Nov 17, 2011

On the two political debates

Did anyone notice that three of the six leaders in TVNZ’s multi party debate were Maori? If Meteria Turei was put in the place of Russell Norman then four of the six would have been Maori – a clear majority. Maori must be doing something right huh. The two kaupapa Maori leaders, Hone and Tariana, came out of the debate looking good. Hone found an unlikely friend in Claire Robinson who commended Hone for his communication skills. Even John Armstrong declares Hone a “surprise standout”. The Dom’s Tracey Watkins praises Tariana as “the kuia of the nation” and I have nothing but praise for her performance too.

I’m only going to focus on Hone and Tariana and then I’ll review Native Affairs Hauraki Waikato debate.

Hone was probably the stronger of the two. He really is the master communicator and, along with the other Maori in the room Winston Peters, had the audience enthralled. Hone was strong on the financial transactions tax and never strayed far from focussing on the poor. A minor highlight of the debate was trying to decide who, out of Hone and Tariana, came up with their respective policies first. A common line was “I agree with Hone” or “I agree with Tari”. Tariana did particularly well during the race relations section. She really underlined her reputation as a strong advocate for Maori. She was all class. Tariana never strayed far from focussing on Whanau Ora too – the Maori Party’s trophy policy win in my opinion. It was a smart appeal to her base.

The question on coalitions was also interesting. Tariana certainly didn’t express a preference for any party pointing out that the Maori Party can and will work with anyone – except Act. This signalled, to me at least, that should the Maori Party hold the balance of power on November 27 they will support a Labour led government. In other words a government that does not include Act. However, if Act is a no show on November 27 and the Maori Party holds the balance of power, well, in that scenario I think they would support a National led government. As Winston said, you develop an amount of respect and admiration for the people you work with, but then again familiarity breeds contempt (or so they say).

On that note it was unfair of Hone to paint the Maori Party as if they are in a coalition with Act. Hone knows this isn’t true. The Maori Party has a relationship, more specifically a confidence and supply agreement, with the National Party – not Act. Act just happen to have one with the Nats too.

Native Affairs debate:

Nanaia Mahuta was the stand out. Hands down. Angeline Greensill was close second while Tau Bruce Mataki from the Maori Party rounded off the night.

Initially, the candidates were evenly matched. Angeline was aggressive off the mark, Mataki was strong on the Maori Party’s policy of asking all Maori organisation to hire two rangatahi while Nanaia was in blazing form on asset sales.

As the night wore on Nanaia proved to be the most consistent. Nanaia showed her experience in response to a question on co-management deals with the Crown and Iwi. Nanaia highlighted Labour’s work in that area, especially around the Waikato river. In response to a question on child abuse Nanaia, quite impressively in my opinion, highlighted specific legislation Labour enacted to reduce assaults on children.

Angeline was strong too. On the child abuse question Angeline linked the problem to poverty and then reeled off Mana’s policies to combat poverty and, as a result, reduce child abuse. On health Angeline skilfully linked her answers to the principles that Princess Te Puea stood for. Angeline also expressed the need for better support for rongoa and Pharmac.

Mataki started strong, but wore off as the night progressed. He managed to recover when discussing the Maori Party’s policy of turning Marae into economic hubs. He also did well to highlight Whanau Ora, as I said the Maori Party’s trophy policy, and link this in with other themes like child abuse.

All three candidates were strong on employment. Nanaia talked about shifting benefits to apprenticeships, Angeline talked about governments role in creating jobs and Mataki talked about the Marae as economic hubs idea.

The debate was probably most notable for Nanaia’s stinging attacks on the Maori Party. She accused the Maori Party of being the National Party’s proxies in the Maori seats and acting as a “Trojan horse” for the Nats. Ouch. Angeline probably garnered the biggest roar at the end of the night when she said if the Maori Party go with the Nats then then your, as in Maori, only option is to vote for the Greens, Labour or Mana.

So the night belongs to Nanaia. She was the most consistent. I guess her experience showed. If last night proved anything though, it’s that Labour will struggle to retain the seat when Nanaia retires (probably next term). The same is true of Ikaroa-Rawhiti. If Angeline runs again I think she’ll take Waikato and if Na Raihania runs in Ikaroa I think he’ll take that seat in the absence of Parekura.


  1. "Tariana certainly didn’t express a preference for any party pointing out that the Maori Party can and will work with anyone – except Act."

    It's debatable whether or not the Maori Party and ACT are in coalition - it ultimately depends on what you mean by "coalition", by most country's standards I would argue they are, but New Zealand saw a lot of innovation in coalition mechanics in 2005 and 2008 so it's up in the air.

    But even if ACT and the Maori Party aren't in coalition, the Maori Party does have a closer relationship with ACT than it does with any other party except National.

  2. I don't class the Maori Party as "in coalition" with Act. At least not in the 2002 sense of the word coalition. You correctly identify the innovation in coalition, and I'm still a little uncomfortable using that word here, mechanics with the advent of confidence and supply agreements. I'm not so sure though, Hugh, that the Maori Party have a closer working relationship with Act than any other Party. The two parties showed an inability to work constructively over the Auckland Maori seats issue and, I would imagine, that Peter Dunne as Revenue Minister has more to do with Act than the Maori Party.

  3. None the less, Morgan (first time poster by the way, I think your blog is one of the best around :) ) Hone was completely justified in playing up the ACT/Maori relationship. The Maori party are supporting, and are part of, a government that includes the ACT party. They know this, and, by staying in that government, effectively condone it. The Maori party are trying to portray themselves as -only- supporting National on things that benefit Maori, but that is not the case. They have voted with the government on important legislation such as the GST increase, and have said in parliament that they -have- to vote with the government to maintain their place. Hone is entirely justified in pointing out that the government they 'have' to vote with includes the ACT party.

  4. Yes, they clashed on the whole Auckland issue and on a few other areas, but the fact that they both support and participate in the same government is a pretty huge one that determines the framework of their relationship. Compare that to the relationship the Maori Party has with, I dunno, NZF, and you'll see what I mean about the Maori Party and ACT being close. Not especially close, not as close as either party is to National, but still closer than any other two random minor parties (with the possible exception of Mana and the Greens, who seem on their way to a pretty cozy relationship, but it's nascent at the moment)



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