Aug 31, 2012

Best and Worst Maori MPs for August

As usual, here are the best and worst performing Maori politicans for August.

The Best

Louisa Wall

12 months ago few people could name the MP for Manurewa. Today, it’s hard not to know the MP for Manurewa. Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill has guaranteed her a Cabinet position in the next Labour government – I’ll put money on that call.

Louisa has demonstrated how you should sell a bill. It helps that she is on the right side of history, but that aside she crafted the superior argument and narrative. Google News returns over 2000 results for Louisa Wall which, to me and I know it’s unscientific, demonstrates that she has actively sold the bill. It’s easy to allow an issue like this to take on a life of its own, but Louisa has kept control of the issue.

The true test, assuming the marriage equality bill passes, will be maintaining momentum. I’ve no doubt Louisa has the ability to front issues, but the sport and recreation and community and voluntary sector portfolios are not conducive to media coverage or ground breaking policy. A portfolio reshuffle is due and Labour could do worse than award Louisa with a weighty portfolio.

Nanaia Mahuta

Nanaia is often written off, but I can assure you she’s no lightweight. It’s difficult to court media attention, even with the most controversial issues. Take, as one example, the class sizes debacle. Nanaia took an active role in sticking it to the government, but with issues that lead the news the party leader will take, well, the lead. Therefore, David Shearer fronted the big media while Nanaia was assigned the back seat. Scanning Scoop and Voxy reveals Nanaia produces more press releases than her Maori caucus colleagues; surely she deserves credit for productivity even if that does not translate to exposure. Anyway, since when was media coverage the only gauge of performance.

Tariana Turia

Like Nanaia, Tariana produces more press releases than her colleagues. She is also the most capable. Over the past month Tariana has sold the plain packaging idea well. After Whanau Ora, reducing the harm smoking causes will be Tariana’s legacy.

Hone Harawira

Last term Hone was the most consistent performer. However, this year he is hot and cold. He had a terrible month when he refused to budge on marriage equality, on the other hand he had a blazing month when the government planned to scrap s9 in the MOM Act. In August, however, Hone has found his form. He voted Aye for the marriage equality bill and has taken it to the government over child poverty, asset sales, Maori water rights, Afghanistan, drug testing beneficiaries and the proposed bill to ban gang patches. No other opposition MP covers more issues. For a one man band supported by a comparatively small office Hone does exceedingly well. Compare, for example, Hone’s coverage with David Shearer, a man supported by a research unit, several press secretaries and communications staff and MPs who he can delegate to.

Moana Mackey

A quiet achiever this year. Last term Moana did, to be honest, nothing of note. However, this year has been marked by good work, albeit work that has gone relatively unnoticed. Moana’s work on the Exclusive Economic Zone bill has been excellent. She has carried Labour on this issue and made a number of excellent speeches in the House. Moana has also ensured climate change remains a live issue in the party and in the House and, as local example, she has fought for the reopening/repair of the Gisborne rail link.

The Worst

Brendan Horan

I couple of months ago Brendan participated in a political debate on Native Affairs. He was horrendous. I thought he should be cut a bit of slack, he’s a new MP after all, but over the last two months he has not improved – not one iota. He can give a soundbite now, and a good one at that, but in longform he is very bad. Strays off point and usually has little grasp of the topic.

Hekia Parata

Hekia Parata is no fool, nor is she stupid. But she speaks in empty platitudes and everyone sees through them. The class sizes debacle revealed her tendency to speak in slogans, this tendency was widely criticised, but she has still made no effort to speak in substance. Hekia does, however, receive marks for keeping controversy to a minimum, even with charter schools and national standards coming under attack from teacher unions and the opposition. 

The Green’s Maori Caucus

Unusually quiet this month, nearly non-existent.

Parekura Horomia

I like Parekura and having worked for him I can assure you he is an outstanding electorate MP. Hence he has the largest majority of any Maori electorate MP. However, his activity level in the Maori Affairs portfolio leaves much to be desired.

Aug 30, 2012

Māori MPs on marriage equality

I want to acknowledge and thank Louisa Wall for her passion and hard work that has ensured the huge victory for justice and equality that was seen last night in her Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill passing its First Reading in Parliament. Louisa, of Ngāti Tuwharetoa and Tainui descent, entered her bill into the member’s bill ballot shortly after President Barack Obama came out in the support of marriage equality. Her political discernment and timing in entering it at that time was excellent, and Kevin Hague also entered a bill at the same time which would have effectively the same outcome.

