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.

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

Recent comments from Hone Harawira allege that the Māori Party Executive “told” their Te Tai Tokerau (TTT) candidate, Te Hira Paenga to stand down in a strategy to direct votes toward the Labour Party’s Kelvin Davis, to reduce the chances of Harawira winning the TTT seat providing a lifeboat to their Internet Party counterparts.

Harawira claims he’d had advice that:

“…the Maori Party National Executive had already made the decision, even though it had been opposed by their Tai Tokerau committee”

However, Paenga released a statement reiterating:

“Some commentators have suggested that I should step down or endorse the Labour candidate in an attempt to stop the Internet Party riding on the back of the Mana candidate….Irrespective of all of the speculation that has been circulating, I have no intention of stepping aside and I call upon all Māori party supporters to stay true to the kaupapa and to give me two ticks in Te Tai Tokerau. Only the Māori Party can guarantee Te Tai Tokerau a seat at the table”

Many commentators in fact did suggest that the Māori Party consider tactical voting in TTT and so it does not seem unusual that the conversation was had. Recalling earlier in the election those of the InternetMANA branch urged Labour to stand down Davis which was derided when agreement was not forthcoming. Additionally, in previous elections, Harawira has always run the narrative that the Māori Party stand candidates specifically to hurt his chances, while this year he is claiming they are attempting to do the opposite. It seems foregone that whether or not the Māori Party stand a candidate, that it’s always to inconvenience Harawira personally.  So this year, Harawira;s claim seems to be that no-one should stand against him. However, that is really undemocratic.

Heeni Brown for Te Kaea reported that:

“Things are blowing up in the Māori Party between its executive council and the family of Pita Sharples, namely his son, Te Hira Paenga, who is running in the Te Tai Tokerau seat.

Te Hira Paenga has confirmed that the executive has asked him to stand down in order to give his support to Kelvin Davis, but Paenga refuses to concede”

Brown clarifying on Twitter that:

“just to reaffirm @TeHiraPaenga says it was discussed with no pressure and he, his whanau & committee had the last say”

Given the controversy over this issue, Co-Leaders Tariana Tura and Te Ururoa Flavell have also issued a statement.

In my opinion, there are three possible motivations for Harawira running with this non-event:

  1. To avoid accountability if he loses the seat
  2. To attract the sympathy vote
  3. To end the Māori Party

On point 1, there is a very real chance that Harawira will not hold on to his seat. Davis and Harawira were very close in the polls even if there is some dispute as to the accuracy given the timing and poll methodology. However, both Paenga and Davis have indicated that those they have spoken to in TTT are uncomfortable with the idea of the Internet Party being given a lifeboat through a Māori seat and similar results were reflected in the poll carried out by Reid Research for Māori TV.  The point is, if Harawira can deflect blame pre-election, then he doesn’t have to take accountability if he loses the seat to Davis, instead he will hang his loss on the Māori Party rather than his own decision to (as many argue) misuse to the seat.

On point 2, this is a classic political strategy – build up a picture that all parties are against him in an attempt to assume the position of the underdog. However, this is straight up political posturing. No party or candidate is campaigning against Hone Harawira for personal reasons despite this appearing to be the message Harawira is attempting to entrench. Notwithstanding the policy differences, all TTT candidates are standing and campaigning for the same reasons as Harawira – to represent TTT. The key difference between Harawira and all the other TTT candidates is that he is the only candidate that is comfortable using their electorate seat as a lifeboat for the Kim Dotcom funded Internet Party.

On point 3, MANA has endorsed a tactical voting guide that essentially proposes to kill off the Māori Party. Recently on Native Affairs, Kereama Pene, MANA’s Tamaki Makaurau candidate, stated specifically that his sole purpose for standing was to take votes from the Māori Party’s Rangi McLean to ensure that Peeni Henare wins the seat. Additionally, over the past two weeks Annette Sykes, John Minto, and Hone Harawira have all published press releases that attack the Maori Party, lighting fires on rumour, conjecture, and blatant lies. So it’s difficult to see how Harawira’s final campaign pitches aren’t aimed at attempting to terminate the Māori Party.

