Month: November 2014

CTFL Bill: Submission

I made a submission today on the Counter Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill. I am mindful that I have not had a lot of time to give the text a great deal of contemplation, so some of the points raised may in fact be an overreaction and perhaps even misguided. Additionally, I have taken guidance/borrowed from others on many of the key points due to limitations on time. However, this is what happens when submission deadlines are so ridiculously short. This is also the first submission I’ve ever made, so the format is probably not great.

—- START

I oppose this Bill in its entirety for the reasons set out below.

1. Undemocratic process

I agree with the NZ Council on Civil Liberties that calls the process for making submissions on this bill ‘a farce’ and ‘a parody of good democratic’ practice.[1]

There is inadequate time for proper public consultation and for submitters to provide well-analysed and informed considerations.

The urgency under which the Bill is being passed is inconsistent with the language used in the Explanatory Note (‘The Note’) supporting the Bill. The Note indicates that the threat of terrorism is still very unlikely and that the threat level is ‘low’ which does not speak to the urgency this government is insisting upon.

This Bill must be withdrawn to allow for proper public consultation on the issues

2. Terrorism, Violent Extremism, and the slippery slope to Activism

The Note also indicates that the Bill is not restricted to ‘foreign terrorist fighters’ but also includes ‘other violent extremists locally, regionally and internationally’.[2] The Note states that ‘Government agencies have a watch list of between 30 and 40 people of concern in the foreign fighter context’ but that it also has another watch list of ‘30 to 40 on a list of people requiring further investigation’.[3] While the first group are alleged to be within the FTF context, that clearly does not mean those people pose an immediate threat or in fact any threat to NZ – as noted above, this government by its own admission says the threat is low despite it having 30-40 people on its FTF watch list.  Moreover, the manner in which violent extremism is covered under the UN resolution and the apparent extension of this to ‘people requiring further investigation’ is grossly excessive and beyond the requirements of the obligations set out in the resolution.[4]

There is no definition as to what this government considers ‘violent extremism’ which leaves the matter open to interpretation by the agencies invoking the powers provided and potentially places non-peaceful legitimate protest or activists in the grip of the SIS surveillance regime. The implications for freedom of expression have not been appropriately explored and the Bill must be withdrawn to prevent NZ from devolving into a Police State to quash any dissent.

This Bill appears to be built on the SIS experience of Operation 8, in which known activists and the communities within which they lived were subjected to excessive State force that has had a resounding impact on their lives.

This Bill simply legalises the activities carried out by the SIS during that operation, to avoid the Courts finding illegality in similar future cases. This is particularly obvious when in the Note, this government bemoans the fact that the SIS are currently not allowed to trespass nor install a visual surveillance device for the purpose of monitoring ‘people training with weapons’ – a direct reference to the language used by the SIS regarding Operation 8.

Since the Police and the SIS were unable to prosecute these activists under the Terrorism Suppression Act, the inclusion of the words ‘locally’ and ‘other violent extremists’ appears to have the purpose of extending surveillance powers to the activist community which is characteristic of an authoritarian regime.

3. Unwarranted Surveillance

The unwarranted surveillance for a 48-hour period is ambiguous. On the one hand, the Note says the SIS must meet the threshold for applying for a warrant before an authorisation is granted, but on the other hand implies that there need not be an intention to apply for a warrant provided there is an explanation provided after the fact. This suggests the ‘emergency’ of the authorisation is more about gathering intelligence that might provide grounds for a warrant application and effectively provides a free pass to the SIS to flout privacy laws for 48 hours.

4. Warranted Surveillance

The Bill proposes to infringe on property rights by legalising trespass for the SIS who may also install a visual surveillance device on private property and may keep any information they consider of interest once the warrant expires. That is incredibly broad and grossly intrusive.

5. Sunset Clause

The sunset clause implies this government don’t really believe the changes are appropriate but are creating loopholes for the SIS to gather intelligence on people without restriction, and unencumbered by the illegalities highlighted in the R v Hamed case concerning Operation 8 for the next few years.

6. Cancellation of Passport

Cancelling the passport s of New Zealnder’s who are overseas, leaves them stateless and those implications need to be properly investigated. As others have also pointed out, this provision appears to impose a ‘de facto sentence of exile by Ministerial fiat’.

Additionally, that this government can potentially render ‘suspected Māori’ stateless for a period of up to 3 years and consequently deny them the right to return to their turangawaewae, is surely in breach of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and this has not been properly addressed or explored.

7. Suspension of Passport

The temporary suspension of  passport’s infringes on the right to freedom of movement by allowing a Minister to determine if and when a person may travel internationally.

8. Secret Evidence

Extending the submission of classified evidence to Judicial Review proceedings is a breach of the principles of natural justice. That an accused person and their legal representative cannot challenge the evidence against them, is deeply unjust and undermines the credibility of the court system.