For me it’s a no brainer that we should eliminate all discrimination in law, particularly when it discriminates against such a large marginalised group in society. It’s worth checking how our Māori MPs voted on this bill.  There are 20 Māori MPs in Parliament, and 17 of them were in the group of 80 who voted in favour of the bill last night. Only 3 Māori opposed the bill.

All of the Māori MPs in both Labour and the Greens voted in favour.
All of the Māori Party and Hone Harawira supported it.
Of the Māori in National, only Simon Bridges opposed the bill.
All the Māori in New Zealand First, Winston Peters and Brendan Horan, opposed the bill.

New Zealand First voted against the bill because they claim to want a referendum on the issue, which is a bit of a cop out really. We shouldn’t need to waste that much money to remove discrimination in the law. Winston Peters shouldn’t have made his MPs take a party line on this issue, and should have allowed them to vote with their conscience.

What is most surprising is that many of the Māori MPs who have taken conservative approaches to other moral issues like Shane Jones, Tariana Turia and Te Ururoa Flavell, all voted in favour of the bill. This is welcome, and credit to all of them for their support.

It’s clear that Hone Harawira has buckled to pressure within the Mana Party but credit should go to him as well for making the right decision.

Overall our Māori MPs performed well on this issue, with a few disappointing exceptions. 

Getting it right: Why Labour's failed to fire

Labour has a great message, great people, great vision for New Zealand, but who would know?

The problem I believe is quite straight forward.

Labour has failed to stir peoples' emotions. They are too quiet, too cautious, too invisible. From the top down. They haven't sparked emotional reactions in anyone, about anything.

They haven't stimulated, aggravated, agitated, provoked, annoyed or amused. They are just there.

It's like they're more comfortable being ignored than criticised.

So they are being ignored.

Except Louisa Wall. She's promoted the Marriage Equality Bill that has inspired some, elated some, made some uncomfortable and some are just plain pissed off. People are emotional about Louisa's Bill one way or the other.

She's been interviewed on TV, radio, newspapers. She's been seen, heard, read about, talked about, praised, condemned and just plain criticised.

Good on her. She has been noticed.

And in every interview I've seen or heard, she is calm, eloquent and on message. Her critics come across as irrational rabid nutcases.

Now her colleagues need to do the same. They need to skirt with controversy, to wear their hearts on their sleeves, go out on a limb. They need to be positively controversial. Cause right-wing outrage. Make people talk, make people think, make people argue, get people emotional, piss people off - at home, at work, at the pub, at school, on talkback, where ever two people meet - provoke a reaction.

Just throw some outrageous lefty ideas out there and sit back and watch the reaction, gauge the feedback, stir the pot and revel in the attention.

They won't win over staunch conservatives, but so what? Those conservatives will moan and bitch about them out in their communities. Free publicity.

They'll win back some of the swing voters and lefties looking for Labour to show some mongrel.

Labour has a great message, but they're pretty damn dull in promoting it. It's too much to expect Joe Public to tune in to that message when its not in their faces.

They could do worse than look at Louisa Wall's example of how to do things.

Kelvin Davis

Aug 28, 2012

No where to go on Maori water rights

The report is out, the lines and drawn and the ball is in the government’s court. Last week the Waitangi Tribunal issued their decision on Maori water rights. The Tribunal found that Maori retain residual proprietary rights and, just as significantly, the government will breach Treaty principles if they proceed without recognising Maori rights.

As I write, the government is insulating itself from accusations of bad faith. The Prime Minister has announced the government will take time to carefully consider the Tribunal’s report. In the context of a Court hearing, this action would – and I speculate here – rebut accusations of bad faith behaviour. Good faith behaviour is a requirement of the Treaty principles.

However, a court battle is not what the government will want. The Tribunal’s report is emphatic – Maori have rights to water. The report, as John Tamihere noted last night on Native Affairs, is well-crafted, well-reasoned and will be persuasive in higher courts. The sale of Mighty River Power would also be subject to an injunction while the issue is before the court. Meaning the sale would be delayed for years quite possibly. It is also worth noting that Maori have a history of winning these issues, think of the Ngati Apa decision and the Lands case as two examples.

