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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

Silence might imply what you want to avoid

With the first massive fallout from the release of Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics Judith Collins has finally tendered her resignation as a Minister.

As Matt Nippert reports, her resignation was:

“sparked by a Fairfax investigation into a smear campaign by bloggers apparently backed by controversial financier Mark Hotchin” who “secretly paid bloggers Cameron Slater and Cathy Odgers to write attack posts undermining the Serious Fraud Office, its director Adam Feeley, and the Financial Markets Authority, who were probing his collapsed Hanover Finance in 2011 and 2012”

Many commentators, pundits and journalists have extensively reported on what was uncovered in Hager’s book, and I presume most readers would have a fair idea about the extent of the claims and the subsequent evidence that has emerged since the books release, so I won’t re-cover it.

Interestingly, many predicted the release of the book would likely see a rise in the polls for the left bloc, but what has emerged is somewhat intriguing – NZ First (~6.3%) and the Conservative Party (~4.6%) [as reported on The Nation TV3] suggesting the possibility that both parties may exceed the 5% threshold to enter Parliament. Whether these results are related to Dirty Politics or a reflection of the success of both parties campaigns is arguable.

But the polls aren’t my concern in this post. My concern is about those parties who have remained to a large degree silent on Dirty Politics. NZ Labour, NZ Greens, New Zealand First, InternetMANA and the Conservatives have all been very vocal about cleaning up the  state of NZ politics through an independent inquiry and more robust processes to keep politics transparent and free of the collusion that appears to have taken place.

It might be expected that the ACT Party and United Future would keep a relatively low profile, given they have openly stated a preference for working with the National Party post-election. Notwithstanding, that both parties claim to be principled and support the role of an open and accountable government. But the big silent elephant in the room is the Māori Party and this has not gone unnoticed by the public at large. Critics and many supporters (potential and actual) are left wondering why, a party that claims to be an ‘independent Māori voice’ in Parliament has been absent from the general media coverage on this issue. However, Te Ururoa Flavell, Co-Leader of the Māori Party and Waiariki candidate, told the Rotorua Daily Post that:

 I can’t comment on the book because I haven’t read it. But what I do know is that there are individuals across the political spectrum in New Zealand that engage in dirty politics. It’s not something that the Maori Party has ever done or condones. Manaakitanga (respecting and looking after others) is one of our foundational values and we have always conducted ourselves in a way that reflects this principle. We’re interested in party policies and how we can work with others to effect change. The hacking of emails is not a new phenomenon but it compromises the interactions between MPs and constituents and is a breach of privacy. In that regard we are deeply disturbed”

It is a fair comment given that Flavell hasn’t actually read the book. However, he implies an argument that has been met with much resistance for good reason: that it happens across the political spectrum.

Most would agree that attack politics and possibly even this dirty politics is pervasive, but that in my mind is even more reason to make a statement in strong opposition to its practice. The hacking of emails too is an important issue, but the more pressing issue missed in Flavell’s statement was the collusion and corruption between a Minister of the Crown, bloggers, and other public officials. This may just be a result of not having read the book and not having the contextual grounding to form a stronger opinion or to take a firmer stance.

Flavell also indicates the party’s resistance to commenting in any detail on the claims made in the book also centres around the party’s strategy to reorient the election focus on promoting policies. His mention of manaakitanga, suggests the party want to avoid being part of the dirty politics machinery so are intentionally distancing the party and candidates from being caught up in the negativity of the dirty politics media coverage.

However, an important part of any political campaign involves responding to issues of public importance, such as the very serious claims that are still emerging following the books release. It is possible to make a strong statement that censures the behaviours of dirty politics without being drawn into the negativity while still focusing on promoting the party’s policies. That is part of the balancing act required by political campaigns. Because no matter how well-intentioned the Māori Party are in steering clear of the ‘dirty politics’ coverage, it has brought into question for many potential Māori Party voters whether or not the party are an ‘independent voice’ for Māori or whether they are the silent friend of National. One of my worries is whether there exists an unspoken sense of obligation to the National Party because of the invitation to work in government despite not being ‘needed’ (in a numbers sense anyhow) to form the last two National led governments.

