very concerned," he said.

"I think there's always a bit of political gamesmanship around this sort of stuff. My view of it is, yes you want parliamentarians to set a good example but I don't think this particular issue warrants too much additional attention."

Police Minister Judith Collins, however, was careful not to step into giving an opinion on what action police should take.

"It's a matter for the police. I don't want to comment on it."

She said any questions about Mr Key's comments should be referred to him.

Mr Ardern said the matter was not for him to give judgement on but said his own case was political and had been "hyped up".

Labour leader Phil Goff said he was present when Mr Harawira rode the bike.

"He was not on a roadway, he was doing about 5kmh. I think it is a petty issue really," Mr Goff said.

Mr Harawira has been embroiled in a serious row about an unauthorised trip to Paris while on a parliamentary visit to Europe and the racially offensive email he sent in defence of it.

He was allowed to stay in the party but was sent on leave from Parliament until it resumes after the summer recess.

The motorbike incident happened two months ago, when he met a group of anti-violence demonstrators on the forecourt and took a short ride on one of their bikes.

It was pointed out at the time that he wasn't wearing a helmet, but he laughed it off.

After TV One News played the footage a couple of viewers had complained to the police.

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