At Monday’s Assembly the children saw pictures of the New Zealand parliament in Wellington and particularly the Beehive and the Debating Chamber. The procedure following a general election and leading up to the investiture of the new government is full of tradition. Parliament will be reopened by the Governor General, Dame Cindy Kiro, but she cannot enter the debating chamber, so sends a representative who carries an ebony cane and is called Black Rod. The envoy knocks on the door of the debating chamber and enters followed by a procession of senior judges including the Chief Justice of New Zealand. This is to remind the new and current Members of Parliament that they also are under the law of the land. Just because they are part of this body that makes the laws, they are still subject to them.

Also on this first day, the Speaker is elected. He presides over Parliament and his or her authority is represented by the Mace. This is a club-like instrument that sits in a cradle in the middle of the debating chamber. It stands for the quality of Reason, being one of mankind’s supreme gifts. Shakespeare refers to it in Hamlet as “…that noble and sovereign reason…”. The mace is club-like because sometimes politicians, like us, get so attached to their own opinions and ideas that they need to have the false ones beaten out of them by the process of debating! The idea being that then reason will prevail.

The final act on that first day is for all MPs to be sworn in. They are not allowed to participate in parliamentary debates until they have been sworn in. This involves swearing on oath to the Crown as follows:

“I … solemnly, sincerely and truly affirm that I will bear true allegiance to His Majesty King Charles the Third, His Heirs and successors, according to law.”