Jan 31, 2012

Maori Party contemplates split (updated)

The Maori Party seems to have found it’s backbone. From the Herald:

The Maori Party is considering breaking from the National-led Government over asset sales.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia says the party will consider walking out of its relationship with the National Party if a Treaty clause is not extended to those state owned enterprises tagged for partial sale.

Ms Turia said today that the issue was similar to the foreshore and seabed issue for Maori.

"If it comes down to the wire, the Maori Party will have to consider its position with the Government."

She said the party would meet with iwi leaders to gather their reaction, although some had already made their displeasure known. She said the party was beholden to iwi and its constituents and would follow their lead.

You have to wonder whether the Maori Party intended to break from the agreement all along. The party’s decision to re-enter a relationship with National defied logic, although it was consistent with the party’s rhetoric around being “at the table”. If, and it’s a big if I should add, the Maori Party turn their back on the government Maori faith in the party will be renewed and the Maori Party will, I think, have a fighting chance at the next election.

Of course, it’s a big decision. The Maori Party built their election campaign around the idea that it’s better to be at the table, read the Cabinet table, than outside banging at the door. The party will also have to sacrifice it’s baby – Whanau Ora. The National Party will, out of spite, axe the program. Tariana Turia has spent her entire parliamentary career building Whanau Ora. With that in mind, I find it difficult to imagine her sacrificing it.

The refusal to insert a treaty clause is a significant issue for Maori. It’s about progress. Maori fought hard for treaty clauses and now that we have them we are dead set against taking a step back. S9 has been central to the Maori rights movement for the past two decades. The Maori Party realises this. After all their selling out last term, they still have a feel for tino rangatiratanga.

It will be a delicate compromise for Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia. Do they walk away and risk leaving Maori out in the cold for three years. With the Maori Party out of the picture the government has no cover when passing left wing and pro-Maori legislation – meaning the government will probably opt to pass on anything pro-Maori. After all, pro-Maori stuff doesn’t exactly play well with National’s base.

Without the Maori Party Maori funding is likely to come under the gun. Cuts at Te Puni Kokiri, cuts to Maori education, Maori health and any other Maori program that speaks to perceived “special treatment”.

The party leadership have announced that they will consult with iwi and Maori generally on whether a treaty clause is make or break. I’ve already pointed out that Maori support for asset sales is dwindling. I think the overwhelming message will be ditch the deal with National. The absence of a treaty clause will diminish the power (mana) iwi have in relation to NZ resources. The Maori elitie will not take a threat to iwi power lightly. The consensus among flaxroot Maori will echo the iwi consensus. Diminishing Maori mana and rangatiratanga is unacceptable.

Pita Sharples has warned that this issue may flare tensions at Waitangi. All governments should know by now not to give Maori a reason to protest at Waitangi, because everyone knows Maori will take it. It’s a bad look for the Prime Minister too. Minus some moments from a few fringe activists, John Key has enjoyed a positive reception at Waitangi. This year, should the government keep their current course, Key can expect massive protest as well as, rumour is having it, a hikoi later in the year. Then again, nothing will boost the PM’s popularity like a Maori hikoi.

Without the buffer the Maori Party provides John Key’s government will be fragile. Peter Dunne is a reliable subordinate, but it doesn’t take much to bring down a one seat government. Julia Gillard’s shaky coalition is a case in point. Then again, a one man majority is still a majority. This means the Maori Party doesn't hold much leverage. As I said, a walk out means the government has no cover to pass left legislation, thus compromising their centrist appeal. However, I doubt National intends to run a centrist line this term, therefore the Maori Party becomes expedient.

Anyway, I’ve dragged this out longer than intended to. The next few days will be interesting.

1 comment:

  1. We have heard the spin from The Māori Party about consulting with Māori before around the Foreshore and Seabed and they didn't listen to the people then, and I don't believe they will listen now.



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