May 17, 2012

Colin Craig on Maori (and I'm on Twitter)

With Craig and the Conservative Party in the news recently, I’ve been searching for clues to their approach and opinion on Maori issues. Yesterday I stumbled on this interview Craig gave with Claudette Hauiti from Waatea Radio. The interview is one of the more in-depth and instructive that Craig has given and, arguably, indicates that Craig is pragmatic when it comes to things Maori.

I initially expected Craig and the Conservative Party to be openly hostile on Maori issues. Given the segment of the electorate Craig is targeting, I thought anti-Maori sentiment would be a given. Take, as one example, this pamphlet the Conservative produced last year. The pamphlet explains “why National is wrong on the foreshore and seabed” and proceeds to attack the Maori seats, The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and treaty settlements.

However, in contrast with the above pamphlet, Craig took a more pragmatic approach to Maori issues on Waatea. Much of the interview consisted of, for want of a better term, cuddly responses from Craig. For example, when describing his time in the Maori department at AUT, Craig reckoned that “everyone was everyone’s friend” and it was “a wonderful experience for me”. Thankfully, however, Hauiti managed to pry some very instructive answers from Craig.

On education, Craig supports Kura Kaupapa and Kohanga Reo saying that we need a “variety of educational institutions” and “schools should have the freedom to do what works”. Although this position clashes with the Conservative Party’s opposition to policies that “divide us based on race”, for example the Maori seats, it indicates a pragmatic approach to Maori issues. Kura and Kohanga work, that’s undisputed, and it is encouraging to know that Craig supports what works. It would be easy, and perhaps politically expedient, for Craig to oppose Kura and Kohanga on ideological grounds.

If anything, the above indicates that Craig’s ideology is flexible and that, for a politician at least, is an asset.

Hauiti also asked Craig whether he thought, and I’m paraphrasing here, Maori held the key to their own destiny. In other words, does he support Maori self-determination (tino rangatiratanga). At first, Craig didn’t recognise what was implicit in the question. When the question was put to him for a second and third time, he didn’t give a straight answer. Actually, Craig’s answer was contradictory. At first he started speaking about individual responsibility, which I read as meaning that the individual has the key to their own destiny rather than Maori as a collective, but then Craig went on to endorse Maori organisations and their efforts in Maori development which seemed to indicate that he does endorse Maori formulating solutions for Maori. I find it difficult to reconcile those two positions.

Interestingly, Craig thinks the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 was wrong and that every New Zealander should have “the right to go to Court on an issue”. However, Craig is opposed to Maori customary title holding the foreshore and seabed should be held in the commons, read owned by all New Zealanders. However, Craig endorsed customary rights to fishing, usage and so on. Again, this is a contradictory position. It recognises that Maori have special rights, for example fishing rights, however the Conservative Party's position is that everyone has the same rights. Again, this indicates a degree of pragmatism on Craig’s part. Perhaps aware that the party will have to rely on and, if elected to Parliament, work with Maori, Craig is attempting to find positions that will satisfy his target market and at the same time provide a base for working with Maori politicians.

On the question of how well the Conservatives will represent Maori, Craig reckons “very well” and says that for “New Zealand to succeed we need Maori to succeed”. If you had to attribute that comment to someone, you’d probably pick Hone Harawira before Colin Craig. In another moment that could have come from Hone Harawira or Tariana Turia, Craig claims not to put much faith in the free market. On the subject of Maori unemployment, Craig does not believe “the free market is going to sort everything out”. Instead, Craig believes in creating initiatives “that work” (what works is a common thread throughout the interview) and he does not want people “forced into situations where they have to put their hand out”.

At the end of the interview Craig says he supports Whanau Ora, but before he can qualify/explain that answer he was cut off. Again, this may indicate an openness to what works, but we can’t know for certain without a more wholesome answer.

In all, it was an interesting interview. I don’t necessarily agree with Craig’s positions, but he appears open to Maori ideas – or at least not openly hostile. This could, of course, change with time and change in response to shifting political circumstances. But, for the moment, Craig poses no threat to Maori progress.

*Just a reminder I'm on Twitter now. You can follow me here


  1. The language of their website indicates to me a prospective position not dissimilar to ACT in these matters - but perhaps, because of the infancy of the party there is not any open hostility.

    It's not a wise idea to alienate too many before you even get a seat in parliament - and he's already done well to ostracize the homosexual demographic (while perhaps entrenching a positiong with the Christians). I assume Conservatives will be trying to capture the migrant middle-class to whom the history of Maori issues may not be as clearly understood or resonant. And similarly, for whom idealistic touting of equality in status and ballot power is probably attractive.

    Depending on how successful the next election, and then perhaps the election thereafter go for the Conservatives, I would expect to see a solidification on these issues if they can find a firm base with non-maori demographics.

    Traditionally, conservatives are opposed to multiculturalism - seeking a one people, one voice sort of mantra - I hesitate to be optimistic about visions of singularity because they always reek of the assimilation policies of yesteryear. Maori who grew up in the 50's and 60's will probably agree.

    1. Kia ora Hemi,

      I don't sense any hostility in the way Act is/was. Take Act's "Maorification of Everything" ad and compare with Craig's pamphlet above. Act's piece was openly hostile and plain racist, however Craig's pamphlet is more relaxed (if not similar in outlook) and far less erroneous.

