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.

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3 comments

  1. I have a feeling that this is an example of how difficult it is for a single member party to advance private and members bills in the house. Especially when that single MP is someone who can come across as rather confrontational. Even if he isn’t, not every person is going to get on with him, it is just a matter of personalities. If you have two people, it is much more likely one of them will be able to convince someone to change their vote.

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    1. I had a similar impression, but more along the lines of Harawira being spread too thin, and across different working environments and cultures. It’s easy to imagine getting off track.

      But having that hypothetical 60-61 vote on record would have been very useful to the Left about now.

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