Maori Party

Internalising our oppression

Since I began blogging around three years ago, my exposure to different Māori forums has expanded significantly. This is my last post for Ellipsister so I considered it timely to round out my experience with a post on internalised oppression by looking at three currently controversial issues: the marginalisation of the Te Paati Māori and the call for a merger with the MANA Movement, and the allegations of editorial interference at Māori Television.

Internalised oppression occurs when a minority or marginalised group ‘consciously or unconsciously perpetuate, collude with, and contribute to the oppression they experience’ [Understanding Internalized Oppression: A Theoretical Conceptualization of Internalized Subordination at 78].

For Māori, internalised oppression is reflected in the way we antagonise and Other our own.* For example, it might be demonstrated where reo speaking Māori use their command of te reo to belittle their non-reo speaking counterparts, or where the colour of ones skin or the quantum of blood becomes the test by which ones ‘Māori-ness’ is measured. In Māori politics, this might be demonstrated through the active denial of Māori claims to representation, or where a party is denied the right to identify as ‘Māori’ and is instead forced to be identified within the left-right dichotomy.  

The late Gloria Anzaldúa (indigenous scholar) wrote of internalised oppression that:

One of the reasons for this hostility among us is the forced cultural penetration, the rape of the colored by the white, with the colonizers depositing their perspective, their language, their values in our bodies. External oppression is paralleled with our internalization of the oppression, and our acting out from the oppression. They have us doing within our own ranks what they have done and continue doing to us – Othering people. That is, isolating them, pushing them out of the herd, ostracizing them. The internalization of negative images of ourselves, our self-hatred, poor self-esteem, makes our own people the Other [Anzaldua, (2009) at 112].

She argues, it is ‘exactly our internalized whiteness that desperately wants boundary lines marked out’ and she explains ‘like fighting cocks, razor blades strapped to our fingers, we slash out at each other. We have turned our anger against ourselves. And our anger is immense’ [Anzaldua (2009) at 112-113].

So when we hear terms like “Māori Aristocracy”, “Brown Bureaucracy”, “Race Traitors”, “Māori Elite”, “Māori Conservatism” and the like – these are white concepts thrust upon Māori identity. They are some of the more prevalent ways in which we express our internalised oppression. When they are thrust on us by Pākehā, they are simply oppressive words used to demonise and divide – they undermine kotahitanga to serve a white a purpose.

I imagine there are some readers thinking ‘well, that’s not me, I definitely don’t do that’.  Arohamai, but it is. It is all of us. And our denial does our struggle a great disservice. Kotahitanga will only arise when we all acknowledge our own complicity in undermining our struggle: our internalised oppression. 

The marginalisation of the Māori Party

It is an indisputable fact that the Māori Party is the only party in Aotearoa New Zealand whose representatives are all Māori and whose political philosophy is grounded in kaupapa and tikanga Māori. Yet, as a micro party representing an indigenous minority it remains one of the most ridiculed, contested, and criticised parties inside Parliament.

I ask readers to reflect on this hypothetical for a moment:

If in Australia or Canada for example, a First Nations party were subjected to the ongoing attacks on integrity and legitimacy from Canadian parties founded on western ideologies, would you find that acceptable?  If not, why then should the Māori Party not be extended the same support you would extend to another First Nations roopu?

Here in Aotearoa disparaging the Māori Party is not only not frowned upon it is actively encouraged across the political spectrum, which is something (I personally) find incredibly disturbing and disheartening.

I am not suggesting here that the Māori Party are the only party that represent Māori. Or that they are imune from criticism. I am arguing that they are the only existing party founded on kaupapa and tikanga Māori and whose primary philosophy is by, for and with Māori with subsequent benefits accruing to Pakeha and tauiwi as a corollary of the liberation of Māori.  The language used to discredit our only indigenous party, is at odds with our quest for mana motuhake and tino rangatiratanga and we should be clear about the role of internalised oppression in this regard.

The proposed merger

Recently, two Māori Party members met with a couple of MANA members to informally discuss the possibility of a merger between the parties. It was a move that had not been sanctioned at either the electorate or the national level of the Māori Party. Nonetheless, it was publicised on the MANA news website but has been met with mixed responses from both roopu.