      I agree that Craig and his party's position will change with time. Certainly when, or if, he gains a better understanding of his voters and their positions on Maori issues. You're right that the whole one peoples principle, one of the party's foundation principles it should be added, clashes with multiculturalism and, as a result, Maori culture.

    2. Subdued in cant, yes. Far less verbose or inflammatory, but at the end of the day if those are their values - would their policy objectives and outcomes vary much from ACT? ( I mean on Maori Roll, Foreshore issues etc -- with regard to market regulation etc the Conservatives to seem to take some of the directions of their namesake ideology).

      I guess it's a bit difficult to really draw comparison with ACT because of their volatility (easy to be flexible with your party principles when there's only one MP and he's a lunatic), but generally I would argue Conservative and ACT share policy objectives for these things, but vary in their motivations.

      These pillars aside, I wonder the degree of compatibility for Maori & the Convservative party. There's a large contingent of socially conservative Maori, and if Colin's not averse to some state interventionism (Think Big?) I could see many of the older generation getting behind a party that pushes for trade-training [take the emphasis Ngai Tahu is putting on similar initiatives].

      On the other hand, the Conservatives look like they'll push a Big Dairy stance and "actively pursue economic policy that encourages farming" - conflicts could occur between this and Maori environmentalism. I spose the converse could also occur, with rural Maori supporting further agricultural development (but I'm too urban to know the sentiment).

      Either way, it certainly looks like there are some positives from Craig's political adventure. An emphasis on pragmatism is certainly something most New Zealanders can probably appreciate.

    3. Yeah, it’s difficult to compare the two. In my opinion, both parties are represent different stages of development. The Conservatives are a youthful party on the ascent; on the other hand Act is in decline and, as a result, is trying to pump the anti-Maori populist vein. In time, both party’s policy positions may coalesce.

      There is a large element of conservative Maori, however these Maori tend to remain supportive of Maori development initiatives, think the Maori seats. Given this, I think the Conservative Party may struggle to attract conservative Maori without a number of policy shifts. From my point of view, the Conservatives are anathema. The party’s positions offend my liberal values, but to a lesser extent my Maori values. Maori can draw parallels between whakapapa and the Conservative’s family values, but at the end of the day this will come to nothing without policy shifts that support Maori development, again think retention of the Maori seats.

      In all the Conservatives are a fascinating development in New Zealand politics.

    4. I think the Conservatives need to display an ability to actually win representation in parliament before they can be considered a real development, as opposed to a sideshow.

      And are they really that surprising? It seems their policy platform is basically the same economically dirigiste, socially conservative stuff that New Zealand First have been pushing for ages (and that existed in the National Party prior). There's a slightly larger emphasis on religion, but other than that it's not a huge difference.

  2. Absolutely, any division of the far-right is a good thing for those on the other side of the fulcrum.

    Principally, any divergence between those socially conservatives (read; racist/homophobes) and those market-liberals within the ACT constituency is a something to satiate the socialists and believers in regulated markets.

    If I was a lefty, I'd rather have to oppose a party who pushes primarily an agenda for social-conservatism, than a party like ACT who pushes for economic liberalism.

    Not simply because it's damn near impossible to stop New Zealanders continually relaxing social barriers (we're fair, friendly and decent people), but also because the damage done by the ACT party to our economic prospects is far greater than anything a pro-regulation party like the Conservatives will ever hope to achieve.

  3. E hoa, do not be conned by Craig. He is only giving the appearance of pragmatism and flexibility. As soon as his party gains a seat or two and replaces ACT and Peter Dunne's party which is an amalgam of conservatives of various persuasions including part of the christian right, as National's partner on the right, Craig's parties will be swamped with conservatives looking for a new home. I don't see Craig as having the personality to dictate to the conservatives as they begin to grow. His former ACT supporters will not have a bar of Treaty politics. They will become a new cohort of the "we are all one people" brigade. Kaua e whakawaia e nga kupu reka e makere mai ana i te waha o te tangata ra. I te pera o tatou tipuna i te hokinga mai o Kerei, mo tona wa tuarua hei kawana. I huri ia, a kitea tona riri. Nana i whakawhiti nga hoia i te Mangatawhiri, a, nana hoki nga whenua i raupatu. Engari i tona nohonga tuatahi i Aotearoa, mohiotia ai mo tona aroha ki nga tangata whenua. Kia tupato.

  4. Pfft he's a political minnow, albeit a very rich one.

    Although this will probably help him;

    Scandalous times for the ACT party.

  5. very interesting, few observers saw the return coming of Winston Peters. John Keys advisors saw nothing.
    ACT was always a place for the centre right to gain traction, but now not so.
    NZFirst is still a place for older people to gain recognition, and if Winston would promote another voice he will become larger. Lets face it the 60+ generation like him.
    I think Craig will polish up quite well for the next election
    After all he is similar in many ways to John Key.

    1. It has been said Colin Craig is like John Key, but with principles.

  6. There are a couple of MP's in the Conservative Party that I follow on Facebook; Kevin Campbell and Rick Drayson. By their postings, they have no hesitation in showing their racist attitudes towards Maori. Do not be conned by this party.



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