The Labour Party and Māori

Not an exhaustive list but remember that time when:

  • Helen Clarke rammed through legislation so that Māori couldn’t test customary title claims to the Foreshore and Seabed resulting in the Hikoi
  • Annette King then Minister of Police, organised Operation 8 culminating in the lock down of Ruatoki and the detainment of the entire community, including the holding of children at gunpoint
  • Trevor Mallard tried to claim that he and in fact all New Zealand descendents of early settlers are Indigenous (that was around the time of the Foreshore and Seabed Act
  • Labour refused to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and rejected the government signing it in 2010
  • David Cunliffe explicitly questioned the ‘mental health’ of a Māori protester for the act of protesting not long after he had proclaimed the Labour Party to be the Māori party
  • Labour ruled out working closely, i.e. constructively with either MANA or the Māori Party should they be in a position to form the next government

Lastly, remember how:

Oh, if you don’t remember that, it’s because it just happened. Don’t forget that next time you think that Labour have the aspirations of Māori at the forefront of their policy. Two Māori, two Pasifika and 13 Pākehā representatives comprise the top 17 list placings. Also, note that there are fewer women now down to five from seven.

To be honest, I was surprised that there wasn’t a greater Māori presence in Labour’s front bench line-up. But I’m not sure why given the tenuous history between Labour and it’s seemingly consistent attitude toward Māori. It’s not just a slap in the face for Māori. It’s also a kicker for those Labour Party supporters who have been active advocates for Māori and other marginalised groups. Additionally, if this is the team the executive believe can bring Labour out of destruction mode then it should serve as a warning to Māori that mutual reciprocity of support is not exactly forthcoming.[1]

 

[1] Note, the National Party and the Greens (the other two bigger parties), are not largely different in terms of Māori representation in their top 17 places. There are three Māori in National’s top 17 and four in the Greens. Although to be fair to the Greens they also have a history of advocacy for Māori that shouldn’t be ignored.

Money is a Hallmark of Sovereignty

Incorporating Te Reo Māori as wide as possible is critical to the survival of our language. Initially, I’d thought it was great to see Te Reo increasingly used and recognised in formal institutions. Yet, I find myself in two minds about its inclusion on New Zealand’s banknotes and I wonder about the implications of incorporating Te Reo into the national monetary complex.

Money is a controversial topic in economics and in general. I don’t here pretend to be any kind of expert. However, I do think it is important to unpack the risks to Māori of our language being incorporated into the sovereign currency. Especially in the context of the Waitangi Tribunal’s recent finding that Māori never ceded sovereignty to the Crown when signing Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  A view already established by many Māori.

I do appreciate the Reserve Bank’s intention to be inclusive by acknowledging “Te Reo as one of New Zealand’s official languages”.  And I understand, for some people it’s just be words on a bit of a paper. For others, it may even strengthen the vision of  the ‘partnership’ between Māori and the Crown by putting te reo in perpetual circulation via paper money.  Others suggest it represents a step forward for race relations in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Personally, I’m not inclined to accept that it reflects partnership at all nor am I convinced its a ‘step forward’ for race relations. It reeks of status quo integration and arguably implies that Māori have no future interest in creating our own currency to reflect our  tino rangatiratanga status.  Additionally, there is an obvious power imbalance in the fact that only the Crown can decree banknotes legal tender and only the Crown can issue fiat money. Arguably, inclusion of te reo intends to remove the desire of Māori to push for rights over money creation that reflect our values and language. It’s a placative move by the economic powers to avoid discussions with Māori on sovereign currency. It spells out indirectly that there is no intention of Māori ever attaining power to create our own currency and we should just be satisfied with the tokenism of our language on Crown banknotes.

My concern in its most cynical form then, is that inclusion of te reo is intended to evade future discussions of the right of Māori to develop our own sovereign currency.

Perhaps the move by the Reserve Bank fosters the idea that sovereignty in Aotearoa New Zealand is not restricted to the Crown, but is inclusive of Māori. However, that view would be inconsistent with the Reserve Banks comments which were clearly about language recognition. So I doubt any broader intention can be drawn from such a clear act of tokenism. As such, I think that the Reserve Bank proceeded with their decision to incorporate te reo prematurely. They ought to have consulted with Māori on the broader implications of incorporating Te Reo Māori on banknotes allowing time for discussion, debate, and submissions. Merely seeking advice from institutions about which words were most appropriate simply wasn’t enough. Of course, I may be stretching it a bit in presuming that the Reserve Bank’s actions actually limit the development of a Māori currency. However, as is often the case, intentions can be contextualised through surrounding circumstances and it is precisely the lack of consultation, the avoidance of addressing the wider implications, and the symbolism embraced by an industry that peripherises Māori, that drew out my inner-cynic.

Why I am taking exception? Perhaps, I am overthinking it. But money is a hallmark of sovereignty.  And given our sovereignty was recently recognised by the Waitangi Tribunal I wanted to draw attention to the connection between money and sovereignty as an issue that requires further consideration by Māori in this context.

The frenemies posture on the neoliberal rant train

As the frenemies posture, others hold out hope for at least a semblance of peace among the fractured left. The day after Andrew Little’s election, not even having held the role long enough to confer with his caucus and set policy directions, should-be allies jump on the neo-liberal rant train.