The mixed responses appear to derive from what are conceivably irreconcilable differences. Harawira did afterall, walk from the Māori Party to start a new party integrated with unionism and the Marxist organisation Socialist Aotearoa. The Māori Party while sympathetic to many of the policy components of the MANA movement see self-determination and not the State as the solution to Māori liberation. Yet, since Harawira’s departure, Māori Party leaders and representatives have all been criticised for splitting the Māori vote.

Strip away the politicking, and the fact is that the Māori vote has always been split. Under the First Past the Post (FPP) system it was predominantly split between the Labour Party and the National Party. Yet, few political commentators acknowledge the Māori connection to right wing politics, such as Sir Apirana Ngata, who was Minister of Māori Affairs under the Liberal Party – the National Party’s predecessor. Overlooking the long line of support for National within Māori communities ignores a respectful proportion of Māori voters. I’ll admit that I was unaware of the extent of Māori support for the National Party until relatively recently. More precedence has of course been given to the Labour Party roots within Māoridom. Not because their policy has necessarily been beneficial to Māori, but because of the historical support by rangatira such as Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana who had immense influence in Māori communities and that support for Labour has been largely inherited.

The introduction of the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system, brought with it an opportunity for Māori to carve out their own path – whether that be as part of a mainstream party, or as an independent party.  But something else happened instead, MMP cultivated our internalised oppression and has steered us down the sinister path of our own marginalisation. This doesn’t have to continue, but it will take conscious action to overcome the problem.

We should remember that capitalism and socialism are western ideologies. These ideologies while many of us may subscribe to them in some part are not kaupapa Māori. They may arguably complement our kaupapa and our tikanga, but they should never be seen as superior to or as a replacement of it.  We should never feel ashamed to say our kaupapa will liberate us. We should certainly not think that only socialism or capitalism will liberate our indigenous lives.

I don’t know that there can ever be a pan-Māori party and I  don’t think simply merging Māori and MANA will bring about the kotahitanga tangata whenua are crying out for given the philosophies of each roopu have points of clear divergence. I don’t have answers, but I will spend the next few years thinking, reflecting and trying to understand how Māori can optimise MMP to our advantage. I also think at least part of the solution will be the approach of our media organisations to Māori issues.

Editorial interference at Māori Television

For the past year, there have been many allegations from within MTS of both editorial and political interference by Māori leaders. In particular, with regard to the award winning Native Affairs programme. I have been a regular watcher, supporter and tweeter of Native Affairs since around the 2011 Election. The investigative work carried out by the very talented journalists, venturing into topics shunned by other media outlets and the accessibility of the show to non-reo speaking Māori with a strong wahine presence has been incredibly inspirational. One of their most controversial stories the investigation into allegations of financial mismanagement by some in the National Kōhanga Reo Trust (TKRNT). But their work has not been without criticism.

For instance, Ross Nepia Himona, author of Te Pututara suggests that the investigation by Native Affairs was informed by a small group within the Kōhanga Reo movement attempting to ‘subvert the governance of TKRNT because they were aggrieved by a legitimate staffing decision. The expose alleging financial impropriety was a means to a political end and not the main story at all’. However,  in contrast, Graham Cameron has written that Māori leaders are conspiring to end Native Affairs, and that the programme ‘have another Te Kōhanga Reo story, a continuation of their investigation; interviewing none other than Toni Waho, an ex-Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust trustee’.

Whatever your views on the TKRNT investigation, or whether or not you accept the allegations of editorial interference, I do think Himona’s analysis raises an important issue – as a programme and service tasked with critique it must also be open to critique of its own practices. Just as there have been concerns raised about appointments and interference, equally so there have been concerns about journalistic practices aligning with the adversarialism and sensationalism of western journalism.

Internalised oppression operates in all spheres of Māori life – society, culture, media, politics, religion and so on. I’m not suggesting we dont hold our leaders and orgnaisations to account. I do however think there are times where we go beyond that remit and venture into territory that instead tears their integrity to shreds. We forget our first principles as Māori. We turn on each other. We take on the colonisers face.

Kia mau tonu ki nga kupu o ō tātou tīpuna, Nāku me ngā mihi.

*Note, this is the perspective of one indigenous woman’s voice – it is not and does not profess to speak on behalf of all peoples identifying as Māori. 