In sum, like all electorates Te Tai Tokerau does have a big decision to make this election, the difference for TTT voters, is that they are also deciding if they want to see the Internet Party enter Parliament through their vote, and for this reason I think Davis will win this seat if only marginally ahead of Harawira, having been given endorsements from outside parties including NZ First and the National Party. The Māori Party have not endorsed Davis as Harawira suggests, they have endorsed their own candidate Te Hira Paenga.

Delegitimising Māori Protest

Yesterday (Sunday 14 September) during an appearance in Manukau, David Cunliffe was confronted by a protester upset at Labour ruling out both the Māori Party and the MANA Movement as part of any government Labour would form post-election if the left bloc are in such a position to form the next government.  But before addressing that event, it’s important to lay down the context.

The previous day (Saturday 13 September) on The Nation, Cunliffe had also made the dubious assertion that the Labour Party were “the Māori party”.

Early in the interview Cunliffe states “We are running on a Vote Positive Campaign” then later proceeds to claim “a vote of the Māori Party is a vote for National” thereby delegitimising the only independent Māori party in Parliament. He followed his comment up by further asserting that “Labour IS THE MAORI party” because Labour have 14 Māori candidates, the Treaty partnership at their hearts, and the aspirations of Māoridom carrying in their cloak – that is the Māori party – the Labour Party.

Edit: I was just advised that there are 18 Māori candidates, 4 of whom are not on the list. I’d have expected Cunliffe to have noted this in his interview.

[Note: This is not a criticism of  Labour’s Māori caucus, but is a criticism of their Leader – David Cunliffe]

It seems Cunliffe selectively forgot that the Māori Party has 26 Māori candidates (2 are electorate only by their choice) while  MANA has 6 in their top 10 although, this is diluted in the alliance with the Internet Party which provides InternetMANA only 3 Māori candidates in their top 10. Cunliffe has 1 Māori candidate in his top 10 and only 5 in his top 20.

He also seems to have forgotten that during the last Labour led government, Labour refused to sign up to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, Labour instigated illegal surveillance on many Māori culminating in the Ruatoki raids in which an entire Tuhoe community was shut down, detained and many arrested under the pretext of ‘terrorism’ because brown activism. And prior to that had ignored the advice of the UN, the NZ Courts, Māori and its own Māori caucus and confiscated the Foreshore and Seabed. Cunliffe may try to distance himself from these, but he was part of that government as were many in his top 10 including his number 4 Annette King who authorised the Ruatoki raids.

Yet the Māori Party and MANA Movement have both remained open to working with Labour despite their poor record with Māori. Because both parties are committed to giving Māori a strong voice in Parliament that are not subordinated to the behemoth that is the Labour Party.

So when a rangatahi Māori Party supporter, Te Rata Hikairo challenges the Labour leader over his dubious comments about Māori politics and Cunliffe implies he has mental health issues, it’s difficult to believe that Cunliffe has any interest in the greater aspirations of Māori.

Hikairo created a short video and in it he explains that while he thinks he could have approached the situation differently, he was overcome by the wairua of his tipuna.

Although there was diverse feedback in the Māori Party supporter network, where some felt discomfort with Hikairo’s actions arguing a more considered approach would have been the best way forward as his actions could easily have been construed as negative, I am personally of the view, that Hikairo demonstrated that the activist heart of the Māori Party still beats strong for the kaupapa. His actions illuminated Cunliffe’s ignorance through his ill-considered response that firstly, he couldn’t tell the difference between a challenge and a powhiri and secondly, intimated that Hikairo was mentally unwell for not appeasing Cunliffe’s sensitivities.

There is most definitely a time and a place for appeasement, but when a Pakeha political elitist attempts to sink two Māori movements that he cannot have any control over, appeasement is not the way to have our voices heard. Cunliffe should not presume Māori are in his corner especially if he is going to attempt to delegitimise dissent in the manner he asserted while simultaneously claiming to lead the Māori party.

I wrote previously on Everyday Microaggressions. Cunliffe’s responses were typical examples of the microaggressions that Māori are subjected to in our everyday. Our experiences are minimised, or delegitimised if they don;t serve the interests of the dominant majority – irrespective of the left/right spectrum.