The centring of neo-liberalism in NZ political discourse is not achieving what it intended to. It hasn’t birthed a revolution, and it won’t as long as the same voices continue making the same noise and that noise is no longer provocative. If anything, it’s a cacophony of plagiarising wannabe Chomsky regurgitators. I love Chomsky, but I despair at people that use his anarchism to justify or at least bolster their State socialism bent.  And no, it’s not a matter of just accepting the status quo – but rather steering discussions toward a more constructive terrain.

Keen readers of Chomsky will understand that his view of the State is only that it is preferable to what he calls ‘private corporate tyrannies.’ The State is not the end-game.

Thing is, neo-liberals and State socialists share some common ground: both think the State is an appropriate regulatory vehicle and both need the State to pursue their ideological goals. Neo-liberals need it to make laws that grant property titles in individuals and to enforce contracts as well as to offer some sort of military defence against threats to the security of their property. The other need the State to own the means of production in order to wed individuals to the State to maintain State power. And to provide military defence against aggressions and the individualism considered to breed corporate monopolies.

Neither values the right of peoples to self-determination and both think that identities are inconsequential to the greater good because both think their ideologies are the fairest and will single-handedly solve all crises.

Either way, the NZ political system is some way off from seeing any real change in outcomes – no matter who leads the government. And our micro- and minor- parties are hardly offering anything fresh because they are centring debates on bringing the system down, and then contradicting that discussion by choosing to ally with a party they don’t actually support, rather than concentrating on building a new system that renders the old one obsolete. What I heard over and over again during the election, was that people didn’t want to hear about what system we have and why it was so bad. Voters mostly know this even if they aren’t familiar with the academic nuances, because they know privilege and hierarchy when they see it and experience the effects of it.

People want hope. They want to be able to imagine the possibilities, not as some fictional utopia but for a path to be mapped out – even if it’s incomplete, because even that leaves room for participation and responsiveness.

I’m not convinced Andrew Little will be able to tame the Labour Party’s destructive side. However,  he may (yet to be seen) be able to offer hope and if he can do that, then he may just lift the party out of its quandary. Only time will tell.

 

Thinking about economic self-determination

International trade is often a polarising debate. Some insist that absolute free trade will cure world poverty, while others insist it would do the exact opposite and intensify it.  The reality is, that international trade does in part, do both those things. In many cases, it has improved people’s lives, for instance, in some South East Asian countries there was a migration from agriculture to manufacturing and a boom in small to medium enterprises which changed the economic landscape in those countries and also provided opportunities to people beyond traditional vocations. But it has also destroyed the livelihoods of other people, in particular, indigenous communities through land and resource exploitation, cultural appropriation, through the refusal to recognise the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

One thing we need to understand about the international trade system is that while it is based on principles of inter alia free trade and non-discrimination, it does have special and differential treatment mechanisms to assist countries whose economies are not ‘developed’ by allowing developed countries (who trade with developing countries) to deviate from the ‘non-discrimination’ obligation and in fact encourages them to do so under certain conditions. Additionally, the preference giving countries are prohibited from coercing or inducing concessions from the developing country because a key feature of special and differential treatment is non-reciprocity.

I don’t intend here to give a full run down of the international trade system or the WTO, but recently I wrote an essay on the Enabling Clause and Indigenous Peoples, and thought I’d provide a brief summary of what I wrote about.

Firstly, the concept of ‘Indigenous’ is still hotly contested – not just among those who decry indigeneity, but by Indigenous Peoples themselves. For the most part of their recent histories (by recent I mean, around 500 years), Indigenous Peoples have had their identities imposed on them. So when international bodies attempt to define for them who they are, it’s no wonder such attempts are met with strong resistance. The first major study done on ‘Indigenous Peoples’ at international law was by Jose Martinez Cobo. The working definition he composed is the most widely accepted today because it acknowledged the multiple layers of identity. Others have suggested and I agree with them, that Indigenous Peoples are distinct from other marginalised or minority groups because each distinct Indigenous group is constituted in much the same way as a ‘nation’, rather than say a ‘feminist group’, or the ‘working class’. Marginalised groups share a concern about the ruling elite but don’t have a system of shared values, connections to specific geographies, or purging of their culture and language through forced integration. This isn’t suggesting that the rights of Indigenous Peoples are superior and that as a result they ought to be accorded ‘more’ special treatment, rather that the outcomes Indigenous Peoples seek are distinct from the outcomes sought by marginalised groups, so the paths to self-determination while they may at times intersect, are not synonymous. I also talked about the potential harm that pro-indigenous but non-indigenous individuals or groups can have on Indigenous Peoples by purporting to speak on their behalf in order to advance their own issues.  In my paper, I didn’t attempt to define or describe Indigenous Peoples although I did argue that self-identification must be the starting point (i.e. it’s not sufficient on its own) for invoking international instruments pertaining to Indigenous Peoples.

In the second part, I talked a bit about globalisation and how a new progeny of Indigenous resistance movements has been born in response to the challenges of new globalisation (noting that globalisation is not a new phenomenon). I argued that globalisation was multivariate incorporating markets, States and most importantly people, and that by focusing on only one of these aspects provides a rather thin conception of globalisation. I then proposed that the concept of Indigenous rights is not inherently incompatible with globalisation, provided discussions on globalisation focused on the implications it has for people, which would then raise issues of meaningful consultation and consent (including the right to grant or withdraw consent).  After that I discussed the development of WTO law (generally) focusing on the Enabling Clause and talked about the significance of the inclusion of the Treaty of Waitangi exception clause in all (but one) of New Zealand’s international trade agreements currently in force. The Treaty clause is interesting because it indulges the language of the WTO allowing the Crown to provide ‘more favourable treatment’ to Māori with respect to obligations arising under the Treaty, and exempting issues arising under the Treaty from determination by ad hoc international tribunals. I figured, if at the national level, Māori can receive special treatment in terms of economic development issues arising under the Treaty, then why couldn’t this extend to the WTO for all Indigenous Peoples?

