I haven’t had time to blog much over the past few days so I’ll briefly cover a few issues here:
Labour Party Conference
The Labour Party held their annual conference over the weekend with President Moira Coatsworth emphasising the party’s commitment to the Maori seats. This is, in my opinion, promising and sensible. Retaining and regaining the Maori seats makes strategic sense. Labour needs to reduce National’s post-election options and the most practical way to do so is to weaken the Maori Party vote and loosen the party’s grip in Te Hauauru and, arguably, Tamaki Makaurau. Without the Maori Party the Nats will find it more difficult to maintain a “moderate” pretence and, ultimately, command the numbers in the House.
The National Party has selected Claudette Hauiti to contest the Mangere electorate, a safe Labour seat. In my opinion this move represents National’s response to the increasing number of Maori turning to National. As the Maori middle class grows so to does the number of Maori voting National. The Nats are responding to this by increasing the number of Maori candidates they stand (for example Leonie Hapata in Palmerston North - UPDATE - She isn't actually Maori - my mistake), extending concessions to corporate iwi (where much of the Maori middle class is drawn from) and generally building the perception that National is no longer hostile towards Maori aspirations (think the Maori Party/National Party coalition and the symbolism that it embodies). All of this is unfortunate, the Nats, rather than formulating sound Maori policy, are relying on tokenism and symbolism to win Maori votes. Great approach to politics, shit approach to government.
Turia on Poverty
Tariana Turia says Maori must stop blaming poverty for child abuse. What a classic Tory line. Turia is an extreme social conservative who opposes abortion and is, apparently, a strong advocate for personal responsibility. Although I find Turia’s comments one dimensional, I must admit that she is correct in one sense; poverty does not annul the responsibility a child abuser must bear. However, Turia should consider the drivers of social dysfunction before jumping ahead of herself. Poverty is, more often than not, the chief reason why child abuse occurs in Maori whanau.
Maori Seats in Local Government
A number of Councils are undertaking a Maori representation review, as required under the Local Government Act 2001. At this stage it appears the New Plymouth District Council is the only Council considering Maori seats. The chances of success appear slim though. Three separate community boards have rejected the idea and Grey Power is opposed. I am fairly gutted, yet not surprised, with the response of the community. The Taranaki is hardly a region of progressive thought and racial harmony - and this is why Maori seats are a must. There is no appreciation or understanding of Maori concerns at the Council table - only a collection of individuals who reflect the ignorance of the general community and, consequently, propagate anti-Maori policy.
Finally, cheers to Denis Welch for his generous comments on Radio New Zealand re me and this blog.