It is upsetting that the ignorance of Cunliffe’s comments have gone largely unchallenged by those who openly identify as left wing and who are often at the forefront of speaking out against everyday racism. I’d just be mindful, that Māori will remember those who were silent. If Cunliffe is comfortable simply writing off a legitimate challenge as a mentally unwell Māori he clearly does not have Māori interests at heart. He has his own interests at heart and is in my view,  exploiting Labour’s Māori caucus and Māori voters for his own ends. Furthermore, you are not running a ‘positive’ campaign if your response to a Māori protester is that the condition of his mind is questionable.  Ugh.





Imposing a rest period on MP’s?

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed discussion regarding the experience of parliamentarians and whether career politicians can actually or perhaps perpetually connect with the people they purport to represent.

In my view, when a politician sits in parliament on a six figure salary for decades, I’m not convinced we can say they can understand the experiences of their constituents, and in that case, I wonder if they are  in a position to develop policy that meaningfully addresses the issues that matter to us – the People.

One way of addressing this, might be to consider limiting how long an MP can serve in successive terms (e.g. 2-3 terms in other words 6-9 years), and then imposing a whakatā (rest period) on their candidacy for at least one full term (3 years).

My view is that in imposing a rest period creates a separation between people (MP’s) and (political) power so that our politicians never lose sight of the power they have as politicians over people.

I suspect those who have served or want to serve as MP’s may oppose such limitations, and also others may say it’s anti-democratic because it removes the ability of the community to continue to support the candidate they believe through the testament of time to best represent their community.  That is a criticism that would need to be further explored, but in my opinion, if we are going to have a representative democracy, then there should be mechanisms that facilitate greater representation and reflects the diversity of our country, rather than the status quo endorsing duopoly (Labour v National) that largely hinders this process.

Arguably, a parliamentary term whakatā may improve democracy because (i) it might increase local engagement if the seat is no longer betrothed to a particular candidate, (ii) it might increase competition between candidates and therefore, providing better representation of the community issues, and (iii) it may remove the barriers to other parties obtaining recognition in a particular community, so that people are voting on the choices available and not simply according to traditional preferences of the particular electorates.

I’m not sure how this would work in practice, but I do think it would be an interesting area to explore.

The struggle from a position of privilege

I’ll be straight up here – I have never really taken to David Cunliffe. I’ve tried to give it time and to clear the noise when listening to him speak. In reflecting on the speech he gave at women’s refuge, it’s not that I don’t think what he said was important, rather that I don’t believe that he believed what he was saying.

After watching both the TVNZ and TV3 Leaders debates, I’m even more irritated by him and his too often cringeworthy deliveries.

When I think about Cunliffe, the words fake, disingenuous and melodramatic come to mind. However, this should not be construed to think I prefer John Key – I most certainly do not. I have preferences for neither and am appalled our two candidates in a position likely to lead the country for the next 3 years are wealthy white dudes. I am stunned that the Greens aren’t ploughing further ahead in the polls, although I am optimistic that their time to lead the opposition is coming soon (within the next 2 possibly 3 elections is my unscientific reckon).

My personal views on Cunliffe come down to this:

Cunliffe appears to awkwardly try and channel the spirit of some of the greatest political figures in history. He tries to push forward a vision, ‘a dream’ grounded in experiences he couldn’t possibly understand – the experiences of marginalised and minority communities. He acts like some kind of white Jesus that is going to save us from the scourge of capitalism and is the fountain of hope for all New Zealand. He imitates pounding his fist on a lectern, raises his voice in faux fury, furrow’s his brow at calculated moments in an attempt to appear as an authentic voice of the growing ‘underclass’, the working poor, the marginalised, and the minorities.

But no matter how much Cunliffe wants to convey he has a vision for our country, he can never embody the passion that comes from the struggle of those who have fought oppression because he is oppression. He is a wealthy white dude with the experiences that white privilege afforded to him.