My motivation was this: how do we improve the economies of Indigenous Peoples, especially those who are subsumed under their national economies in which they most often participate at the periphery? My proposal was basically, expanding the Enabling Clause to include the phrase ‘developing economies’ and incorporating the finding in the EC –Tariff Preferences case in which the Appellate Body said that discrimination between developing countries was not prohibited under the Enabling Clause, provided the country or countries challenging the discrimination were not ‘similarly situated’ to the country or countries receiving the benefits. The reason I saw this as valuable, was that I thought it acted as a bit of a hand brake on abuse of the Enabling Clause by countries attempting to define their situations as ‘developing economies’ to take advantage of preferential treatment provisions. I thought that using the phrase ‘developing economies’ was flexible enough to be responsive to countries who were developed but who experienced economic collapse placing them at a similar economic disadvantage as Indigenous Peoples groups and other developing countries. I also suggested incorporating the words Indigenous Peoples, my only concern was the issue of definition but I did note that ‘developing economies’ would capture Indigenous Peoples economies. The reason I wanted to at least start the discussion on Indigenous Peoples and participation in the WTO was that I wanted to find a way to forge a path for economic self-determination. In my mind, the idea of a dual economy is not only interesting but also a way to steer Māori toward tino rangatiratanga by having the means to  take control of our own trade policy and to manage the distributional effects of that in the interests of our people.

 

Māori Party Hui A Tau 2014

Recently I was invited to speak at the Māori Party’s Hui A Tau at Whangaehu Marae, as part of a political panel to comment on the Party’s campaign. Having never spoken in public, let alone on marae grounds, and having a natural inclination to introversion, I knew this was going to test my resolve. And did it ever. It is an understatement to say that I was incredibly intimidated by the calibre of the commentators I’d be joining, which included Merepeka Raukawa Tait, Shane Taurima, and Colin James. All were very humble and engaging speakers and raised some hard truths that the party would need to address with respect to support base, alliances, strategies, and actions going forward.

But I was most petrified about speaking before the prestige present in the wharenui that day.

My Panel Presentation

I had imagined that the format of the proceedings would involve questions first, and then the opinions of those on the panel would be sought with respect to various issues. Regretfully, I presumed this would be the case and didn’t seek clarification (even though I was encouraged to do so by the organiser!). However, the format involved each person presenting their opinions on the issues that spoke to them and questions were reserved for discussion following the presentations.

You might imagine my horror then, when I was asked to speak first. As soon as I stood my knees began to tremble, my head began thumping, my mouth became an instant desert, and my heart was pounding so hard it felt like my ribcage could burst. So in my quiet as a mouse shaky voice I began to speak – immediately told to speak up (despite holding a microphone!). And I forgot to mihi (although that might have been a good thing, since I probably would have mangled our reo being a very anxious non-speaker and barely knowing the very basics).

However, in forgetting I failed to thank Ngāti Apa for graciously welcoming me on to their marae and for their impeccable hospitality. I failed to thank the Māori Party for having the confidence in me to speak at such an auspicious occasion, so although this is belated, here I express my deepest gratitude to both Ngāti Apa and to the Māori Party.

Fortunately, I had prepared some notes which helped guide my korero. I spoke to the issue of social media and its role in the Māori Party campaign. I had been provided a copy of the Social Media report (among other documents). The main points I made were that the online campaign came too late, but it did improve significantly in the months leading up to the election. I talked about ‘slacktivism’ and how online support is not a good gauge of real support so social media will never replace kanohi ki te kanohi interactions but it does provide an avenue to access untapped networks and for efficiently sharing messages. I spoke about interactions online needing to reflect the kaupapa of the party, and that blocking, muting, deleting abusive or harassing commenters/comments is not censorship or infringement on freedom of speech – no one has a duty to receive abuse or harassment and also (i) it doesn’t lead to constructive discussion, which is one of the key aims of the online portion of the campaign and (ii) it’s wasted energy that could be used more constructively elsewhere. I iterated that on occasion there was a tendency on the official pages to engage people who weren’t actually there to engage, and that sometimes too much aroha was shown , which in some instances weakened the party’s position on particular issues. Although I think I forgot to mention the converse was equally true – on some occasions, not enough aroha was shown, which could have turned support in favour of the party.  I also suggested there be guidelines around commenting when displaying the party logo on supporter profile pictures. I proposed that communications in that capacity did give the perception of official representation so comments should reflect the party’s kaupapa. I talked about finding ways to take online campaigns offline too, and the importance of being aware of tone, capslock and hashtag use. I also suggested that our Māori Party MP’s consider a weekly or monthly video diary so our people can become familiar with their faces and build a picture of their personalities which can be difficult when only done through written or media edited formats. It is also a useful way of keeping our people informed of the what they have been up to in Parliament, and perhaps also adding a personal touch.

In summary, I considered any social media strategy must reflect the party’s kaupapa and there is no time like the present to begin building this strategy. I explained that building networks was vital for mobilising support, but social media was only one of the tools in the kete to do this. This is obviously just a very short summary [because I feel like I waffled on for ages!].

