Those seated in the Public Gallery of Parliament on March 2 would not have found anything unusual as Speaker Dr Lockwood Smith recited the Prayer marking the beginning of a session.
But it was indeed unusual.
For decades, the script had remained unchanged, calling MPs to “lay aside all private and personal interests.” This time it included lines of solemn thought for the people of the Canterbury region and victims of the devastating earthquake.
A small but symbolic gesture showed everything had truly changed.
Any person who has watched Parliament TV before (from the insomniacs to those who believe somewhat oddly that it is not bad telly), will know that Parliament can be a raucous place.
From (National MP) Paul Quinn, who proves with his booming voice that there is at least one transferable skill from the Rugby field to the Debating Chamber, to our own Darren Hughes with his ginger witted quips, Parliament is a lively place.
But in the past six months, that has changed.
From the first Christchurch Earthquake to the Pike River tragedy, and now the second devastating hit, Parliament has in its own way reflected the mood of the Nation.
With a collection of 122 people from across the country and the rules of two degrees of separation, everyone has known someone; everyone has experienced that same helpless feeling; and everyone has asked “what more can we do?”
Some of our gestures were symbolic: suspending question time so that Party leaders could share their condolences for the families who had lost their loved ones offer to work alongside the Government, irrespective of our political affiliations and ideologies.
Canterbury MPs, who walked into the Debating Chamber an hour after the Earthquake occurred on February 22 for the Prime Minister’s first statement, were not aware if their families were safe, just like so many other Cantabrians.
I was in Christchurch just before the Earthquake. I visited local MP Brendon Burns, at his office (his third since September 4, 2010). That building is now destroyed. I walked through the Square underneath the crumbled Cathedral and was interviewed by the local television station, CTV.
But my encounter was brief and, like everyone else in the Debating Chamber, who listened to the words of the new prayer and who could hardly fathom the magnitude of what Christchurch and its people were facing, we all knew that Parliament, for all its foibles, is still indeed the peoples place.
If you would like to donate to the Canterbury Earthquake relief effort, please do so at your local bank or donate online www.redcross.org.nz.
Jacinda Arden is a Member of Parliament on Labour List and Spokesperson for Employment & Youth Affairs. The above is exclusive to Indian Newslink ©