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Collective Efforts

In his recent post, Too quick to take the credit? Morgan Godfery argues that it was a “crass” move by the Māori Party to put out a statement taking credit for the $790 million hardship package included in this years Budget. His key argument was that there were others who shifted political thinking such as Matua Hone Harawira with his Feed the Kids Bill and various advocacy groups, and as such that credit lies with those people not the Māori Party. It’s not that I don’t think others have been strong advocates on poverty. I absolutely do and of course agree they all deserve credit for their advocacy. But I think it’s unfair to discount the efforts of Dr Pita Sharples and Dame Tariana Turia and the continued efforts of Matua Te Ururoa Flavell and Whaea Marama Fox, as well as the party’s previous MP’s, parliamentary staff and members and supporters who have advanced the issue of poverty within the party and in their respective communities for the past decade.

Godfery writes that:

[C]laiming the credit for forcing the government to act seems a little, well, crass. Much of the credit belongs to Hone Harawira. It was Hone who did more than anyone else to help put child poverty on the Parliamentary agenda with his Feed the Kids campaign

Firstly, if you have had an opportunity to listen to Flavell’s Budget Speech, you will note that he said the Māori Party pulled it over the line…with a little help from National. After all, no Budget measures can take effect unless the government agree to it. The Māori Party have been strong advocates for poverty since entering Parliament, and the evidence is readily available in their policy manifesto’s. [Discussed further below].

Secondly, I completely agree that Harawira has been an outstanding advocate on issues of poverty and social justice. He certainly put child poverty on the media agenda but the claim he put it on the parliamentary agenda is bold. It’s worth noting that despite his advocacy in the media, Harawira had 2 years to put his Feed the Kids Bill before the house, yet withdrew and delayed on numerous occasions. It was only put forth following the 2014 Election, by NZ Greens Co-Leader Metiria Turei. Also note, the Māori Party voted in favour of that bill.

I also wholeheartedly agree that Campbell Live, Action Station, Child Poverty Action Group, and Auckland Action Against Poverty among other groups have been at the forefront of many community led initiatives to get the government to address poverty in Aotearoa. That doesn’t mean in order to recognise their strong advocacy that we need devolve into adversarialism. To allege misattribution by the Māori Party and essentially accuse them of riding on the coattails of the work of others is itself a misplaced attribution. The collective efforts and the varying roles each of the organisations have in policy development were not dismissed by the Māori Party. But in my view, they have every reason to say we pulled it over the line, since it is the Māori Party who through their relationship accord were able to directly influence that budget decision and absolutely the public pressure from these groups played a vital role in the Māori Party being able to secure that funding for poverty.

Action Station have expressed their tautoko of the Party in the fight against poverty:

And have acknowledged Fox for receiving the Action Station petition at Parliament on 20 May 2015.

On the above it is only fair then that we also take a brief look at the Party’s history of poverty advocacy.

In 2008, the Māori Party entered their first relationship accord with the National Party. At that time, Harawira was an elected MP for the Māori Party under the leadership of Turia and Sharples. The 2008 Policy programme that the Māori Party campaigned on included Ending Child Poverty by 2020. Part of that policy programme included:

  • Rais[ing] core benefit levels
  • Establishing an Every Child Matters fund
  • Investigating the reintroduction of a Universal Child Benefit

In 2011, the Māori Party entered a second relationship accord. At this time Harawira had left and formed his own Mana Party. The 2011 Confidence and Supply Agreement included:

  1. Supporting the ongoing implementation of Whānau Ora
  2. Establishing a Ministerial Committee on Poverty
  3. Urgently addressing the effects of poverty through health and home initiatives

See also: 2011 Maori Party policy package.

In 2014, addressing the effects of poverty was weaved through critical areas of the Party’s policy platform: Whānau Ora, Health, Education, Economic Development, Homes, Family Violence, Enabling Good Lives and so on. The goals stated were to build on the objectives and the progress made since 2008.

For the Party to be reproached for being proud of their contributions, that is, seeing the materialisation of the work their MP’s and the kaimahi behind the scenes have put in to the relationship accord over the past 7 years, is awfully undermining of their efforts.

I do agree with Godfery where he states:

Improving even one life is a positive step, but we can’t claim success until we begin changing the system which reproduces Maori disadvantage generation after generation. Budget gains may help stop the slide, but they won’t reverse it.

