Mar 21, 2011

Armstrong has it wrong

John Armstrong is, without doubt, an astute political commentator. Having said that I think his latest column is well off the mark. In this post I want to address a few points Armstrong makes. Consider this:

(re MCA Bill) Having thrown out the cuckoo from their nest, they have since largely kept their silence. In doing so, they have kept their dignity.

This is simply untrue. In keeping largely silent the party has lost all dignity and credibility among Maori. Maori in general, and some Maori Party supporters, have and continue to demand a two way conversation with the Maori Party. Significant concerns remain and Maori want to work over those concerns, however the Maori Party has effectively shut the door. The views of thousands of Maori were ignored at the select committee stage, the leadership refuse to substantively justify their stance beyond “it is what we promised” and the only person within the party who had the courage to reflect the views of almost all iwi and indeed Maori is no longer around. I do not see how this amounts to a dignified position. Silence is insulting.

The overwhelming desire of most parties is not to revisit this potential political hornets' nest once the bill is law.

That is one reason why the solution hammered out by National and the Maori Party should endure.

Armstrong is right in suggesting that most parties will not want to revisit this issue. As I have said many times this is one of the reasons I oppose the current bill. If the MCA bill passes then the issue is closed. The foreshore and seabed is electoral poison and neither Labour nor National will swallow it again. Where I disagree with Armstrong is in his suggestion that the solution should endure because no one will want to revisit it. This is weak reasoning and, frankly, a cop out. The electoral interests and desires of two political parties should not dictate policy. In reality it usually does dictate policy, but in terms of the foreshore and seabed issue, notions of justice should dictate whether the issue is reopened. At some point the issue will resurface because Maori are not satisfied. As Maori electoral power increases it will become harder and harder for the government of the day to ignore Maori desires.

Even the Maori Party might well prefer the new status quo be given time to bed-in, regardless of whether the party is propping up a Labour-led or National-led Administration.

I don’t think so. The Maori Party will revisit the issue as soon as the situation allows. For all the false rhetoric the party does not actually like the bill.

The Maori Party knows that no matter what further concessions it might be able to extract from National almost certainly none _ it can never satisfy its critics who demand full and unfettered Maori ownership of the foreshore and seabed.

I consider myself a critic - and a somewhat representative one at that. I, like most Maori, are moderate on the issue and I do not demand full and unfettered ownership of the foreshore and seabed. I demand a fairer and more sensible test to establish customary title. But more especially I demand the same rights as  private owners. It really, really fucks me off that Maori are expected to do with less rights than private, mostly foreign, owners. The private ownership vs Maori ownership issue really highlights what a repugnant, racist country New Zealand is. Why does the Coastal Coalition et. al. believe that Maori will restrict access and mine all the minerals beneath the foreshore and seabed while staying silent on private owners who already do this?

Moreover, Harawira is also fast being consigned to irrelevancy. He refuses to work with National. Now Labour has announced it will not work with him.

Phil Goff may have left people _ including his own caucus _ confused and wondering what happened to his maxim that no one be ruled in or out of postelection deals and accommodations until after the people had decided. Goff, however, can count. And four is bigger than one.    

Harawira will remain relevant so long as he holds his seat – which he will. Any old layman knows that if Hone holds the casting vote then Labour will come knocking. Goff is a notorious flip flopper and he will not pick principle over three years as Prime Minister. Who would? Is Harawira irrelevant if he manages to bring in one or more MP’s? Armstrong also assumes ceteris paribus – that Hone will remain a one man party while the Maori Party will retain their four seats. This is, in my opinion, unlikely. Rahui Katene is unstable in Te Tai Tonga, Te Ururoa is hardly guaranteed to romp home and Pita is vulnerable. On the other hand Hone holds the safest seat in New Zealand and commands the support of 32% of Maori voters. If anything Hone will hold four seats while the Maori Party holds one.

Better that he choose one or other now. Goff's effective choice of with whom he is prepared to work amounts to the biggest olive branch Labour has thrust in the Maori Party's direction.

It will not go unnoticed. Just as Labour's opposition to the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill won't either.

Of course Goff would love nothing more than to work with the right wing Maori Party. Labour governments tend to spurn the left. But anyway, Labours opposition to the MCA bill has nothing to do with principle or common position with the Maori Party. Labour is just searching for a few votes.

By this time next week, the bill will be law or very close to it. Public debate will go into hiatus. No longer will Harawira be able to garner attention and publicity solely through his rejection of the legislation now before Parliament.

He will still try to provoke the Maori Party into fighting the battle over who speaks for Maoridom. Turia and company will ignore him. They can afford to do so. They have already won.