In my view,  it would be incredibly unwise if such a feeling existed because it would undermine the credibility of the party’s ‘independent voice for Māori’ message. Sure, it is a tight rope to walk when you are a party who has openly expressed its willingness to work with whichever party can form the government and not wanting to rock the boat so much that your own waka capsizes. But being independent means being just that: standing on your principles and holding to account those who have wronged no matter what political party is responsible or implicated in the wrongdoing.

For supporters of the party navigating conversations on social media has been particularly difficult absent the strong guidance from leadership on this issue.  In my view, if the Māori Party want to overcome the perception that their silence is an act of support in favour of the National Party, then they will need to make a clear and firm statement that they oppose collusion, corruption and abuses of state power and perhaps even offer some guidance as to whether the party will support an inquiry and other measures to help purge our political system of all anti-democratic practices.

ADDENDUM: 

I’ve been receiving feedback from various comment streams about my approach in this post. And I agree that I haven’t here placed as much emphasis on manaakitanga as is necessary to understand the Māori Party’s position. For a full outline of Māori Party kaupapa see: Ngā Kaupapa o te Pāti Māori

Manaakitanga is behaviour that acknowledges the mana of others as having equal or greater importance than one’s own, through the expression of aroha, hospitality, generosity and mutual respect.

By such behaviour, all parties are elevated and our status is enhanced, building unity through humility and the act of giving.

The Party must endeavour to express manaakitanga towards others – be they political allies or opponents, Māori or non-Māori organisations – taking care not to trample mana, while clearly defining our own.

Tikanga of the Māori Party derived from Manaakitanga

To be recognised by Māori as a political organisation that does manaaki the aspirations of Māori.

To ensure that relationships between the Party and whānau, hapū, iwi, and other Māori organisations are elevating and enhancing

To promote a fair and just society, to work for the elimination of poverty and injustice, and to create an environment where the care and welfare of one’s neighbour is important

To ensure that members agree to work together, treat each other with respect, and act with integrity in their party work

To involve all peoples in the process of rebuilding our nation based on mutual respect and harmonious relationships.

I maintain that public opinion/perception is important but my main concern is that threats to democracy in NZ must be dealt with head on because without democratic processes, such as accountability, then the political parties and the people they represent cannot be guaranteed free and fair representation under the Westminster system we have.

In my view, Māori have been on the receiving end of a history of dirty politics particularly through intentional breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, our culture and rights as indigenous people being legislated against, ongoing institutional racism, and the manipulation of public opinion that has oppressed us as a people. It was the fight of our tupuna that allowed us to be heard and the fight of our many activists (in their many forms) that gave Māori the strength and ability to assert kaupapa Māori politics to counter the forces that work against us. That fight is not over and the struggle goes on.

I do consider that manaakitanga is very important and I wholly commend the Māori Party’s commitment to that kaupapa. My personal view, is that a fair and just society requires (as mentioned in the post) accountability and I truly believe this can be done without ‘trampling the mana’ of others but through co-operation with others to build an environment that is ‘based on mutual respect and harmonious relationships’.

One of the key things that I believe would assist in helping others to understand kaupapa Māori politics is more education on the concepts and providing practical examples. I do think the Māori Party show us how kaupapa Māori works, but I wonder if the public might be better informed if there were more coverage of these concepts, what they mean to Māori and how they can enrich the lives of Pakeha too.

I appreciate that the relative silence I talked about in the post is an expression of manaakitanga, and also resultant from a lack of media interest because the party’s comments that have been made weren’t perhaps as controversial as other parties. I just personally feel manaakitanga can be expressed in other ways too. I don’t here presume to speak for all Māori, this is my opinion, and I wholly respect that others may disagree with my views on this matter and many others.