However, to my knowledge the Party haven’t claimed success on the “reversal” of poverty – they’ve indicated that the budget gains are a start to improving the lives of our most vulnerable whānau.

The Budget and the Benefit

In the 2015 Budget the Māori Party negotiated and secured around $1 billion worth of funding directed toward Māori initiatives and the countries most vulnerable whānau.  The most significant gain being the increase in the core benefit rate of $25 per week. The first increase in 43 years. However, in giving with one hand, National took with the other by imposing stricter obligations on sole parents, who will now be required to return to work two years earlier and for longer hours.

Understandably, many are expressing concern that the hardship package is fraught with challenge and will not remedy child poverty in Aotearoa. For instance, Metiria Turei of the NZ Greens was quick off the mark to point out the flaws and concerns in the package:

In fairness, I’ve not seen anyone claim the hardship package is a panacea to the country’s social and economic ills. Nor would I expect that anyone would think this was some kind of magical fix. Poverty is complex. It is layered and each situation requires different approaches to not only address the hardship each whānau face, but to also step out a plan to overcome hardship permanently. This in my mind, is the benefit of having around $50 million more funding toward Whānau Ora to be distributed by commissioning agencies to ensure those funds reach frontline services, and therefore whānau.

However, unlike some others, I don’t see the increase in the core benefit rate as a negative. I applaud the Māori Party, in Te Ururoa Flavell’s words, for pulling this over the line. I mean even if National only agreed to the increase to save political face, in my mind, what matters is that for the first time in 43 years our core benefit rate has increased. This means that any future government can arguably increase the amount further without causing a massive public outcry. In my opinion, the left (many of whom are being incredibly critical of the increase) should champion this idea. Afterall, the New Zealand public are likely to adapt or perhaps cope better with incremental increases to core benefit rates than they are to sharp increases.

I do agree that the immediate material impact may be minor for many of the whānau targeted by this policy. But the long term prospects for those families who find themselves on a benefit are much better today than they were the day before the budget or indeed since the massive cuts in 1991 under the National government at that time.

A small anecdotal note, however,  for those claiming that $25 per week or the $18.40 or something that it turns out to be is laughable, or not even worth implementing.  I can assure you, as child of a beneficiary parent in the 1990’s, that “something” will always be better than nothing. I am not saying we should just settle for the bare minimum. I am saying that this “something” although not enough to fix hardship, could mean the difference between having a home with power versus a home without power. It could mean the difference between having porridge in the cupboard versus having nothing. It could mean the difference between sandwiches for lunch versus having nothing. It could mean the difference between accommodation versus eviction. It could mean the difference between going on a school trip versus feigning a sick day. So yes, based on my own personal experience I am going to be supportive of any policy that increases core benefit levels.

Is it enough? Absolutely not. But I’d just ask people to be mindful that when you claim $5, $10, $20, or $25 etc is nothing – you might want to check your privilege. It can make a difference. And even if only minor, that difference can change a persons outlook, or even just what kind of day they have. This matters to those who have been forced to become accustomed to having nothing.

Furthermore, when the ethos of a political party changes from ‘slash the benefit’ to ‘increase the core rate’ then progress has been made.  Just over three quarters of a billion dollars targeted at poverty is a milestone in these circumstances. Social change doesn’t happen from people crowing at the sidelines. It takes collaboration and nurturing of relationships to create and instill change. We are yet to see whether the National Party will embody this change in focus and become more receptive to issues around poverty in future. Although, the more stringent work requirements for sole parents on a benefit with toddlers arguably counters the notion of a genuine change.

The other argument as Turei raises above is that these increased work requirements erode the increase in the core benefit rate. I’m not going to dispute that. I wholly disagree with the onerous requirements placed on sole parents to become available for work for 20 hours p/w, as opposed to 15 hours p/w, when their child turns 3 years old, as opposed to 5 years old. Sacraparental sets out 16 reasons why that particular policy is problematic.

However, I think we can support the increase in the core benefit rate for the reasons I set out above, while remaining critical of the increased work expectations. To this end, I think the Māori Party have done some great mahi to negotiate an historic increase in the benefit coupled with the extra funding for Whānau Ora and other initiatives that can help address hardship and also temper some of the challenges inherent in the onerous work availability policy.

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.