Further comments

For those who are not (yet) supporters of the Māori Party, my advice is this: if you want to influence the direction of the Party, the most effective way you can do that is to become a member. There will always be criticism from political opponents, that goes unsaid. However, some criticism seems more about wanting the party to do something or take a particular position on an issue/s yet the only way you can influence that is through membership where the decision making happens.

The Māori Party have committed to running a complete political review to be completed within 6 months. The goal for next election is obviously to increase Māori Party representation. I also just want to tautoko both  Te Tai Hauauru and Te Tai Tonga electorate branches for insisting on  electorate representation as part of the political review team. For transparency and accountability the review must include the electorates. Thais not to say that there can’t be independent reviewers also: both are necessary for a robust process. Afterall, if we arent happy with the Crown alone making decisions for Māori, then why should the electorates accept a similar centralised hands-off arrangement?

There was some talk of looking at alliances and strategies. What I didnt talk about was alliances. But alliances are important. I have thought about this quite a bit and have always thought it would be great to see the Māori Party and Labour as allies. It would be great, but the reality is it won’t happen. Ever. Labour are strongly opposed to the Māori Party as evidenced by the campaign run against them in the Māori electorates, and rhetoric coming from Labour’s Māori caucus in recent news. Labour led the spin on the ‘Māori National Party’ and it was effective spin. Despite a large proportion of our people wanting to see the Māori Party work with Labour, this is evidently a highly unlikely reality. If Labour are to win the next election, the chances of a Labour government working with the Māori Party is very low. Labour will avoid it at all costs.

Note, I am not suggesting here that Labour Māori do not represent Māori, I am simply saying that the two parties are not (currently) allies and are probably unlikely to be allies in the near future. Labour consider themselves a major party and as one of the commentators (Colin James I think) said on the panel, Labour would rather win those seats for ‘Labour’ than for ‘Māori representation’, and this reality must be accepted by our people.

The same is true of a MANA Māori alliance – it will not happen. MANA spent much of their campaign attacking the Māori Party. The only way it could happen is if the Māori Party were to submit to MANA’s terms of engagement and that is not something I imagine Māori Party members would be willing to do, as it is effectively a handbrake on the democratic process of the Party itself. Shane Taurima suggested perhaps at least having strategy talks, but that did not necessarily entail an ‘alliance’ arrangement, while Merepeka Raukawa Tait warned it would be the kiss of death for the Māori Party.

I also agree with comments the other panel members made about external alliances, and forging strong relationships with iwi and hapū to build a strong Māori movement. Currently, the Party dont have any major external alliances. Labour have most Unions, the Greens have Greenpeace and other social justice and environmental lobby groups, Mana have Unite Union, Socialist Aotearoa, Global Peace and Justice and other social justice groups, National have Federated Farmers and Business lobby groups, ACT have wealthy business lobby groups, NZ First have Greypower (to name a few). These alliances are vital for mobilising support and articulating policy options and choices. In order for the Party to really build, it will need to find those external support partners.

The Party is aware of the hard work ahead and the mantle they carry. I suspect the 2017 Election will look much different than the election just passed.

Acknowledgements

If it werent for Tariana Turia completing a questionnaire for a website I had created for the election period – Women in NZ Politics, I’m not sure I would have gravitated toward the Māori Party. When I read her beautiful words, I was struck emotionally and took it as a sign that the Māori Party was the movement for me. I was reminded of the strength it takes to be mana wahine and the gift she had given to Māori in crossing the floor on the Foreshore and Seabed issue. I came to appreciate her conviction behind Whānau Ora and the principles upon which the Māori Party was established. On the first night of the hui, seeing the deep respect and aroha the people had for her, and how extraordinary a person she is, emanating a grace with strength and determination, is a vision and a feeling that will stay with me forever.

Tame Iti was a guest speaker on the opening night too. What stood out to me in particular was that he acknowledged our tupuna who had inspired him and many other activists of his generation, yet in his very humble and mild manner, he seemed unaware of the incredible impact his own activism has had on the next generations. He spoke about how as Māori many of us were raised to be or as Pākehā. I know this from my own experience, where growing up it was natural for me to refer to my ethnicity as ‘a halfcaste’. No shit. That is what I grew up believing about myself. I was neither Māori nor Pākehā. Nope. I was a ‘cameo creme’. At least that is what many Pākehā used to call me (and some Māori would use it to insult to me also), among other things not worth mentioning. It took me a long time to understand who I was and to become culturally aware and connected. That journey is still in process. However, it was the passion and strength of activists like Matua Tame, who through their actions steered me toward Te Ao Māori. To be a proud Māori. Who inspired the belief in me that meaningful achievement of our aspirations will not be gained through the State but through mana motuhake and tino rangatiratanga. It was in particular his unwillingness to submit that inspired my political journey, and more specifically my commitment to Māori political engagement.

Pita Sharples (who was not present at the hui for whānau reasons but who wholly deserves to be mentioned) is an amazing rangatira who consistently shines a light on Māori with the perpetual hope he has for our people. I have been privileged to hear Papa Pita speak on many occasions and have always left his presentations feeling like I’m being called home (and the number of times he has brought me to tears with laughter is unmatched!).

Our current MP’s and Māori Party Co-Leaders, whom I have the utmost respect for: Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox who have taken on the mantle with the vivacity and fortitude necessary to move our people forward. Both have been so willing to engage and are deeply committed to carving out a space for Māori that is not on the margins or periphery of society.

Lastly, all the Māori Party people I have met online (and many now in person) who have demonstrated to me through their actions the meaning of manaakitanga and kotahitanga. People who embraced me and my flaws and who continually and willingly educate me on kaupapa Māori politics.