And I don’t say that to be mean. It’s not a dig at wealthy white men either, it’s a statement that wealthy white men cannot recreate an atmosphere, nor lead the kind of political movement that mobilised hundreds of thousands of oppressed people (in different times, and in different places) to fight the powers that controlled them. It is inauthentic and one of the key reasons, in my view, that Labour are doing so poorly in the polls. The idea of ‘Change the Government’ has never resonated with me, because as I’ve previously written it conveys nothing more to me than the transfer of power from one wealthy white dude to another, which doesn’t really sound like much of a change of anything.

The idea of leading a struggle from the position of privilege is probably responsible for the drop in InternetMANA poll results too. A faux energy expires much quicker than a real struggle. I am not talking about the MANA Movement here, I am specifically referring to Dotcom and his Internet Party. Dotocm was able to conjure up a lot of hype on the back of his struggle against extradition to the US and the abuse of State power with respect to the surveillance and raid of his mansion. But when people returned to the reality of their own lives, struggling to put food on the table or in lunchboxes, to pay the rent or mortgage, to fix the car, or to pay for school activities while Dotcom pumped $3million into a political party, paying candidates six figure salaries, holidaying in luxury hotels and arriving to meetings by helicopter, it’s no wonder the energy dissipated as the hype subsided. He’ll get a little boost again over the weekend in the lead up to and in the aftermath of his reveal, but I doubt it will be a significant boost.

In summary, Cunliffe’s appeal to emotion is not too dissimilar to Dotcom’s approach in the sense that both are leading struggles from positions of privilege. It doesn’t feel authentic, and as such the energy is short lived. It’s not that John Key is performing well on any account. It is that Key does not hide that he is a slippery managerialist who values profit over people, the fact is, a significant proportion of New Zealander’s think this about all politicians and advance Key (a level of) credit for not pretending he is anything else.

The Long Development of Harawira’s Feed the Kids Bill

Hone Harawira’s absence of late spawned a lot speculation about the alleged disintegrating relationship between the Internet Party and MANA Movement, an allegation both Leaders of both parties deny.

Various explanations were given as to Harawira’s noticeable absence from media, such as, ‘he has taken a week pre-planned leave’, ‘he is recovering following his car accident’, and ‘he’s taken a few days to spend with whānau’. And while claims he was on leave were made, Harawira soon fronted and refuted claims rival Kelvin Davis has made that he’d been missing in action from Te Tai Tokerau meetings, instead alleging it was Davis who was not at meetings where Harawira was attending.  Critical comments from Georgina Beyer alleging Dotcom was pulling the strings didn’t help allay the speculation about the relationship rift either.

Then last night, TV3 News reported that leaked emails showed a rupturing relationship between the alliance partners with Harawira asserting:

“Why am I seeing all this shit about WEED and so f****n little about FEED as in FEED THE KIDS!!!!!!!!!!!!”

If anything the email shows that Harawira is well in control, and not afraid to rock the boat if policy directions veer from MANA’s stated priorities.

But given those involved in the alliance between Internet and MANA there was always going to be the raruraru over ‘weed’. Martyn Bradbury has written extensively regarding his advocacy for decriminalisation and medicinal use of cannabis, including the following statement regarding the debate on The Vote last year:

“If you want to see some real debate on cannabis before the next election – think about crowd-funding the cannabis documentary I’m currently working on because based on last nights ‘The Vote’, you won’t see that debate occur on NZ mainstream TV”

Others are asking where the debate and focus for this particular policy came from and sure, the members probably did raise the issue, but given Bradbury’s strong advocacy and involvement in both the Internet Party and MANA Movement, it would be naive to think his influence was absent in forming and emphasising this policy direction.[1]

Out of all of this, Harawira seems to have reaffirmed his commitment to ‘Feed the Kids’. So I can appreciate his frustration with the promotion of the ‘legalise cannabis’ ads that were circulating social media.

After all, it would incredibly frustrating for Harawira, who has long advocated his anti-drug stance, to lose support for something as vital as feeding children, if supporters believed the parties stance on cannabis was the leading priority.