From the government’s point of view, a court loss forces them to take their fall-back position – legislation. The Prime Minister has already said that legislation is not their preferred option, read an option of last resort, and it is an option that will write off any future coalition with the Maori Party. You can argue that this is, in a round about way, a win for the National Party. Their supporters will love to see their government stick it to the Maoris. However, this ignores the fact that the Maori Party is forecast to hold the balance of power in 2014. The National Party will keep this in the back of their minds. After all, the Maori Party is the most stable partner their have and the only partner with a chance of winning more than a couple of seats.

The cleanest option is to thrash out a deal. The Iwi Leaders Group will accept anything that is in their commercial interests. It is also in John Key’s nature. He is a pragmatist, not a battle hungry politician. Negotiation will also shut the issue down and allow the sale of Mighty River Power to proceed without court action occurring. To satisfy the Treaty principles the government must create a framework for recognising Maori rights and compensating where there is use/a breach of those rights. If a deal is struck and a framework created, there are arguably no grounds for court action.

Most significantly, however, the government’s own baby – the MOM Act – compels them to take the deal. After significant pressure from the Maori Party and the Iwi Leaders Group the government inserted a treaty clause. Section 45Q(1) holds that:

Nothing in this Part shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi).

The Waitangi Tribunal has held, and higher courts are likely to follow, that failure to recognise Maori rights will be a breach of the Treaty principles. Therefore, a failure to recognise Maori rights will be a breach of s45Q(1) of the Public Finance (Mixed Ownership Model) Amendment Act 2012 (i.e. the section above). In other words, the government must create a framework for recognising Maori water rights or they will be in breach of their own legislation.

So, looking at the whole picture, the government is in a tight situation. Court action will most likely result in a loss. Legislating away Maori water rights will be messy. The government will win the PR battle, but perhaps lose their only shot at forming a government in 2014 (i.e. the Maori Party). A deal looks like the best option, remembering that ignoring Maori water rights would breach the MOM Act. The Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday is going to be very, very interesting.

Aug 15, 2012

2 more weeks

So you might have noticed I've been quiet for the past three weeks. It's not that I don't have anything to say, just I don't have the motivation to say it right now. Hopefully I'll make a comeback in 2 weeks time (when the uni holiday begin). While I'm gone, check out these blogs.

Aug 2, 2012

Kelvin Davis on the best and worst Maori Politicians

Morgan's comment: We should keep in mind that this post is pretty tongue-in-cheek. I think that is obvious. So when leaving comments, please keep that in mind. 

Who have been the best and worst Maori MPs for the month? No one Maori MP has set the world on fire, in fact if I can be a little critical, it seems as a group they're going through the motions. Yep, sure there's the obligatory condemnation of the Government's position on Maori water rights, but it's easy to moan and bitch about what's wrong, but no one seems to be creating anything that's particularly pro-Maori or pro-anything to be perfectly honest.

Louisa Wall

The exception being Louisa Wall, who has fronted the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill debate with dignity and eloquence, and at the same time showing those conservative bigots out to be, well, conservative bigots.

Tariana Turia

A quick and highly unscientific scan of the internet shows Hon Tariana Turia has been most prolific in terms of press releases and speeches - covering issues from deaths in Police custody, growing NZ's future doctors, a graduation somewhere, the Maori Council water claims and criticism of the Prime Minister on that same issue, ETS decisions, Trade Training investment and also plain packaging of tobacco. Brownie points to Tariana for sticking it to the Tobacco Industry.

Pita and Te Ururoa haven't set the world on fire having announced a bit of this and supporting a bit of that.

Paula Bennett and Simon Bridges

Paula Bennett and Simon Bridges, as Ministers, have churned out a few press releases, but nothing that does a lot for Maori, although I'm sure they'll argue otherwise. I know they have Maori whakapapa, but when I think of them as Maori the word plastic springs to mind.

Hekia Parata

Hekia Parata has been keeping her head down for the last few weeks, waiting for the remaining debris of her cock up last month to drift from the consciousness of the nation, and has announced a few low key initiatives such as a review of the Teacher's Council and issued a press release to tell us, "The Ministerial Cross-Sector Forum on Raising Achievement today discussed the importance of quality data in raising achievement, and improving teaching practice with a focus on priority learners." Ho bloody hum. Hell, schools have been talking about that for most of the last decade.