Briefly on “Women in NZ Politics” blog

Earlier this year, I started a website called Women in NZ Politics. I sent out an unofficial message seeking expressions of interest. The response was fantastic, so I pursued it. I developed a questionnaire that focused mostly on womens issues then sent it out to pretty much all women candidates (well, those I was able to locate email addresses for) explaining what the site was about and inviting their contributions. Again, many replied stating they were willing to participate. I received a few responses, and later sent out a reminder. Some who’d said they’d participate didn’t return their questionnaires while others replied explaining why they were unable to. I completely appreciate that election year is a busy time and that there are other more pressing items on the agenda, so I was absolutely humbled by those who took the time to complete the questionnaire and share their views. They gave me a completely new level of respect for their work and values by demonstrating that they were both openly and actively willing to awhi other women in their pursuits.

I have decided to keep the site going and prepare for next election, but am just considering different ideas about how to keep it interesting to attract more contributions. Any ideas are welcome!

But I’d just like to say a special thanks to the following contributors, for taking the time to complete the questionnaire and being so open with their responses, which were received with much respect:

Labour to the Middle

On NZQ&A, David Parker suggested during the Labour Leadership debate that when we secure middle NZ we protect the vulnerable. However, it seems rather odd comment to make and I explain why I think that below by way of an example.

RNZ reported that house valuations in Point England and Glenn Innes increased at 62% and 55% respectively and that:

“Properties with increases significantly higher than the regional average of 34 percent will face larger than average rates rises from mid-next year”

These two suburbs have been home to some of the poorest families in New Zealand and residents having been treated as second-class citizens for decades. The surrounding/nearby suburbs include the wealthy Remuera, Ellerslie, Meadowlands, St Heliers, St Johns Park (or Stonefields?) (a new executive housing subdivision), Mission Bay and Kohimarama.

As most will know, house prices across Auckland are stupid high. However, houses in periphery suburbs like Point England, Glenn Innes, Mount Wellington, and Onehunga have provided an alternatives to buying in first preference central suburbs. These second preference areas have undergone some incredible infrastructure improvements – the intention to assist those locked out of the city to improve their economic positions by providing transport networks to address mobility issues.

But middle NZ are setting their sights on those areas. Emulating their baby booming forebears and snatching up homes in second preference areas, they still enjoy relatively close proximity to the central suburbs and city, excellent access to public transport, cheaper house prices and homes in family-centric areas.

The increase in valuations suggests there are supply demand issues. which we know is a problem across all of Auckland and in other places across NZ. This increase in valuation is great for rent seeking middle NZ but it is bad for the vulnerable. Sure, they too enjoy increases in the value of their asset, but many of those living in the area are asset rich, cash poor families so increases in rates make it difficult for them to afford other necessities. In many cases, this will result in the sale of their properties to fix the neo-boomer fetish, resulting in relocations to marginalised spaces further out on the peripheries of the city.

My point is that Parker’s assertion that securing middle NZ will protect the vulnerable makes little sense and instead signals a definite realignment to the centre should he win the Labour leadership.

Even if what Parker was suggesting was securing the votes of middle NZ, the same still holds true. In the transition from a two party to multi-party system, it’s unsurprising that over time Labour and National would converge at the centre with their support parties helping to determine policy directions. I imagine Labour need to decide who they represent because on occasion the interest groups they say they represent are often in conflict with each other, which makes it difficult for voters to trust the party. The working poor and unemployed are pitted against the centre voter, and despite the former providing their ongoing support to Labour, the policy tends to cater to the latter. That is a clear signal about whose vote the party values. And before anyone suggests Labour represent a broadchurch, I’m just not convinced thats a sufficient answer and given our party political framework, it seems neither are a good proportion of New Zealand.

There is nothing wrong with realignments, formation of new parties out of old, or forming new coalitions and alliances. In fact, I’d suggest Labour members and supporters think very hard about whether the Labour brand matters more to them than the policy it produces.

The Post-Election Hui: A New Members Perspective

TMP_Flav_Fox

Te Ururoa Flavell, Tariana Turia and Marama Fox, 5 October 2014 at the signing of the Relationship Accord with the National Party

[Image sourced from: Māori Party FB page]

An inescapable feature of election debates was the Māori Party’s relationship accord with the National Party and the negative manner in which that relationship is predominantly received particularly by those self-identifying as “the Left”.

There is a common conception that the relationship accord was responsible for the near death of the Māori Party. I thought this too. I’m no longer convinced this is true, rather that the erosion of support factored down to an inability or perhaps even an unwillingness to demonstrate the benefits of that relationship to Māori in the face of relentless opposition from the Left and its support networks, and a lack of resources to support enduring engagement with Māori.

As we know, despite speculation that the Māori Party would not exist post-election, Te Ururoa Flavell retained the Waiariki seat and with special votes now counted Marama Fox joins him as the Party’s first ever list MP highlighting the importance of the Party vote for micro-parties.

The special votes did something else too – they deprived National an outright majority. As a result this had some Māori Party members questioning whether the Māori Party were in a more favourable position post-specials to negotiate bigger gains regarding the invitation to pursue another relationship accord. While it is good news that we do not have a party with an outright majority, in my view, it didn’t change the Māori Party’s negotiating position – unless there is legislation that National want to pass that both ACT and United Future (UF) would not support. In all honesty, I can’t imagine any laws that National would want enacted that only the Māori Party would support. I mean unless it were some policy that supported e.g. affirmative action, which is not something I imagine National would pursue, at least on its own account. Alternatively, the Māori party and either or both ACT or UF might also be in a position to jointly oppose proposed legislation by National (would be rare, although UF and the Māori Party did jointly oppose the RMA last term to prevent it getting to the house).

