Labour backbench MP and former Police Association President Greg O’Connor has been unanimously voted in as Parliament’s new Deputy Speaker
The MP for Ōhāriu, Greg O’Connor, has been elected Deputy Speaker after first coming to Parliament in 2017, following 21 years as the head of the Police Association.
Before that O’Connor had served almost four decades as a police officer.
When Parliament sat at 2pm on Thursday, O’Connor was nominated by Labour and voted in by all other parties as Deputy Speaker after his predecessor, Adrian Rurawhe, was elected Speaker on Wednesday.
Rurawhe and O’Connor’s promotions follow the resignation of long-serving MP Trevor Mallard, who finished up as Speaker on Wednesday and will head to Ireland in the new year for a diplomatic posting.
Rurawhe’s welcome in the debating chamber, and first time in the chair as Speaker-elect, was a significant day for him and his whānau who had travelled from Ratana and beyond to be in the House for the occasion.
Leaders of all parties spoke warmly of the fairness and robust debate they looked forward to him bringing to the chair, and the mana he already brought to the role.
It wasn’t long before Rurawhe, who is MP for Te Tai Hauāuru, had to rise to his feet and cut off a member when he allowed new Independent MP Gaurav Sharma to take a call.
Sharma, who was expelled from Labour’s caucus on Tuesday, started making further allegations and claims in the chamber – this time against Mallard – before Rurawhe asked him to resume his seat.
Speaking to Newsroom afterwards, Rurawhe said he anticipated Sharma would seek a call and while he was willing to allow him to do so given robust debate was welcome, he stopped him when it went beyond the purpose of the debate.
That purpose was to welcome Rurawhe, and he acknowledged it made him somewhat uncomfortable to have to point out that it was his day, not Sharma’s.
The associate speakers, National’s Ian McKelvie and Jacqui Dean – both set to retire at next year’s election – and Labour’s Jenny Salesa, remain unchanged.
O’Connor’s role as Deputy Speaker will see him fill in for Rurawhe as Speaker when he’s away at Question Time, and take the chair during other business in the House.
Leader of the House Chris Hipkins moved that O’Connor be appointed Deputy Speaker, outlining the various roles he has filled on select committees in his time in Parliament.
“Greg O’Connor will be an outstanding Deputy Speaker, he is popular and respected across the House,” Hipkins said before commending his appointment.
Shadow Leader of the House Chris Bishop noted O’Connor’s ability to work cross-party by pointing to his value in both the Parliamentary rugby and cricket teams.
“Mr O’Connor will bring to this role diligence, civility, but also experience,” Bishop said.
Green Party leader Marama Davidson and ACT Party MP Nicole McKee also spoke in support of O’Connor’s appointment.
In his time as Police Association President, O’Connor was routinely involved in the politics of policing, which saw him call for the arming of police in New Zealand.
O’Connor defeated National MP Brett Hudson to win the seat of Ōhāriu after long-serving incumbent United Future’s Peter Dunne withdrew from the contest shortly before the election.