Not a very feminist party

The NZ Herald reports that Dr Pani Farvid, Internet Party candidate for Palmerston North, told a women’s group that  the Internet Party is a feminist party. When probed about the party founder’s own propensity for sexism, Dr Farvid remarked:

“He is not perfect. He is not the party, he’s the founder, but we are a feminist party. He has apologised himself, I’m not excusing him, that sort of thing is not OK, absolutely. He just doesn’t know any better and he should.”

I have no doubt in my mind that Dr Farvid and many of her peers absolutely support the feminist movement. I do however, consider it a bold claim to promote the Internet Party as a feminist party in light of its founder, Kim Dotcom’s repulsive sexist record.

Dr Farvid could have said either ‘I am a feminist’ or ‘that she promotes feminism within the party’ and that probably would not have brought her own feminism into disrepute. Instead what she has done is invalidated the experiences of all women, by on the one hand claiming she is not excusing him, and on the other hand impliedly excusing him because ‘he just doesn’t know any better’. A party claiming to be feminist, surely would not minimise or invalidate the experiences of women because the perpetrator of harm didnt know better. As a woman on twitter pointed out:

 @mairesmith

@Ellipsister A woman apologising for a man’s manners isn’t really what I think of as ‘feminist’, no.

When I consider a ‘feminist party’ I consider precisely the basis on which the party was formed i.e  who founded it, who funds it, what messages does it share as a party, who are its members, how do they promote feminism and so on. The Internet Party was founded, is funded and is promoted by a man who has a tendency to tweet about ‘rape jokes’ and to objectify women. His behaviour is then downplayed by a woman in the party because ‘he is the product of a sexist culture which we need to remedy’.

But Dotcom does know better. In 2012, the NZ Herald reports:

“A sexual violence prevention agency has told Kim Dotcom rape jokes are “never okay” after he posted a series of comments about the crime on Twitter”

One of those tweets was the following:

KDC2Rape jokes that work!???

In the same NZH article, Rape Prevention Education director Kim McGregor told the Herald that rape jokes are hurtful to survivors of sexual violence and that:

“Rape jokes aren’t funny. It’s never okay to make a joke about rape. People who have experienced rape are often traumatised for years. They’re violated, they’re humiliated and it’s nothing to joke about.”

Then about a month or so ago, Dotcom attempts to make a joke about murdering sex workers:

KDC

The joke is offensive because it devalues the existence of sex workers as human beings. His attempt at apology was this:

KDC 3This is not an apology. It is a concession to his then newly appointed leader of the Internet Party, Laila Harre. As others in the comments that followed point out, its not Batman that was the problem, it was the comment about murdering sex workers.

But it’s not only Dotcom who has offended women. Chris Yong,  reportedly ‘joked’ to  the Herald when asked about the three women contending the Auckland Central seat that:

“we’ve got the best babe”

What Yong is doing here is commenting on Miriam Pierard’s appearance, using the term ‘babe’. In employing it the way he has, he also simultaneously criticises or demeans Jacinda Ardern and Nicky Kaye by suggesting Miriam’s appearance is superior to theirs and reducing the contest down to one of appearance. This is insulting to all women running political campaigns, if he deems appearance as the determinant of their chances at success. He also exhibits a sense of entitlement over Pierard claiming some kind of ownership that “Miriam belongs to us”. Yes, he may have just been referring to her role in the Internet Party team, in a team camaraderie kind of way, but  Miriam Pierard is a person. She is not property and he should be more careful with how he speaks about his peers and the messages he sends to other women.  Some people may argue that the term ‘babe’ is not offensive but when it is used in the context Yong employed it above, it is sexist and it is not ok.

Name it Change it have developed an egregiousness pyramid to assist the avoidance of sexist reporting in the media.  It also serves as a good guide when interacting on social media. For a commentary, see Bidisha on Sluts and sweethearts: Sexist language is on the rise, but now there is a new way to fight back.