As with the previous two terms, National are in the same position – they have the numbers without the Māori Party to form a government and to pass legislation, afterall the likelihood of ACT voting against National is incredibly unlikely especially given they are only there because Key endorsed their Epsom candidate, but as some have suggested it is rare that National would want to pass legislation on a bare majority, although we did see the passage of both the MOM and GCSB Acts by bare majority.

Today the Party officially signed the relationship accord agreement. A copy is available here.

In planning for the 2017 election, the Party will need to ensure it can point to achievements in the accord and illustrate where it has acted independently for Māori. An implication is that unlike previous agreements, the terms are broader so it will be difficult to point to specific targets as having been met.

As advised during the election campaign the Māori Party indicated that they would embark on post-election consultation hui with their members and supporters following meetings with National about the kinds of things that were up for negotiation.

In just under a week, the Party have concluded around 30 nationwide hui, conference calls, and informal/cottage meetings, as well as online discussions on Loomio, email submissions, and written submissions via the Party website. The underlying issue was essentially whether the gains negotiated through a relationship accord outweighed the trade offs of continuing that relationship and if members were keen to continue the relationship what kinds of things did they deem as priority in any agreement.

On 28 September 2014, I attended the first hui held in Otautahi. The turnout was relatively small (I estimate about 30-40 people), which was likely the result of the short timeframe within which the party had to promote the hui venue. Something that members across the board picked up on as an area for review and improvement.

To my surprise there was an overwhelming consensus to continue a relationship accord with the National Party, although this was not without some initial reservations. Some expressed what seemed like objections in stating their concerns about the shifting of Māori support to the Labour Party and the hand that the Party’s relationship accord with National might have played in that shift. Additionally, there were also concerns raised over how any controversial  decisions National make, might reflect on the Party by association. The solution offered and accepted by general consensus was for Fox to remain outside the Executive branch to ensure that the Party had an independent voice to challenge National where the Party believed it to be acting against the interests of Māori.

This was considered especially important if Flavell were to accept the Ministerial position/s offered as he would be constrained in his ability to speak against the government with respect to his portfolio’s because he’d be bound by collective responsibility – which has the unfortunate consequence of feeding the negative perception that the “Māori Party are the National Party”.

Flavell was incredibly open about the risks and limitations of being supported into a Ministerial role but the general consensus was to back him so that he could take forward the work begun over the past six years. Part of the discussion for this particular issue included changing the name from Minister of Māori Affairs to Minister of Māori Development. The idea behind this was to support the Party’s ongoing commitment to rangatiratanga by helping Māori communities to become self-reliant and to determine their own solutions and strategies to social, cultural, economic and regional development.

Some other discussion points included (not an exhaustive list) whether there were any bottom lines, how any agreement might affect the party’s future prospects, what issues were to be prioritised, ensuring the retention of the Māori seats, and what the party can do going forward to improve engagement across a range of issues, including to increase support for the Party.

I was impressed with the outward look of the hui – insisting whānau were the cornerstone of any discussions and decisions, acknowledging some hard truths about where improvements or changes were required and voicing those concerns and issues openly. I wasnt sure how collaborative or participatory the consultation would be and I was happy to find it was direct democracy in action: everyone gets a say, everyone votes, and any dissent is respectfully given, received, discussed, and resolved and/or noted.

In saying that, an observation I’ve made more generally (that is not unique to the Māori Party by the way) is that in social media or mainstream media forums there is a tendency to look inwards and a reluctance at times to accept hard truths. I’ve also seen many comment on the defensiveness of the Party’s supporters, which were often true but I also wouldn’t consider it unique to Māori Party supporters either. Often responses are defensive because attacks are framed as ‘genuine concern’ which can come across as patronising for the recipient of such comments. However, a limitation in responding defensively is that it operates as a barrier to engagement so communication strategies will need to play a key role in garnering support for the party going forward.

But I have spent the last few months engaging with a wide range of Māori Party members and supporters, and I have come to appreciate the place from where some of that defensiveness derives: some have supported and nurtured the Party from its inception, many have worked tirelessly out of aroha for the kaupapa, yet they are persistently disparaged by those aligned with other parties, as if their contributions are meaningless. At the hui, I listened to those long time supporters and it occurred to me that the majority of those claiming that the Māori Party must cease all relationships with National to rebuild their support base, actively support other parties but want to determine for these members how this party should proceed. Why does this matter? Because even if the Party had rejected a relationship accord, there is no guarantee that those same critics would return their support to the Māori Party or encourage others to do so.

Interestingly, from the discussions it was clear that if the Party were in a position in which they held the balance of power, the outcome would certainly have not been so clear cut. But members/supporters were deliberating on the reality – that what we have is a National led government and not the hypothetical balance of power.

What came across strongly in all the discussions though is that members do not identify as left or right. It’s not just rhetoric emanating from the leadership, it is something that members themselves strongly believe – that they are kaupapa Māori. And while some may have trouble grasping that idea of not being left/right/centre this is part of the indigenous struggle: to determine our identities for ourselves.

