From my perspective their lack of change in their Māori caucus line up was disappointing. The only Māori MPs in his shadow cabinet are Nanaia Mahuta and Shane Jones, who has a front bench spot waiting for him pending the Auditor General’s investigation into his dealings while Immigration Minister. Shane Jones is exceptionally intelligent and the best orator in Parliament, but does represent a conservative Māori perspective that is at odds with younger generations. Most of his time recently has been spent attacking environmentalists and Green MPs. He is a big supporter of extractive industries that produce few jobs and negative environmental conditions while locking us in to a carbon dependent economy. Labour needs more diversity to counteract the 20th Century approaches to economics that Shane Jones represents.
Where’s Louisa Wall? She’s been left on the back benches. Both her and Moana Mackey are very intelligent and hardworking MPs and should have positions in Shearer's shadow cabinet. They along with Metiria Turei and Denise Roche represent a new generation of Māori politicians in Parliament.
The other disappointing factor was that Parekura Horomia still has the important Māori Affairs portfolio. Horomia is by all accounts an excellent electorate MP but I don’t think that he should continue in the Māori Affairs role while being on the back benches. This is a stark contrast with the Greens and their co-leader Metiria Turei who is a very effective Māori Affairs spokesperson. If David Shearer wants to achieve his goal of winning back all of the Māori seats then for a start he needs to appoint a strong frontbench spokesperson for Māori Affairs. Nanaia Mahuta would probably be best suited for this in the current Parliamentary lineup. At the moment Hone Harawira, Metiria Turei and the Māori Party MPs dominate the discourse in Māori politics. Labour has struggled to produce a post foreshore and seabed platform for the Māori seats and I think this is in large part due to Horomia and his involvement with that confiscatory legislation.
Labour needs to look the future of Te Ao Māori. Too many of our people, especially us taiohi, don’t vote. I stood in Te Tai Hauāuru last election for the Green Party and it reinforced my view that many, maybe most, young people around my age are disconnected from our politics. Only 59% of the enrolled population in Te Tai Hauāuru voted in 2011. This is at a time when we have an expanding youth vote in Māori communities. It is sometimes hard to see what politics offers for us, especially for the many of us that live in poverty with low wages and few employment opportunities. Incremental change is not inspiring and not good enough in these times of severe economic hardship. We need vision, we need engagement and we need action. It’s time for Labour to thoroughly repudiate Rogernomics and the confiscatory treaty policy of Helen Clark. If David Shearer can do this then he might have a chance at all the Māori seats. Until then he’s dreaming.