However, earlier today I read a post that set out a timeline suggesting an inconsistency between Harawira’s political advocacy and his parliamentary action to ‘Feed the Kids’ as his number one priority.

But rather than just post the claims, I thought I’d first check that they were accurate, and whether they actually gave rise to the disjunct claimed, to avoid accusations of bias given the post appeared on the pages of Māori Party supporters.

Claim 1: Election night 2011: asked what his first priority was Hone said it was to ‘feed the kids’

As reported in the NZ Herald regarding his re-election to Parliament in November 2011:

“Asked what his first priority was, Mr Harawira said: It’s to feed the children.”

This is an indisputable fact, since Harawira has been very vocal about his message.

Claim 2: 10 months later, 20 September 2012, the Education (Breakfast and Lunch in Schools) Amendment Bill was drawn

Harawira’s Education (Breakfast and Lunch in Schools) Amendment Bill was drawn from the preliminary ballot and went forward to the main ballot.

This claim is misrepresentative since the Bill was not drawn from the main ballot until November 2012 – around 2 months later.

Claim 3: On 15 May 2013, Mr Harawira withdrew the bill, delaying it until 10 July 2013

On 8 May 2013, Harawira published a press release urging John Key PM to ask the government to support his bill “when it comes up for first reading in Parliament next month”.

This indicates that the Bill was due for its first reading in June 2013, just over 7 months after it was initially drawn, but this timeframe is probably standard practice.

Then, on 15 May 2013, Harawira released a further press release delaying the first reading until 10 July 2013 citing:

“I’ve got a lot on over the next few weeks and the postponement means I can do justice to all my electorate activities and party leader responsibilities including the by-election in Ikaroa Rawhiti, as well as ensure the bill is given the promotion that it deserves”

In context, there was an opportunity for MANA to potentially bring in another candidate following the passing of Parekura Horomia who had held the Ikaroa Rawhiti seat. Even if the by-election been won by the MANA candidate it wouldn’t have increased the support in Parliament for the bill to pass (but it would have given MANA a boost in confidence to have another member of Parliament).

Regarding the comments about promoting the bill, I’d say the bill was actually pretty well promoted, the real difficulty was obtaining the support in Parliament rather than outside of it, so while the sentiment might have been there, it does just appear to be a deflection from Harawira’s decision to delay the first reading of the bill.

Although the month delay raises questions as to whether the bill is a parliamentary priority for Harawira, in the particular circumstances, the delay is probably justified.

Claim 4: On 10 July 2013, Mr Harawira withdrew the bill, delaying it because he had to deal with a Te Tai Tokerau issue

Almost two months later, on 9 July 2013, Trevor Mallard, on behalf of Harawira, seeks leave for the bill:

to be postponed and set down the following day as an order of the day after the Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill”

which was up for first reading on 13 November 2013.

Therefore, the Bill was further delayed until 14 November 2013 for its first reading, around a year after it had been drawn from the ballot and 2 years since Harawira was re-elected.

I am unable to locate the specific issue that Harawira felt overrode the first reading of this bill at this time.

But this delay of another 4 months, does indicate a potential pattern in its formative stages – to avoid getting the bill to first reading and the risk that it probably wouldn’t make it through to select committee and second reading stage. Whether this seemingly intentional delay suggests feeding the kids is Harawira’s priority or not, is up to the reader. I can appreciate how it could be interpreted either way.

Claim 5:  On 14 November 2013, Mr Harawira withdrew the bill, delaying it so that the House could rise early that night

Firstly, on 13 November 2013, MANA sent out a reminder to its members and supporters about the timing of the first reading of the feed the kids bill, stating:

“The Bill is likely to come up a bit later than we thought. I’m estimating it will start anytime between 8-9 pm and will run for an hour”

However, as seen in the Hansard debates, 14 November 2013, debates were interrupted as it appears the House had agreed to rise early at 6pm.

MANA followed up with a press release that suggests that the timing couldn’t be helped:

“The Feed the Kids Bill did not come up last night after all – it was next up on the parliamentary agenda but time ran out”

The question here really starts to entrench the idea that if the Bill was a priority, then why did Harawira agree to the early rising of the House after sending out an invite to supporters, and why did he not notify them in advance that he’d agreed to an early adjournment.  Additionally, why did Harawira not insist that the bill be read a first time given he had invited his supporters if ‘feeding the kids’ was his first priority?