This government has also failed to take into account the consequences this legislation may have on social and cultural, religious minorities.

In particular, the Muslim community are likely to be unfairly targeted by the SIS given the Bill is anchored in the context of ISIL, ANF and Al Qaida. This builds on the stigma felt by Muslim communities and feeds the already existing Islamophobia in NZ. Moreover, the Bill could potentially alienate Muslim communities out of fear of being spied on ‘by association’.

The Government also have not considered that the Bill could incite a backlash if marginalised, minority and Indigenous groups are unfairly targeted by the SIS and the NZ Police under the extensive powers they are granted under this Bill.

Conclusion

Had there been more time available, I like other submitters may have also been able to better detail my concerns and give deeper consideration to the text of the Bill.

For all the reasons set out above, I oppose this Bill and request that it be withdrawn from urgency.

[1]NZCCL “Submission: Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill” (27 November 2014) http://nzccl.org.nz/sites/default/files/NZCCL%20Submission%20on%20Countering%20Terrorist%20Fighters%20Legislation%20Bill_0.pdf

[2] Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill, Explanatory Note, at 1.

[3] At 1.

[4] UNSC Res 2178 at para 18.

Note: I gained a lot of assistance from No Right Turn’s blog which provided an incredibly succinct and helpful summary of the key contentions here: http://norightturn.blogspot.co.nz/2014/11/submission-guide-countering-terrorist.html

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Māori Party should have opposed the Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill outright

The Māori Party have said they are only supporting the first reading of the Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill, and note their strong reservations to the current text and processes for consultation on the Bill.  I’m not sure about other party members, but I personally would have preferred to see the Party opposing the Bill outright. Like the NZ Greens.

However, I am a little confused over the speech given by Marama Fox. On the one hand, it details some heavily weighted opposition to the Bill. For instance, Fox expresses deep concern about discrimination and making a person stateless by confiscating their passport, warrantless surveillance. In particular she refers to a:

…well-known and public linkage that has been made in our own jurisdiction about a supposed association between Māori activism and terrorist activity. We do not want a repeat of Operation Eight.

On the other hand, Fox concludes her speech stating:

We have strong and heartfelt concerns about the possible implications of this bill, but we also believe it is irresponsible to take a stand without hearing from those New Zealanders who take up the call on human rights on our behalf. We support the first reading to enable that kōrero to happen.

I don’t quite understand what this actually means.  It appears to suggest that the Party support the Bill so that it can be debated despite not supporting much – if any, of what is contained in the Bill.

The issue I have is not only with the Bill but also with the more strategic ramifications. The government did not require the Māori Party to support this Bill through first reading. It had the numbers through its other coalition partners and the Labour Party.

The party could have opposed it and stood with the Greens on this issue in calling for broader public consultation. Thing is, it would have gone to select committee stage anyway because Māori Party support was not needed to get it there.

On the manner in which the legislation was introduced (leaked) to the public, Dr Kennedy Graham (SIS spokesperson, NZ Greens) maintains:

It is not a positive sign of a government seeking broad public support

Graham goes on to say that:

John Key has not made a case for rushing through counter-terrorism laws…[and] there has been no compelling evidence put forward… for why these changes need to be rushed through without proper public consultation.

He also emphasised that:

the Bill proposes wide ranging changes that compromise the privacy and civil liberties of New Zealanders

And like Fox, alludes to Operation 8, noting:

…we have seen poor intelligence legislation result in illegal activities in the past, we don’t want a repeat of that

This was an opportunity for the Māori Party to show that they were prepared to stand against the ramming through of legislation that empowers what appears to be an evolving Police State. Interestingly and relevant here, Fox also draws a link between violence away and violence at home. In my view, a natural extension of this would be to contextualise current affairs, i.e. the events in Ferguson in the US which illustrate the reprehensible consequences of empowering a Police State with the racism and injustice that come with it. Especially when we consider how, as Fox addresses, Māori and other marginalised communities are profiled. We need to be particularly mindful of our Muslim communities with respect to this particular legislation who are likely to be unfairly targeted by it.

As it stands, the Party will probably have to deal with the fallout of having supported the Bill at first reading, even if they don’t go on to support it at subsequent stages. If the Bill does become law (and it will) and its provisions are abused then there will be public outcry, and every party that supported the Bill will be punished for their support. Of course, others may argue that the Bill might actually do what the government is saying it is intended to do, which I suppose could make a hero of the government. But past experience should warn us, of how easily and slyly those empowered use those powers. In my view, supporting the Bill even if only superficially at a first reading, sends the wrong message and may create perception issues that follow the Party into the next election.  The only party cleared here are the Greens who stood strongly against it.

Addendum:

(26/11/2014)

FYI: I was just advised that the Māori Party voted with the Labour Party to try to get the consultation period extended and to have the Bill taken out of urgency. Although this still doesn’t change my view as set out above.

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.