2017: The year I ran for Parliament

A candidate’s brief self-reflection

There are multiple ways to transform outcomes for Māori. One of those is through political activity, such as seeking to become a Member of Parliament. Earlier this year, I chose that route to follow and ran in the notoriously blue seat of Pakuranga for the Māori Party.

While I remained positive about possibilities given an incumbent of more than 30 years had vacated the seat, I was always realistic about probabilities since a non-National candidate had only ever held the seat once. Additionally, I was a minor party candidate, standing for a party many in the electorate viewed as separatist or exclusively for Māori.

I was curious in this high stakes election whether the community would vote by party preference, or if they would split their votes to improve the chances of National forming the next government by having partnership options. But as expected, the electorate overwhelmingly voted two ticks blue. There was very little vote splitting and National increased its vote share.

I’ll admit my result was crushing and I’m not ashamed or embarrassed about that. The experience was incredibly enriching and educational. I learned things about our community and the diversity of thought and culture that lives in our electorate. I learned about voting behaviours and sadly but unsurprisingly about inherent bias and negative attitudes.

I am proud of my record in holding my own among current and former Ministers and experienced MPs in debates, panels and televised appearances. I smashed my anxiety around public speaking, and fulfilled a goal I had set myself at the start of 2017: to demonstrate the value of introverted leadership. I wanted to show that quiet people have loud minds and strong voices. Moreover, that substance, compassion and rigour outweigh planned lines, repeated spin and the show ponyism too often displayed.

It was eye opening but not off putting. I’m not going to speculate or pontificate about what I think the party should do or provide reflection on what it didn’t do but could have, or what it did do and shouldn’t have and so on. It has an AGM coming up in the New Year, and many committed, experienced, compassionate people and fresh innovative thinkers to take on that mahi to restore and reclaim its place in Parliament.

But for now, I have formally hung up my membership to the Māori Party to focus on transforming outcomes for Māori through my mahi. To grow my kete mātauranga and use the skills I learned on this journey to provide an influential voice for Māori in multiple domains unencumbered by political affiliation. As one chapter ends, a new one begins and it feels strangely liberating.

 

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Williamson should not stand for re-election in Pakuranga or elsewhere

The peculiar thing about this Maurice Williamson scandal, is that he intends to stand again in the Pakuranga electorate. Obviously, Williamson thinks his actions while not of the standard required of a Minister, are acceptable as an electorate MP. I’m not sure how he justifies the difference in standard, but obviously he doesn’t see any moral failing on his part. In tendering his resignation but publicising his intention to stand for re-election, he appears to only acknowledge that he has pissed off his party, for now.

Lets look at the moral failing here. Who in their right mind would call the Police on behalf of a person accused of assault on his wife and her mother if they weren’t intent on exercising some  influence over the building of the case against the accused. And why even raise the consideration that the accused in that case was a highly valued investor, if you weren’t intent on having the Police cut him some slack?

I can appreciate that what Williamson might have been doing was…no actually, I can’t. There is no justification here that warranted making that phone call to the NZ Police full stop.

Sure, Williamson didn’t explicitly ask the Police to grant any leniency in that case, and thankfully the Police treated the accused the same way as they would treat others accused in like circumstances, and continued with prosecution. But Williamson sure did imply that some ‘special’ consideration be given to the defendant based on his economic contributions to NZ.

I think Jono Natusch encapsulates the wrong in Williamson’s actions well:

Let’s get this straight. A Minister who rubber stamped Mr Liu’s citizenship against official advice (with Mr Liu then donating $22,000 to the National party via his company, Roncon Pacific Hotel Management), calls police when Mr Liu is arrested, and let’s it drop into the conversation that somebody needed to review the matter because “Mr Liu is investing a lot of money in New Zealand”.

That’s a hell of a statement to make if you’re “in no way looking to interfere with the process”.

The problem as I see it is that it doesn’t matter if Williamson was acting as a Minister or as an MP because there is never any justification for either to intervene in the criminal matters of any person prior to a case being heard in Court. From a legal standpoint, there might be exemptions where Ministers are entitled to intervene, but this is not one of those exceptions. It is for a judge to decide what is relevant evidence in an assault/domestic violence case, not for a Minister or MP to impute that evidence. Williamson acted outside his remit of power in proceeding to act representatively on behalf of the accused by making that call to the Police. Did Williamson even stop to think about the victims in this case and that there might be women in his electorate who are also victims of domestic violence, whom he re-victimised through his actions in respect of the accused ? Obviously not.

This is not the behaviour of Minister and it most certainly is not the behaviour of an MP.

How can any person think that someone’s economic contributions in any way create immunity or allow some respite when accused of assault?  Williamson makes it clear that protecting women from violence is not only subordinate to the needs of ‘highly valued’ investors but that he considers the degree of investment by an accused to be a mitigating factor in these cases!

There are of course those who think that Williamson has done nothing wrong. I find that deplorable. The general argument is that there was nothing questionable suggested in the phone calls so he shouldn’t have been forced to resign. But this ignores that there was no actual need for the phone call in the first place. The accused surely had a Lawyer to represent his interests, so there could be no other reason for Williamson to make the call, unless he thought his position of power had some influence in the building of the case against the accused.

Williamson is unfit to stand for re-election in either the Pakuranga electorate or elsewhere.