As a new-ish member, those I’ve interacted with will know that I don’t agree with all the decisions that the Party have made (in the past) or may make (in the future), and at times I’ve probably been a bit of a pest! But what I have learnt is that consensus is possible even where there are disagreements and this is made possible through the memberships commitment to the Party’s kaupapa – kotahitanga and manaakitanga which in my experience is strongly practiced among its members and supporters. Hopefully, over the next three years, this can be more widely translated into the public arena.

Centre Woes

David Shearer is both right and wrong about trying to position as a centre party. But it depends on the outcome he wants to produce. If it’s simply a win for Labour and maintaining the status quo then sure, embed in that centre space that is entirely indefinable.

If what Labour wants is to achieve an attitudinal shift in social outlook i.e. progressive governance, then that goes beyond simply crafting policy and narratives that appeal to new wave of blue voters.

Much of the post-election commentary has centred on the apparently shocking result in Christchurch. National’s triumph over Labour. Prior to the election, most people thought the electorates would return to Labour given the abysmal efforts with respect to the Rebuild. It is easy to make those kinds of assumptions when living outside Christchurch, and probably also easy if you associate predominantly with like-minded people.

National MP’s claim the victory is the result of the strong leadership and great ground made with regard to the rebuild. If you’ve not been to Christchurch recently, you should know that there is currently not a CBD, well, maybe there is a shadow of a CBD. There are still ongoing road works, houses in need of repair or demolishing and the ongoing stress of those whose homes and claims have been forgotten.

Some commentators suggest National’s victory is not an endorsement of any kind in respect of the rebuild but instead a fear of the unknown through a policy re-frame which could potentially cause unwanted setbacks.

I imagine these are wholly relevant factors, however, overlooked in the analysis is that the vote share might also reflect a rejection of the Labour Party’s social outlook.

A Labour-Green government in the language of blue voters represents special treatment for Maahries, Islanders, gays, beneficiaries, and wimmin.

It’s easy to pretend NZ is progressive because we were the first to grant women the right to vote back in the 1890’s or that time in the 1980’s when we established NZ as a nuclear free zone in contravention of an agreement between big powers like the US and Australia, thereby asserting our independence. Oh and more recently, how we passed a Marriage Equality law showing how tolerant we are as a nation. That we can probably count our progressive moments in NZ’s political history on one maybe two hands suggests there is a deep denial about the state of NZ’s political system.

In any workplace, people are still demonising the poor and stereotyping along ethnic, nationality, race, religious lines. People are still degrading women, reviling LGBTQIA people, mocking the disabled while simultaneously claiming they are not poor hating, beneficiary bashing, racist, sexist, homophobic, trans-phobic, ableists. How dare you! They cry. THEY are tolerant because they have a friend or friends that belong to one or more of the marginalised groups they are attacking.

On the topic of workplace, we see another shift too: the stigmatising of the worker as unskilled, uneducated individuals deserving of the minimal pay they get because they had choices and chose poorly. This shift also played into National’s favour – why?

Because middle NZ are status chasers: they work in “respectable” roles as team leaders, managers, co-ordinators, secretaries, salespersons etc. Essentially middle NZ have traded their overalls for corporate attire and discarded the workers label because nah uh, they aren’t “lowly” workers, they are professionals. In this skewed worldview, professionals are taxpayers while workers are bottom of the pond scum – the “types” that vote for Labour, Greens, MANA.

So you see Labour, you can take the centre ground and dissociate from the left and sure, you’ll probably be able to turn blue votes back into red ones. But, what you’ll also do, is further intensify the marginalisation of our most vulnerable groups in society.

The Labour Party is supposed to represent ‘labour’ i.e. the workers – whether they are in factories, or in offices or shops in the middle of town. It’s not just about converting blue votes into red by appeasing the professionals. It’s about popping their status bubble and reminding them they are the worker, and that National’s interests groups – business and agriculture are still working against labour, i.e. them the workers.

3 more years…

Election wrap up

The election showed us many things, one of those is that both Labour and the MANA  Movement treated the Māori Party (TMP) as the biggest threat to their own existence. And all three parties paid the price. In the lead up to this election TMP were hanging on for dear life after being written off by ‘the Left’ a mere 10 months ago. It is surprising that TMP were simultaneously ‘written off’ and ‘a threat’. More on that a bit later in this post.

On Election Day eve, I took at shot at punditry here:

My intuition about National polling higher on the day, was also unfortunately consistent with the results although I had overestimated Labour, the Greens and InternetMANA and underestimated NZ First. I really didn’t think NZ was a country looking for conservative guidance with a combined NZ First and Conservative Party (CP) vote being higher than the Greens, although I did sense that the CP itself was not going to get past the 5%. The election results suggest that NZ actual voters are predominantly not ‘left’ and/or that the left is so damaged that it cannot retain its prior support base, nor can it mobilise new voters on any significant scale.

Of note, the Greens didn’t lose their support base though and held their own despite the decreased support for both Labour and InternetMANA. And while Labour were able to capitalise on the Māori and Pasifika vote, this was their worst election result since pre-1930.

The defeat of InternetMANA has left a very bitter taste in the mouths of those who defended the alliance, cast scorn at anyone who criticised it through their belief that Dotcom would bring positive change to our country. Over the next few weeks from InternetMANA commiserators we will hear about how the ‘mainstream media’ are to blame for their ongoing attacks on Kim Dotcom, despite Dotcom throwing himself into the media spotlight at every opportunity he could seize. We’ll also hear how it is the fault of every other party EXCEPT the Internet and MANA parties themselves and the lack of focus on Dirty Politics and the GCSB revelations by Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden, despite the fact both those events scored more airtime than any single party’s policies did this election, that resulted in the defeat of the alliance.