Brendan Horan

Brendan Horan has churned out a few releases regarding Kiwirail and something rather bizarre about wanting Treaty Settlements to be a bit more controversial so that the general public talk about them a bit more. Hmm, don't know what that's all about. I personally would have thought getting the Settlements out of the way so that Maori can get on with being successful would be in the country's best interests.

Winston has been Winston. Tau has been Tau

Labour's Maori Caucus

Shane Jones has had a Bill drawn from the ballot "Ombudsmen (Cost Recovery) Amendment Bill," buggered if I know what that's about, but I have every faith in Shane's ability to turn the most tedious of kaupapa into an epic yarn worthy of a Pulitzer.

Nanaia Mahuta has had a few Questions in the House and has been on Hekia's case about her attitude towards the education sector and the pointlessness of League tables. Rino Tirikatene and Moana Mackey have been low key. Parekura Horomia has had a crack at the Maori Party on Water Rights. Sadly my Labour mates have been too quiet.

The Greens

Metiria Turei, as Green Party Leader has to be more prolific, and has spoken out on everything from whaling, John Banks, the minimum wage, paid parental leave, child poverty, the Kahui twins coroner's report and mining, but to be honest the Greens aren't doing that much better on Maori specific issues. Catherine Delahunty, who has been included in previous lists because of her advocacy on Maori issues, has had a Bill drawn from the ballot Resource Management (Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits) Amendment Bill - a bit of a mouthful, but an attempt to prevent discharge into rivers and around the coast. Maori will probably get in behind this Bill. She's also been hot on 'debt collection' in schools and mining in Northland. She may be a born again Maori convert, but her heart is in the right place. David Clendon has been quiet.

Hone Harawira

Hone Harawira through gritted teeth has come out and said homosexuals should be able to marry just like everyone else, and that "strong and healthy relationships were the foundation of loving whanau and a positive and vibrant society", while he continues to put the boot into Auntie Tari, Uncle Pete and the bro Te Ururoa. Oh, yeah, John Key as well. But aside from putting the boot into others and the apparent revelation that discrimination against a sector of society is wrong - bugger all.

Mike Sabin

I have a suspicion that Northland MP Mike Sabin may have some whakapapa (but could be wrong). He deserves acknowledgement for putting together a couple of economic summits in Te Tai Tokerau. As we know Te Tai Tokerau/ Northland is one of the most economically broken arsed areas in the country. The hope is the economic summits aren't just blatant self promotion and talk-fests and that they actually create opportunities for our people up north. So good on him, if he can pull it off before his mob get kicked out of government, he'll have achieved more than the rest of us who have been MPs from the north. So I'll be watching that space with interest. He scores well below because I'm into politicians who are proactive rather than reactive.

The Maori Council

The biggest bouquet goes to the New Zealand Maori Council who have been driving the Water Claims. They have demonstrated real political nous, courage, integrity and leadership.

The Scores

So here is a scoring system - ranging from -2 through to +2.

+2 = significant positive effect in politics and/ or on Maori in the last month

+1 = some positive effect in politics and/ or on Maori in the last month

0 = no effect whatsoever

-1 = some negative effect on politics and/ or on Maori in the last month

-2 = significant negative effect on politics and/ or on Maori in the last month.

Entirely subjective, extremely loaded with my own biases and prejudices, but suck it up. Here's my scores for July 2012.

Paula Bennett and

Simon Bridges               -1 (point deducted for having Tory DNA more dominant than Maori DNA)

David Clendon              0

Te Ururoa Flavell         +1

Hone Harawira            +1

Tau Henare                   0

Brendon Horan             0

Parekura Horomia         0

Shane Jones                  0

Rino Tirikatene              0

Moana Mackey             0

Nanaia Mahuta              +1

Hekia Parata                  0

Winston Peters               0

Denise Roche                who?

Jamie-Lee Ross            gawd, he's a Maori?

Pita Sharples                +1

Metiria Turei                +1

Tariana Turia                +2

Louisa Wall                  +2

Catherine Delahunty      +1

Mike Sabin                   +2

NZ Maori Council        +2

Kelvin Davis