As advised by MANA, the Bill was delayed again for first reading on 4 December 2013 but again did not receive a first reading at that time.

Claim 6: On 18 February 2014, Harawira withdrew the bill, delaying it because he would be out of town with the Maori Affairs Select Committee

I am unable to find a link to substantiate the claim that Harawira delayed due to being out of town, however, the bill was due to be read again on 11 March suggesting the statement is true.

On 11 March it was again delayed and rescheduled for first reading on 28 May 2014, 18 months after it was first drawn from the ballot and 2 and a half years after his re-election to Parliament.  

Claim 7: On 28 May 2014, the bill finally had its first reading but the House rose before the first reading was complete.

The Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill did receive its first reading in on 28 May 2014. But the claim is right that the House rose before the reading was complete.

I have no doubt that Harawira and the MANA Movement are absolutely passionate about providing food in schools to alleviate child poverty. I also appreciate that it was always going to be difficult to have the bill pass because he couldn’t obtain the requisite support to progress to select committee stage and second reading since National, ACT and United Future held 61 votes against MANA, Māori, Labour, Greens, and NZF’s 60 votes. But there is every chance after hearing the speeches that the single vote needed to support the bill may have been forthcoming.

My view is that the pattern of delay doesn’t bring into question whether Harawira was passionate about feeding the kids. There s no doubt about that. Instead, it brings into question whether Harawira appropriately promoted the bill in Parliament given his established pattern of ongoing delay which prolonged the process and in a sense prolonged the suffering of those he is so passionate about helping, due to his Parliamentary inaction.

Therefore, I do see why Māori Party supporters consider there to be a disjunct between Harawira’s political advocacy and his actions in Parliament, since the Kickstart Breakfast programme introduced was criticised by Harawira as not going far enough, despite the fact that Harawira’s feed the kids bill never even got through its first reading as a result of his own actions (or inaction).

I agree that the Kickstart programme needs to go further and the Māori Party have signalled their support for Harawira’s  feed the kids bill, as have most other parties in Parliament.  But I think that  it is disingenuous (of Harawira) to criticise a party for making a small contribution to the alleviation of child hunger if you delay the reading of a bill for 18 months that proposes to fix the thing you’re complaining of.

[1] For the record, I am personally pro-legalisation and medicinal use of cannabis.

Employing “Dirty Politics” as a weapon not a tool

John Minto, candidate for the MANA Movement has published a press release criticising the Māori Party. Criticism is all part and parcel with party politics, but this particular  criticism ignores the entire kaupapa Māori framework of the Party, yet attempts to question it on kaupapa terms.

Firstly, Minto is correct to imply that the balance of power could quite possibly lie with the Māori Party post-election. He is wrong to attempt to usurp the Māori Party’s democratic processes when he essentially claims the Māori Party must pick a side pre-election. There are of course arguments for why parties should make such a declaration pre-election. However, if the constitution on which the party was founded and to which its members agreed stipulates decisions are to be made at hui, then the Māori Party are not in a position to make such claims – they must await the outcome of the election then take the decision to nationwide hui to allow its membership, supporters and voters to determine how the party will proceed. [see cl 5 Decision Making (p.10) Māori Party Constitution].

Secondly, Minto refers to recent polls that indicate a majority of Māori want the Māori Party to go into coalition with NZ Labour. I have no doubt that is an accurate assessment of Māori political opinion. The polls on Te Kaea have shown that Māori are showing a preference for the Māori Party to work with Labour if they win the election – emphasised because it is an important factor that Minto avoids mentioning. The question appears to be premised on Labour winning the election [I haven’t seen the Reid Research report, so cannot make a firm statement on that]. However, if Te Tai Hauāuru is anything to go by 67.4% of voters said they’d support the Māori Party continuing its relationship with National if National wins the election. Note here again, the percentage is based on National actually winning the election. So it’s possible that the Māori Party may enter another relationship accord with National, but if and only if National win the election and there is consensus for the party to do so.*

Thirdly, Minto is posturing on ‘principles’, suggesting he is in a position to decide what the principles of the Māori Party and its supporters are and how they are to be interpreted.  But his commentary isn’t about principles at all. It is an acrid form of politicking under the pretence of it being about kaupapa Māori.