From Labour commiserators we’ll hear that it was the ‘mainstream media’ focus on factionalism and a disjointed left. That it had nothing to do with the fact that David Cunliffe came across as the inauthentic voice of a people in need of change. That it has nothing to do with the front benches that are stacked with old 80’s hacks who have never delivered much for the people they say they represent. Then we’ll see Labour turn on each other and most probably dump all over the Māori and Pasifika caucus that is in fact keeping the party afloat.

The problem with making John Key the target of an election campaign is that he was able to position as the underdog in the face of the general public. He was on the defensive from what the broader public saw as a large scale attack from many fronts: Kim Dotcom’s revenge politics to escape extradition, bitter militants who seize any opportunity to have their ego’s validated, and a left in waiting that were more hungry for power than for change.

Māori Electorates and Māori Politics

In the above post, I was wrong on one seat – Te Tai Hauauru.  I had expected Chris McKenzie to pick up the seat and I am really disappointed that he is not entering Pāremata (Parliament) this term. It’s also a shame that the party vote for TMP isn’t higher since McKenzie is third on the list and could have come through with an extra percentage point in the party vote.  I am also saddened that Marama Davidson and Jack McDonald also miss out this term given their list placings and the fact that the Green party vote didn’t pick up in the way the polls were suggesting.

MANA Movement

Despite being a very vocal critic of the InternetMANA alliance, my heart broke watching Hone Harawira’s disappointment upon realising he’d lost the seat. What I hope he can take from this situation, is the time to reflect and rebuild MANA free of the toxic influences of some of those who’ve involved themselves very heavily in the movement. Harawira didn’t sell out, he was just surrounded by poison and noise. Time to purge it.

Additionally, Harawira didn’t lose the seat because people didn’t like him or respect him, he lost it mostly because people didn’t want Dotcom anywhere near political power and that decision was riding on their votes. That is immense pressure and a huge risk given no-one knew whether they could trust him [Dotcom] as the visionary behind the scenes. Labour also ran a strong campaign, and with the hope that a major party might be in power post-election, suggests TTT were crying out for assistance, that Harawira on his own just couldn’t deliver.

Labour Party

Labour were incredibly disappointing this election. And that no-one picked up on or questioned the fact that ‘Vote Positive’ only applied to non-Māori seats or non-kaupapa Māori based parties was incredibly disheartening.

Labour were very warm to Winston Peters who wants to axe the Māori seats that are currently propping up the Labour Party and who supports ‘One Law For All’ that most of the left derided when proposed by the CP and ACT. Yes, Labour were willing to form a coalition with a party that wanted both those things while simultaneously claiming to be the ‘the Māori party’, but ruling out any constructive working relationship with the two kaupapa Māori based parties – Māori and MANA.

By ruling out the Māori Party, Labour were able to impose the false narrative ‘a vote for the Māori Party is a vote for National’ without so much of a whisper. The narrative served to make it a reality, to attempt to force the Māori Party into another relationship accord with National. Labour effectively ensured that an independent Māori voice was as weak as possible – under a National led government. Labour are attempting to terminate all other avenues for Māori to have a voice. We can only participate if Labour are in government. This is not a strategy that has the aspirations of Māori at heart, it is a strategy that weakens Māori by smothering our voices under the iron cloak of Labour.

Labour have always ruled out Harawira, and while I believe Davis was wholly genuine in his concern about Dotcom and was sincerely contesting the TTT seat, I do not have the same feels regarding the Labour Party itself. Labour used Davis under the pretext of Dotcom to get rid of Harawira because if they [InternetMANA] got into Pāremata, Labour did not want to have to appease his strongwill by giving him a government role in return for his support. Davis definitely deserves to represent TTT, but Labour? meh.

What I hope, is that if Labour do not reflect the support both Māori and Pasifika communities have shown them through electing many of the candidates that constitute Labour’s caucus, then it will be time for the Māori and Pasifika caucus to consider either breaking away from Labour to form a new party, or for those candidates to consider joining other Māori/Pasifika focused parties i.e. Māori Party, MANA, NZ Greens.

Māori do not ‘owe’ Labour anything. Lets never forget that.

Māori Party

The Māori Party as mentioned above were told they’d not exist after the 2014 election. Te Ururoa Flavell retained Waiariki with a decisive majority and there looks like there’ll be enough party vote to get Marama Fox in on the list.

On relationship accord prospects: the Māori Party have almost no leverage this time and it will be vital to consider whether or not it is worth sitting at the table with that in mind. National really does have ‘unbridled power’ and it is unlikely in these circumstances that a relationship accord will serve Māori well. If the Māori Party take ministerial roles but are not able to achieve any significant gains in those roles, then in my opinion it would be unwise to enter a relationship accord with National on that basis because it will reflect the aspirations of the candidates and not necessarily the party and our people. The strength of the Māori party is their independent voice, and it might be time to assert that given there are unlikely to be any real gains under a government that can pass legislation without the support of any other party.

The Māori Party may have survived, but the waka certainly needs repairs.

Kua tawhiti kē tō haerenga mai, kia kore e haere tonu.

He tino nui rawa ōu mahi, kia kore e mahi nui tonu.

You have come too far, not to go further.
You have done too much, not to do more.

- Tā Hēmi Hēnare

[H/T Mero Irihapeti Rokx]

Māori need to use the next 3 years to work out how to bring about kotahitanga while respecting diversity. This should be the priority of both Māori and MANA as well as the Māori wings in both Greens and Labour.