In my view, a feminist party wouldn’t stand for those remarks and in fact they wouldn’t even feature in a feminist repertoire that is built on and promotes gender equality.

Recently, Internet Party Leader, Laila Harre poked fun at the weight of current women MP’s, also engaged in the anti-feminist action of ‘fat shaming’ and mocking the size of womens breasts as something women should feel stigmatised about.  Her words as reported:

“Obviously wanting to be fit and relatively less portly than most members of Parliament become, ‘she said diplomatically’.”

Will she name names? “I think their breasts speak for themselves.”

While the Internet Party’s top 10 candidates are equal ratio’s women and men, above that number the ratio changes. Only 6 of the 15 candidates are women. I personally would expect a feminist party to be predominantly if not all women given men saturate the political landscape. And while there may be an even spread of women in the top 10 candidate list, it would be interesting to see the ratio in prominent roles of the executive branch of the party if the claim is that the Internet Party is a feminist party. Moreover, the Internet Party don’t even appear to have developed any policy (yet) that focuses specifically on gender issues.

Exacerbating the sexism link to the Internet Party, is the alliance with Hone Harawira’s MANA movement. Recalling Harawira was recently called on to apologise for his minimising and harmful remarks  on Backbenchers regarding his view toward Tania Billingsley who was attacked in her home by Malaysian Diplomat, Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail.

Harawira stated:

“I think all of the media, their heads should roll, for making a big fuss about bugger all. There are kids starving in this country, there are a whole lot of issues we need to be dealing with right here, right now … it’s something we can do without.”

A week after this aired, Harawira did put out an apology, although I was unable to locate an official press releases on the Party website. Instead there is a status update on the MANA Movement page, which states:

I want to sincerely apologise if my comments on Backbenches may seem to have minimised the gravity of the situation regarding the young woman who asked police to investigate the complaint of sexual assault against the Malaysian diplomat.

I have reviewed the tape and I accept that my comments were not helpful at all. Sexual assault IS a big deal, and I applaud Tania Rose Billingsley for her brave and courageous appearance on television last night.

Hone Harawira

Like Dotcom above, this is hardly an apology. It is a concession to appease the women’s rights activists in the MANA movement, including Annette Sykes who has long advocated against violence against women.

One commenter was unimpressed with his attempt to deflect criticism and replied:

…Apologies are nothing but lip service it is something a husband does after he beats his wife up and says I am sorry it will never happen again. It is male dominance at its best…. It is whether you learn and don’t do it again that matters. It is a journey of learning and understanding and for you to stand up amongst your people and put yourself forward as having changed your mindset and exampling this. Only then will your apology actually mean anything.

Given that Dr Pani Farvid is a Senior Lecturer, I would have expected more critique of her party and the sexist behaviour associated with it, rather than the apologism she offered for Dotcom’s insidious tendencies to demean women and roles occupied predominantly by women.   I wholly commend Dr Farvid for starting the process to educate her party on the harm caused by sexism and misogyny but it’s a slap in the face to the many feminist movements to parade the Internet Party as a feminist party when it clearly is not.

Revealing our biases in our responses to “Dirty Politics”

On his Radio Live segment, Duncan Garner intimated that some people are excited about Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics book, particularly those who don’t like the right because it reveals everything they want to hear.

Confirmation and selection bias are both prevalent during election years. No one is immune. Many will attempt to present as impartial, while others will acknowledge their partisanship proposing to hold any wrongdoing to account. However, that’s a fine line to walk for most, if not all of us. We do seek out information that conforms to our preferences or value judgements and we are selective in not only the kind of information that accords to our preferences, but also how we frame that information to strengthen our own convictions.  This has been very apparent in the responses to Hager’s book.