If Minto is so concerned about ‘mana enhancing’ then he should probably understand that manaakitanga – a broadly accepted tikanga Māori value from where this concept arises, is about not trampling on the mana of others. Yet, the whole point of his post appears to do precisely that – to trample on the integrity and mana of some of Māoridom’s most esteemed contemporary rangatira and by extension their whānau, hapū and iwi by manufacturing facetious links to manipulate his readers into a false belief that the Māori Party are somehow implicated in the Dirty Politics scandal. I wrote a previous post that seems to have pre-empted the kind of statement that Minto has released. See: Silence might imply what you want to avoid.

The Māori Party profess to stand as an independent indigenous voice in Parliament. This is often misconstrued to presume that there are no other indigenous voices in Parliament. The misconstrual is purposive and is harmful to us as a people.

The Māori Party make their claim based on everything they do in practice and in theory as being for indigenous people, by our indigenous people. This claim is not intended to deny our other esteemed rangatira in Parliament or in fact, any Māori voice in parliament of their mauri as Māori. It is a statement about what the party stands for and stands as. It is what the party believes makes it unique, that is, it doesn’t have a Māori wing or contingent that pursues kaupapa Māori politics – it is in its entirety a Māori party.

Hence my trepidation with Minto  telling the Māori Party to take a principled stand – but whose principles is he referring to when he attempts to define for the party what ‘mana enhancing’ means for them?

The Māori Party kaupapa indicates that mana enhancing is practiced through manaakitanga so in a political context it is about being in a position to be able to put our people at the forefront of policy and decision-making. It is not a western construct of us versus them, it is more transformative than that. It is about recognising diversity, respecting differences, and building mutually co-operative relationships that transcend the confines of the political spectrum.  It is collaborative and living – in the sense that it contributes to the evolution of kaupapa Māori politics not just for Māori but to enrich the lives of everyone.

In a simpler context, for example, manaakitanga is exercised when we invite manuhiri (guests) into our whare (home) – and show them hospitality and kindness. Our mana increases, even if our manuhiri are ungrateful or disrespectful. It is our ability to rise above it that gives us strength of character to continue to manaaki them. It is beyond the liberal concept of tolerance but it does not mean we accept an action as being tika (right). Our role is to show our manuhiri how to be tika through our own actions and this is how mana enhancing works.

It’s important to note that tikanga and kaupapa Māori concepts are divergent and do differ within and between, whānau, hapū and iwi. I make this point here intentionally because recently I’ve written some pieces that have appeared to generalise or homogenise Māori. This was not my intention and I am truly sorry for the offense I have caused to those readers. I wholeheartedly believe and respect that Māori are diverse in our opinions and we will each view our politics in our own distinct ways. I know that I have a very long way to go in mastering the skill of manaakitanga, but I continue to make that journey and learn through my mistakes along the way.

But whatever Minto thought he was doing, it was an attack intended to delegitimise the kaupapa of the Māori Party, to sink its waka, so to speak.

In conclusion, Māori  like everyone else, vote for many different reasons. Some will support their whanaunga, while others will support the kaupapa they believe resonates with their values. Some will consider bigger gains as emanating from inside a major party, while others will prefer the capacity of priority to be placed directly on Māori through mid-sized or smaller parties. But whatever the preference, it should never be about destroying another’s waka. Elections are naturally competitive and should remain so to give our people choice. But they are not about strategising to destroy a party in its entirety because they might threaten your own election chances. This kind of strategising is monopolistic, and the kind of thing that Dirty Politics warned against. Minto has employed Hager’s book as weapon rather than a tool. Speaks volumes.


*To avoid any doubt: I personally support socialism (of the anarchist branch) but in a form where kaupapa Māori is not a subordinate ideology, but the practice by which it is implemented.