Feb 1, 2012
Further comments on the Maori Party's threat
A few commentators have rightly pointed to the Maori Party’s ineptitude around s9 and the new state asset legislation. Treaty clauses are, and have been, central to Maori progress over the past two decades and the Maori Party must have known said clauses would be up for review. After all, the government was open in their intentions to sell state assets, meaning they were open about their intentions to reform the SOE act. The party must have been aware that s9 would come under review.
The party is either 1) receiving poor advice OR 2) whipping up Maori fervour for political gain. I think it’s a bit of both. The Maori Party would have known what was coming when National announced a series of hui to consult Maori. So they were in the loop only a few days ago. They sat on the information for a day, Hone Harawira then found out s9 was up for review and went public with the claim that s9 can stop asset sales proceeding. Hone hogged the headlines and threatened to own what was, in the Maori Party’s eyes, their story. As a result, they went nuclear with the threat to leave, thus reclaiming the story and positioning themselves as the champions of Maori interests. They, the Maori Party I mean, needed to shift left and reposition as the real Maori Party. The party continued to bleed support and, until now, failed to treat the wound. Meaning they continued to drift right and further right. Given this shift, the party needed to steer left and also bust the perception that the party was selling out Maori interests. The perception that the Maori Party were “sell outs” took hold last term and always threatened to sink them.
Like I said yesterday, I don’t think the Maori Party is going to walk. The Prime Minister has put what appears to be a sensible, or elegant as he terms, compromise on the table. A treaty clause will inserted, but it will apply to the government only and not private investors. It wouldn't be a massive loss if the Maori Party accept the deal. In the eyes of Maori they appear to have strong armed the government and, as an added bonus, they get to keep Whanau Ora, the constitutional review, the poverty committee and so on. Most importantly for them, they get to keep a seat at the table – after all their entire re-election was predicated on the fact that the party would occupy a seat at the table.
On the other hand, if the Maori Party cut their losses and leave their survival post-2014 would almost be guaranteed, however it would be open season on the Maori seats. Taking the principled road, read leaving National, would be a move that would go along way towards reclaiming the tino rangatiratanga vote. The Maori Party comes away having reasserted their independence and their credentials as Maori advocates.
Although, having the Maori Party in opposition would leave little room for the Mana Party. There isn’t enough real estate for two Maori Parties in opposition. With that in mind, I’d rather see the Maori Party stay. Better to have a Maori party on each side of the fence (i.e. one in opposition and one in government). Ultimately, the Maori Party will probably stay. This seems to be the opinion of most. But don’t underestimate what a potent issue this is. The Treaty has always meant far more to Maori than it ever has for other New Zealanders.