From the left, there are three common themes:

  • The ‘Corruption’ argument: the details of the particular claims made and the seriousness of those allegations warrant an inquiry and police involvement.
  • The ‘Pot-Kettle-Black’ argument: that Cameron Slater has a ruthless history of publishing private information about people so he cannot now complain because of a retaliatory act.
  • The ‘Public Interest’ argument: that we the public have a right to know about the information extracted as a result of the hacking operation.

From the right:

  • The Conspiracy Theory argument: that the details provided in the book do little more than raise suspicion and lack any conclusive evidential backing and of course, John Key’s own proclamation that that Hager is a ‘screaming left wing conspiracy theorist’. [FWIW, I look forward to Matthew Dentith, NZ’s leading expert on Conspiracy Theories analysing Dirty Politics in light of this argument]
  • The ‘Everyone Does It’ argument: that all parties engage in attack politics in some form or another, it’s been happening for years, and it’s not new nor is it news.

In my view, both sides make valid arguments.

The issues raised by Hager are serious and do warrant further inquiry because we must never dismiss any allegations of corruption and abuse of political power. It is an affront to democracy and to our civil and political liberties, no matter who is involved. In saying that, the right have a point about whether or not we are dealing with a conspiracy theory, arguably then it is in the interests of the right to support an inquiry to prove or disprove the corruption allegations that will subsequently determine whether or not an actual conspiracy exists.

However, Lamia at Corner Politics makes a very good point, she writes:

“…I don’t see how the investigation could happen while John Key is still PM. I would not have confidence in any such investigation! This alone means that he can no longer stay”

I agree with her, that we cannot have confidence in an inquiry carried out by the particular government who would be the subject of the inquiry. I’m not convinced though that we could be confident in any inquiry led by the opposition either given their own vested interests. Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I don’t trust that the political elite in our country are capable of carrying out a fully independent inquiry.

In regard to the Pot Kettle Black argument, which has some teeth to it since Slater has a reputation for carrying out the same actions he is complaining about. But the information doesn’t just target Slater, it implicates a raft of people. Although here, one might argue those people are the same who are responsible for leaking the information Slater publishes. Gordon Campbell writes that some might think it karma since:

“Slater began his jihad against Labour by being complicit with how the hacking of the Labour Party website was exploited. He has now been exposed by much the same means”

I’m not entirely comfortable with the ‘its karma’ framing either. It seems rather hypocritical when it runs a retributive justice line, that many of those using the argument have previously detested, and is a form of justice not conducive to what left wing values would typically entail.

Equally problematic is the rights ‘everyone does it’ argument. This argument operates as an admission that the allegations of collusion are true and worryingly that such people think it justifiable, i.e. legitimacy obtained through customary practice, or something. However, it does acknowledge that the attack politics practice might be widespread, which further supports the need for an independent inquiry.

The last one is the public interest argument and this entails a number of concerns [which I think requires extensive research to unpack the various issues between private individuals and public officials and private information and public information].

One issue that concerns me is that yes, Hager’s actions were that of a whistleblower but what about the actions of the person or persons who gained unauthorised access to the private accounts of Slater and extracted information?

Should we tolerate the actions of a private person hacking into the private accounts of another private person? Well, we know the law says we ought not to tolerate it because it is a crime in NZ.

However, some are arguing that in this particular case, it is justifiable to access information and steal it because the information obtained was of such public importance. My concern is at what point then, might we say that it was at least morally justifiable, if not legally so? What is the threshold we are applying when we are accepting that in some instances these practices might be legitimate? Remembering we are not talking about hacking into government systems or stealing information from the government as in the Edward Snowden case. We are talking about private individual vs private individual? Do we say mere suspicion is enough, or do we need something firmer? Can we justify it at all?

