On Wednesday, I asked whether we, the Left, could save the Maori Party. The response from Maori Party supporters was a lot of misplaced invective at Labour. Labour isn’t making the Maori Party support a government that is working against its core values. Perhaps, my question should have been – can the Maori Party save itself?
See it’s not by Labour’s standards that the Maori Party is failing. The Maori Party is failing according to its own values, which have always been of the Left as Pita Sharples himself said a few months ago.
You don’t need a whole list of examples of the Maori Party proclaiming one position and then either kowtowing or even actively supporting the opposite policy but as we’re here:
- The Maori Party said it would only vote for an ETS that strengthened Labour’s one. Instead, they ending up actively supporting an ETS that did the exact opposite. In a debacle that destroyed her mana, Rahui Katene even tried to suppress her own report objecting to National’s ETS once the party decided to sell out.
- Sharples has called prisons a disgrace and advocated for reform away from our prison-centred correction system. Since he became Associate Minister for Corrections laws lengthening sentences have been passed and the prison population has increased by over 500 (6%) – over half of whom are Maori. Sharple’s ambition now is for an iwi to have a slice of a profit-making prison, locking up even more Maori.
- The Maori Party lead a 10,000 person hikoi against the Supercity. Since then, and without any of their concerns having been satisfied, the Maori Party has repeatedly voted for the Supercity.
- Tariana Turia has long been concerned about Maori welfare dependency but she is anti-beneficiary bashing. When National brought beneficiary bashing legislation to the House this year, Turia railed against it in the media but then voted for it. She claimed she had to as Associate Minister for Social Development, which is rubbish, Winston Peters happily voted against the China Free Trade Deal – because. it. was. against. his. party’s. values.
- Since Turia became Associate Minister, 27,000 more Maori have gone on to benefits and 26,000 Maori have become unemployed.
- The Maori Party wants to take GST off food. Next month they’ll vote to increase it by 20% not only on food but everything else too.
- The Maori Party votes confidence and supply for a government that has removed workers’ rights, given a paltry minimum wage increase, weakened environmental protections, and any number of other things that the Maori Party opposes and has even voted against. Yet they continue to support that government.
- Hone Harawira called National’s offer on the foreshore and seabed “dumb”. Turia said their people would “struggle” to support it and Chris Finlayson has admitted that Maori Party supporters are strongly against the deal at hui. Yet, mark my words, in June or July Harawira, Turia, and the rest will vote for essentially the same deal, with an insignificant sweetener or two thrown in, which they will display with all the pride that the Emperor did his new clothes – just as they did with the ETS.
When we talk about these same failings as National’s fault, National’s broken promises, the Maori Party supporters are right with us. But when it comes to seeing that, as part of the same government, the Maori Party is equally culpable if not more so because they’re acting against their own values, that old doublethink takes over.
I look forward to the responses from the Maori party supporters. Try to get beyond blaming Labour. They’re not the ones in government with the Tories, every day moving further and further from the ideals they used to stand for.
I fear that, despite all the examples above, what we’ll get is a continued denial that the Maori Party even has a problem.