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'We succeed best when we succeed together': Landmark bill passes first hurdle thanks to rare cross-party support

Alakihihifo Vailala, Te Rito Journalism Cadet

All parties, except National, voted for Teanau Tuiono’s member’s bill to pass its first reading, which enables the restoring of the entitlement to NZ Citizenship for Samoans born between 1924 and 1948.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

A bill which aims to restore the entitlement to NZ citizenship for some Samoans has passed its first reading, with all parties, except National, voting in favour.

Green Party MP Teanau Tuiono's Restoring Citizenship Removed By Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982 Bill was drawn from the Biscuit Tin last August.

Tuiono opened the debate with a Samoan introduction, acknowledgements to the Speaker and MPs of Samoa’s Parliament who were in attendance, as well as a tribute to his former colleague, the late Fa’anana Efeso Collins.

Listen to the concluding remarks from Tuiono's speech to Parliament:

Quoting a Samoan saying from Fa’anana’s maiden speech, Tuiono said: “No one stands alone, and for him, no one suffers alone.

“Madam Speaker, I want to add a little bit to that, that we succeed best when we succeed together.”

Surprise support

Prior to the bill’s first reading, the Greens, Labour and Te Pati Maori had confirmed that they would be supporting the bill.

And to the surprise of many in the public gallery, ACT and NZ First confirmed that they would also vote in favour of it.

ACT Party MP Parmjeet Parmar emphasised the importance of the bill reaching a select committee.

“I know some members are looking quite surprised but this is what ACT Party stands for. We believe in equality.

“We believe in fairness so we want to really assess this bill on the basis of these two things, equality and fairness.

“We will get this opportunity to do that in the select committee process because we would like to hear from what submitters have to say on this bill."

NZ First MP Casey Costello also confirmed the party’s support for the bill reiterating their leader Vaovasamanaia Winston Peters’ many years of advocacy for Pacific communities.

“We acknowledge that yes, there has been over 40 years that the effect of this bill has been reviewed and considered and reflected upon.

"We acknowledge that this does not confer citizenship directly but creates automatic eligibility to apply for and receive citizenship.”

Despite the two of the three coalition government parties' support, National's Cameron Brewer confirmed his party wouldn't be supporting the bill.

“We have [been] lobbied hard. We have also taken legal advice but on the balance of it, National will oppose this bill."

This is despite the party’s own Pacific Blues group and former National MP Anae Arthur Anae advocating they support the bill.

Right thing to do

Labour’s deputy leader Carmel Sepuloni said supporting the bill “is the right thing to do”.

She says following the former Labour government’s Dawn Raids apology, supporting the bill was another opportunity to honour the spirit of the apology.

“This work has not been forgotten by the Labour Party.”

Wrapping up the debate, Tuiono reiterated the importance of acknowledging New Zealand’s colonial history with Samoa.

“It is something we must unravel. It is something we must deal with.

“There are things we do well and that is relationship diplomacy. There are geopolitical tensions in the Pacific and we can navigate that well when we do relationship diplomacy.

“This is relationship diplomacy … 682 to 685, I commend this bill to the House.”

Tuiono’s bill passed its first reading with 74 votes to 49 and will now be considered for submissions by the Governance and Administration select committee.

Hero Image: Teanau Tuiono concluding the bill's first reading in the House.


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