My view, is that no we cannot justify hacking into the accounts of private individuals. Period. And if we truly oppose the implementation of the GCSB Act then how can we argue that the government cannot spy on us in what they determine is in the public interest but we should be allowed to spy on each other if we suspect each other of harbouring information of vital public interest? Where does that even leave us as a society? And what does it mean for the value we place on internet freedom, if that freedom entails the right of others to gain unauthorised access to our accounts if they are suspicious of our activities, whether or not such suspicions are grounded in a reasonable belief or mere speculation? Where do we draw the line? There are far more questions than there are answers.

[Note: I appreciate that the digital community have diverse views on the role of hacking, and I’m not saying that ‘all hacking is bad’, rather that all private individuals should have a reasonable expectation that their private online accounts are not intruded upon]

Te Tai Tokerau: Davis appeals to whānau, hapū and iwi

Kelvin & Hone

In breaking news last night, Kelvin Davis was painted as a traitorous, negative, self-serving individual. Some of the responses from InternetMANA supporters (including some of which were Labour supporters) was nothing short of vile, and not worth repeating here. But Davis took to Facebook to explain the allegations against him:

I was on 3 News tonight because my campaign team had a look at a proposed website designed to take down Kim Dotcom and stop him from buying the seat of Te Tai Tokerau with his $3million dollars.

We explored this concept, debated it, then along with the Labour Party hierarchy decided it wasn’t in line with our Vote Positive messages and ditched it.

[emphasis added]

Firstly, it doesn’t appear he was actually blocked. It appears there was mutual agreement to ‘ditch the idea’ following discussion that the ‘proposed’ website was not in line with Labour’s messaging.

Secondly, Davis also elaborated on his discomfort with Kim Dotcom and his Internet Party coat tailing in on the Tai Tokerau seat. An irritating aspect of the commentary that followed, came from Pākehā commentators/pundits and journalists/reporters impressing their Pākeha centric views on Māori electorates.

It is probably worthwhile remembering then that Davis isn’t just running as a member of the Labour Party – he is running as a representative of Māori in Te Tai Tokerau. This dual role is often overlooked when Pākehā set the parameters of political debate for Māori.

Davis has every right to express his view and the view of many of our people in his electorate. Noting here, that I do not dispute that Hone Harawira and MANA also enjoy huge support from our people in that electorate and elsewhere.

However, if Davis is hearing from whānau, hapū and iwi that they are not comfortable, or are opposed to the InternetMANA alliance exercising political power over their electorate, then it would not be tika (right) for him to support it nor for him to encourage his constituents to do likewise. It’s also teka (false/untrue) to imply that Māori who oppose the InternetMANA alliance are negative, traitorous self-serving individuals. Again, this is most often led by a Pākehā dominated dialogue.

Ouch. The Left Polling Low

The latest poll sees a massive defeat of the Left as Labour slump to a meagre 23.2% and National rise to 56.5% enough to govern alone. As Jono Natusch writes:

The only minor party that might look at the poll with any comfort is Internet Mana, which picks up a combined 2.1%, which would likely bring them a third MP, should Hone Harawira hold Te Tai Tokerau.

Frank Macskasy has a theory on the mass drop in Labour/Green Bloc support: the budget, economy and infighting within Labour and between potential coalition partners.

I think he is partially correct. But I think he avoids the elephant in the room – the rise of the Internet-Mana Party (IMP). The contentious alliance, announcement of the IP Leader and the exorbitant funds being injected to fund the IMP campaign coincides with the drop for Labour Green support in the latest polls. It will be interesting to see if this remains a trend.

There is some irony in this ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’   justification. Those employing the phrase failed to consider that not all New Zealander’s are  endeared to Dotcom and many left voters might be more inclined to have National as their friend than Dotcom. The polls are increasingly suggesting that people  are preferring a National led government and all its toxicity to what is on offer on the left.

The averages of  the June polls according to David Farrar:

I guess Labour and the Greens need to work out if any drop in their support is related to IMP and what steps they need to take to mitigate further losses.