The Post-Election Hui: A New Members Perspective

TMP_Flav_Fox

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

[Image sourced from: Māori Party FB page]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Political Integration vs Mutual Co-operation

The Māori Party attracts considerable criticism from across the political spectrum. They are ‘separatists’ or ‘brown troughers’ to the Right and ‘irrelevant sell outs’ to much of the Left. There is no expectation that the Māori Party would be immune from criticism, and although I firmly believe democracy requires accountability that is often achieved through constructive criticism, sometimes criticism cannot be characterised as constructive on any account.

However, Morgan Godfery wrote an interesting – constructive piece entitled Politics Beyond the Veil. It traces the Māori Party from what he sees it as growing out of – the Māori renaissance i.e. a movement strategy, to what he believes it has become – an institutional strategy. But while it is constructive, I’m not persuaded that the Māori Party are engaging in what he has phrased ‘the politics of integration’ and this post sets out an alternative conception – the ‘politics of mutual co-operation’.

Morgan writes that ‘politics beyond the veil is where the political class rule the void’.

I don’t disagree with that argument in principle. I do disagree with the way it’s unpacked to dismiss the Māori Party (referring to Morgan’s concluding remarks ‘do we even need them?’) but absent a critique of the architects of political class rule in Aotearoa New Zealand, i.e. the National and Labour parties. It’s worth reminding readers that the political class does not simply encompass Tories and right-wing political parties (I’m not suggesting that this is what Morgan implies, I note it here simply for clarity).  The political class includes every party and their associative lobby groups with the capacity to influence how society is organised and how resources are distributed, irrespective of the interests of the groups they oppose or with whom they have no representational interest.

My discomfort with Morgan’s remarks on the political class and the Māori Party is that in crafting his argument he appears to cautiously avoid discussing the wider political class participants, particularly Māori MP’s that operate within Pakeha dominated parties that preference State intervention.

As mentioned above, Morgan argues that the Māori Party are engaging in the politics of integration. I appreciate his reasoning  and I admit to having previously held that same position. Driving the idea of integration is thesitting at the table’  rhetoric adopted and used unwaveringly by Māori Party MP’s, which has in effect created the conditions that have enabled mis-characterisations of the Māori Party position to prevail.

The strategy may have been sufficient as a response to criticism during their first term (even then it is still questionable) but as an ongoing response Morgan is correct in his implication that it doesn’t reveal anything meaningful about the direction of the Party.

However, his claim that being at the table is both the means and the ends envisioned by the Māori Party is unfounded given the explicit statements to contrary provided by the party. The Whanau Ora policy framework is committed to seeing Māori as decision makers in their own right and as Tariana Turia opines the Māori Party objective is ‘to get the government and all future government out of Māori lives as soon as can be managed’. Therefore, rather than engaging in the politics of integration I think a more accurate characterisation is that the Māori Party are engaging in the politics of mutual co-operation.

Integration implies the incorporation of Māori institutions into the apparatus of the State. In this sense, the State either retains or increases its control over Māori affairs thereby determining how Māori communities and institutions are organised and resources distributed in that respect.

Mutual co-operation on the other hand, implies incentives to co-operate where gains to the negotiating groups are mutually satisfactory i.e. where Māori can achieve control over their communities and institutions and determine for themselves how resources are distributed.

On the basis of the Māori Party policy framework, mutual co-operation seems the more likely scenario. The Māori Party are incentivised, by the rational self-interest of the party i.e. to further the aspirations of Māori, to engage in mutually co-operative arrangements. The reciprocal nature of this relationship ensures the other party (parties) attract reputational advantages that can work to increase their popularity because of the mutual toleration inherent in co-operative relationships.

Moreover, given mutual co-operation is a tool of our tūpuna engaged to negotiate rules and resolve disputes within and between whānau, hapu and iwi this is more consistent with the policy framework pursued by the Māori Party than the politics of integration suggested by Morgan, which in my view better characterises Māori institutions within parties that preference the State apparatus over Māori rights and aspirations.

While some critiques like that of Morgan’s are constructive and credible analyses, there is more often than not a distasteful dialogue that emanates from across the political spectrum in respect of the Māori Party. So in contrast to Morgan, who quite validly concludes by asking whether or not we need the Māori Party, I invite you to consider the following quote:

 “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect”

– Mark Twain

Te Reo Māori: Crown or Iwi control?