Armstrong should know, in terms of attentions seeking success, Hone rates first (or perhaps second to Winston Peters). Armstrong is wrong in suggesting that Hone will battle the Maori Party over who speaks for Maori. Hone accepts that the Maori Party speaks for Maori and that he speaks for Te Tai Tokerau. But the debate is not about who speaks for Maori. It is about what is best for Maori. Mandate is not the issue, direction is and always has been. Ultimately the leadership cannot ignore Hone because Maori listen to him. If his views are not confronted they will be accepted de facto. If the Maori Party remains silent they fall out of view and they fade into irrelevancy.   

The Maori Party is losing. They have been losing ever since Te Ururoa’s complaint letter. Hone has embarrassed and utterly outplayed the Maori Party. I do not know what Armstrong’s definition of winning is, but if it includes large scale loss of support and potential electoral doom, then yes the Maori Party has won.


  1. I prefer Armstrong's comments on this one,

    His right wing view has far more distance and perspective, but yours is a one eyed Māori view....

    You're too involved, Morgan...

    I support the Māori Party in spite of the short comings.
    I for one, was very nervous right from the get go in 2008, of Hone causing havoc in the Māori Party, as it gained political influence.
    A lot of supporters of Pita and Tariana are sitting quietly, while our Co - Leaders see out this short term backlash.

    The Māori Party have proven one thing, STABILITY!
    They will have Labour and National by the balls, come the next election because neither can afford not to side with the Māori Party,but the Māori Party will not make its next move until Matariki.

    I suspect an aggressive campaign by the Māori Party, from Matariki onwards....

    Thats my one eyed Māori view....

  2. Fair enough, Eddie. I am curious to know what you mean by "too involved"? I can assure you that I have nothing to do with any Maori political vehicle, movement or otherwise. I am, politically speaking, non-aligned, as well as thorougly detached (in a physical and intellectual sense) from any Maori polirical discourse. I am an observer and commentator - nothing more.

    Mine is not a Maori view. Some may suspect that my views are informed by Te Ao Maori – only to a limited extent. Although I am loathe to classify myself if forced I would say I am more than anything a social democrat. Not a tino rangatiratanga advocate.

    Armstrong's view is indeed one of distance, but that distance translates to utter detachment and misunderstanding. Distance is often conducive to impartial understanding. Having said that one cannot be so far detached that one losses all perspective. Essentially Armstrong does not know Maori. Armstrong is applying his conventional understanding of politics to Maori. This will not work.

    I am unsure that the Maori Party will come out of the election having maintained the status quo. I am picking that they will lose Te Tai Tonga and possibly Waiariki.

    I guess it is a question of definition as to whether the Maori Party has proven stability. One person may say the party has proven timidness.

    I look forward to the announcements come Matariki.

  3. Thanks for your political reference, Morgan....

    The Māori vote has historically aligned to Social Democrat ideologies. I put it to you that this is the reason why I state you're too involved.
    Poverty issues in the Māori Roll constituency, has always been Labour's political trump card of direct intervention, Nanny State.

    Are you aware that the National Party's position, since it's Leadership under John Key is changed to Blue Liberalism?
    Not conservatism...
    Check it out....It has merit...

  4. Kia ora Morgan,

    If tino rangatiratanga isn't the endgame then what is?

  5. Kia ora Marty,

    I guess it depends on your definition of tino rangatiratanga. If one defines it as Maori self government then no, that is not the end goal. If one defines tino rangatiratanga as Maori advancement in education, health etc then yes, this is undeniably the end goal.

    Traditionally, I've never defined myself as a tino rangatiratanga advocate because I do not believe in some of the harsher rhetoric.

  6. Thanks for the slick update Maui Street broadcast on Native Affairs. It's good to get a refreshing new perspective from rangatahi and one that is right on. As a supporter of the idea of forming a new party and as well a supporter of Hone Harawira being at the helm. I appreciate your honesty in saying that it will be hard for 'us' to get that party vote to get more in. I am hoping that Annette Sykes will take three years of law and put her name up as a candidate or list on new Party. na Mihirawhiti Searancke

  7. Kia ora Mihi

    Thanks for your comment.

    It certainly will be hard, but not impossible. Annette certainly is the key though. Willie Jackson could have a good go in Tamaki Makaurau, however that could open up the middle for Shane Jones.



1. Anonymous comments will be rejected. Please use your real name or a pseudonym/moniker/etc...
2. No personal abuse. Defamatory comments will be rejected.
3. I'll reject any comment that isn't in good taste.