 

Māori Party online communication needs some attention

Recently (as in the past week), I became a member of the Māori Party. For transparency, it cost me $2 and I gave an $8 koha. Having never been a member of any political party before I was somewhat dubious. I joined because I wanted to participate in the discussions around Māori economic development and self-determination as well as see how they are going to run their 2014 election campaign.

Whether or not I will cast my vote in their favour on election day will depend on a number of factors, particularly since I have a huge aversion to the State and I want to see how intensely the Māori Party are going to back the kinds of regulations, or taxes on certain things that I view as wholly undesirable, e.g. the awful sugar or fat tax, which I see as a paternalist tax on the poor, and also what kind of stand they will take toward the Greens progressive pro-choice policy. Of course, there are numerous other things that I will consider, but at the moment those two things come to mind.

Unfortnately, I have stumbled across a wrinkle that quickly needs ironing out – online communication and social media.

Matthew Beveridge (as many will know) authors the Social Media & The 2014 General Election website. On it, he compiles the statistical usage of MP’s, Candidates and the Political Party’s on Twitter and  analyses their level of genuine engagement. He also looks at the graphics, timing and context of when and how tweets are sent. As expected, his blog suggests that the Internet Party are doing an astounding job of tweet traffic as are the Greens. In respect of the Māori Party, Te Ururoa Flavell is putting in an epic effort to increase his genuine engagement. While the effort is admirable, the party as a whole must do more. If consdiering other newcomers to Twitter, e.g. Internet Party Leader Laila Harre has made a valiant effort in that regard, one of my favourites being the content linked to in this tweet:

I by no means expect the Māori Party to be tweeting ,gifs of that kind, by the way, but I do expect prompt responses on Twitter or Facebook or by email from the Party account and some humour wouldn’t go astray. Having had the pleasure of being in a room when Dr Pita Sharples is giving a presentation humour certainly exists as part of the culture of the party.

Going back to my initial point, when I joined the Māori Party, I expected at the very least an automated email saying Thanks for joining  and some general info about contact information and some graphic that indicated the Māori Party were preaparing for campaign mode. But nothing, except a username and password which I’m not quite sure what to do with at the moment.

I appreciate that the traditional kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face/eye to eye) approach is favoured by the Māori Party, and I agree that it is and will always be very important. But I also think if the Māori Party want to make it through this election they must increase their online presence through genuine engagement. As Beveridge noted in a twitter conversation, social media would enable the Māori Party to tap into a market of under 25 year old Māori. Currently, Mana have a monopoly on that demographic on Facebook, and the Internet Party are increasingly appealing to them on Twitter.

Mike Treen, an IMP advocate writes:

The Maori Party needs to be taken out as a National support party

Once the campaigning really starts, if the Māori Party are largely absent in social media, they will not be able to counter the influence that will attempt to undermine the party as National lapdogs. This doesn’t mean responding with eye for eye attacks, the Māori Party should be able to rise above that level of politicking, but should also emphasise their independence as a party that can and is willing to work across the spectrum. I note that the Māori Party have a Facebook page that has a mere 2,039 likes and a Twitter following of a meagre 1481 followers. If the Māori Party have a dedicated Social Media person, then they need to take the Party to the next level of engagement. If not, they need to get one, and now.

Goldsmith Flour Bombed

goldsmith

I must apologise in advance for my lack of maturity, but LOL at Paul Goldsmith on TV3 News. What an appalling effort. He could have said NOTHING and that would have been better than the fumbling that found its way out of his mouth.  Round 2 to the bag of flour.

Sure, journalists are persistent, that’s their job to try and extract information, but if you’re unable to answer a specific question, you might want to think about saying nothing at all, or deflecting using any number or combination of the stock standard National Party answers to questions.

This is an example of what could go wrong if Labour cut a deal in Te Tai Tokerau – they risk Kelvin Davis having to present himself as inept as Goldsmith when faced with a media pack hungry to unearth collusion in the electorates.