Prior to this week’s episode of Native Affairs, I had very little knowledge on the raruraru concerning the Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill (‘the Bill’). Well, I knew there was some contention but was unsure of the specifics.

Native Affairs host Mihi Forbes interviewed Dr Pita Sharples and Maanu Paul regarding the  Bill. The argument boiled down to what Paul described as deficient consultation and the allegation that Sharples was intentionally denying the New Zealand Māori Council (NZMC) access to justice by rushing the Bill through Parliament thereby preventing the NZMC from bringing the Bill before the Waitangi Tribunal.

During the interview, Forbes asked Sharples if his actions in blocking the NZMC from going to the Waitangi Tribunal were equivalent to Labour’s blocking Māori from their right to be heard in court regarding the Foreshore and Seabed. It was a tough question, because in both instances, the right to be heard is prima facie infringed. However, in my view, confiscating land through the unilateral actions of the Crown against recommendations from the UN and with the intended purpose to override a court decision (see Ngati Apa), compared with putting a bill before the house following a 4 year consultation period are not, at least in my opinion, equivalent. I agree there needs to be clarification around what amounts to sufficient consultation, and the conflicting accounts of whether it was sufficient in this case make it difficult to assess from an external perspective.

What is on record, is that Sharples began the consultation in 2010 when he set up Te Paepae Motuhake to review the Māori language strategy. Since then he has met with reo stakeholders, iwi leaders, reo exponents and experts as well as the NZMC who also came to all these hui. In addition, the Bill will pass through the legislative process under which it will be subject to public scrutiny and further input through the select committee process.

During the airing of the Native Affairs interview, there was also an interesting exchange on twitter between Adrian Rurawhe (Labour Party) and Chris McKenzie (Māori Party) – both candidates for the Te Tai Hauāuru Māori electorate seat in the upcoming election, with Rurawhe in favour of the NZMC and McKenzie supporting Sharples.

Rurawhe argued that the NZMC were correct and that the bill should be put before the Waitangi Tribunal and criticised Sharples admission of wanting to implement the bill prior to his resignation. Rurawhe was not alone in criticising Sharples timeframe and I too think Sharples erred in his choice of words. But as we learnt with David Cunliffe’s apology the preceding week, context is important. I suppose we ought to ask whether wanting to complete work that has undergone a four-year consultation period before resigning so that work started is not left incomplete for incoming parliamentarians is equivalent to or carries the same intention as rushing through legislation? I guess people will make up their own minds depending on their levels of cynicism. It might be worthwhile remembering that rushing through legislation is what the Labour Party did when it passed the Foreshore & Seabed legislation that amounted to the largest confiscation of land since the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  Or what National did when it rushed through the Mixed Ownership Model Bill despite strong public opposition.

McKenzie’s reply to Rurawhe was that the NZMC are an organisation that purport to represent all Māori yet there was no consultation when they [the NZMC] were appointed and that there are few representatives on the Council itself, suggesting there was a certain irony in the claim they sought to bring before the Waitangi Tribunal.

The Labour Party’s Māori Affairs spokesperson, Nanaia Mahuta has called on Sharples to immediately withdraw the bill. Mahuta claims:

“The proposed Te Matawai agency will effectively replace the Maori Language Commission for no good reason and without any evidence it will protect Te Reo Maori”

And the New Zealand Herald reports that the  NZMC want an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing to:

“stop proposed legislation that will see control of the agencies that safeguard Te Reo Māori given to iwi” (emphasis added)

McKenzie has also criticised that nobody had done anything about a reo strategy for years including during the years of plenty and that Te Mātāwai was in fact no different to Te Ohu Kaimoana or the NZMC.

Before proceeding, I must respectfully acknowledge that it was the NZMC that successfully brought the Te Reo Māori claim before the Waitangi Tribunal in 1985 and the following year Māori became an official language of NZ under the Māori Language Act 1987.  Noting,  it is this Act that is to be reformed to transfer control of te reo Māori from the Crown back to iwi.

What is clear here is that both the Labour Party and the NZMC are signalling a preference for Crown control of Te Reo Māori over Māori control but criticism is not limited to Labour and the NZMC.  Other commenter’s insisted that the reforms were a different kind of centralisation which still deprived whānau, hapu and the less dominant iwi groups control over te reo.  However, in other discussions,  another commenter put it a bit differently claiming:

“Isn’t it wonderful that question is not whether Māori should be running te reo, but who in Māoridom should be running it?”  [emphasis added]

It seems that many of those opposing the Māori Language Bill are content to see te reo controlled by the Crown and are resigned to the framing of the issue in terms of ‘whether or not Māori should be running te reo’. But isn’t preferencing the Crown over iwi something Māori have been fighting against since the inception of Te Tiriti o Waitangi?

I do share the concern with those who think that some iwi are privileged over others under the Bill. But I also hold out hope that the reforms put the centre of any power over te reo closer to the community meaning there is more opportunity to participate and for further decentralisation over time.

What must be remembered is that it is currently the Crown that runs the Māori language strategy. We can either maintain the status quo or start taking steps toward decentralising control to put our taonga back in the hands of our people.

A left libertarian and the Māori Party

Foreshore and Seabed Hikoi 2004 

(essentially the birth of the Māori Party)

[Image credit: www.teara.govt.nz/files/p-21121-nzh.jpg]

Following my previous post, some people have asked what motivated me to become a member of the Māori Party. This is a very fair question, especially given my strong advocacy for left libertarianism and market anarchism. I have often stated my aversion to party politics and my dislike of the hierarchical structures of the State. I still hold those ideological positions.

I can understand why the Māori Party would not seem like my natural fit in ideological terms. That was my view too until very recently. I now think that view is mistaken although not entirely untrue. I consider the Māori Party an indigenous party that happens to have values consistent with both sides of the political spectrum. The Māori Party have core social justice values and are open to economic development strategies as part of their ongoing evolution to bring about the economic rights of Māori at the local, national and global  level.

I am not comfortable with the close relationship the Māori Party has with the National Party. However, despite my ideological differences with the National Party, I respect the choice of the Māori Party to work across the political spectrum to ensure that they can make gains for Māori no matter who is in government. This tells me that the concern is not about saving face, but that Māori concerns come first. Afterall, the purpose of the party has always been as an independent voice for Māori in parliament.

The confidence and supply agreement between the Māori Party and National did limit the independence of the Māori voice in certain circumstances. However, this is not unique to the Māori Party & National. The same would be true for any minor party entering a confidence and supply agreement with any major party, especially if they held ministerial portfolios.

For clarity, I did not join the Māori Party because I was impressed with their record in parliament or even necessarily the current direction of the Party. Although, I will acknowledge that the Māori Party have made many small gains over their past two terms in parliament.

I joined for precisely the opposite reason, i.e. I was largely unimpressed but I could see the great potential of the Māori Party as a vehicle for advancing a culture of self-determination (tino rangatiratanga) precisely because of their willingness to work across the political spectrum.

It was not a decision I made lightly. I knew the moment I became a member of any ‘party’ the independence of my voice would be compromised, or at least perceived to be compromised. My membership does not mean that I will silence my opinions. Criticism will be cast where criticism is due.

I had considered joining the New Economics Party [NEP] (an unregistered party) because I am fascinated by their bio-mimicry philosophy, the deep respect for the relationships between the environment and economies and the core role that humanity plays in their politics, and of course the heavy Georgist influence. I note here that NEP have some tools in their kete that I believe the Māori Party could benefit from in creating affordable self-sustaining communities, and that the Māori Party have tools in their kete to help NEP ensure that indigenous concerns are appropriately addressed in this kind of new economic paradigm. So my ideal would be to see both parties come together and share ideas at some point.

I opted for the Māori Party firstly, because I felt compelled to pursue the indigenous path so that I could connect to and participate in the kaupapa Māori political framework. Secondly, I wanted to be able to participate/contribute as a member in helping to craft the party’s future direction. I wanted to be part of what was going on, so I could see where and how idea’s were formed and agreed to and who was making the decisions and whether the spread of ideas were coming from just a portion of the members or the membership as a whole.

The Māori Party kauapapa revolves around creating self-sufficient communities and removing Māori from the arms of the State through mutual cooperation between whānau, hapū and iwi, in effect, decentralising power in areas that they believe are better managed at a local level. This is ideal to avoid risks associated with political instability, global scarcity of resources or extreme austerity measures that threaten the economic security of communities. My personal philosophy extends further than this, but because the Māori Party focus is the people not the State then as a  Māori left libertarian, I am willing to throw my support behind that kaupapa.