I know this point/counterpoint series of posts on Hone Harawira maybe getting a bit tiresome but I have to disagree with the assertion in a couple of recent ones that Harawira has been treated more harshly Bill English and Rodney Hide or, by implication, than a Pakeha in his situation would have. And I think that those posts could, if not read carefully, be perceived as somehow pro-Harawira, which is not the case. So, here’s my two cents.
I totally agree that Bill English and Rodney Hide (and the others) have got off easy for their rorts and rip-offs. But I don’t think that’s the media or the public’s fault. The media have been very demanding of both English and Hide, and their public reputations are mud. That pressure has resulted in important backdowns from both of them, and admissions that they were abusing public money. Should they have been fired? Yes. But the weak link in the chain isn’t the media or the public reaction, it’s old ‘Do nothing’ Key. Only Key can fire ministers and he failed to do so when it was due.
Key’s response to Harawira has actually been pretty much the same. He is ‘relaxed’ enough that he hasn’t matched Phil Goff in saying that an MP in Labour behaved like Harawira had, he would kick him out. Key hasn’t said he doesn’t want Harawira’s vote if he stays in the Maori Party.
But I think it’s pretty inarguable that if an MP in any other party than the Maori Party, whatever their ethnic group was, had behaved like Harawira – making racist comments, saying people should be shot – they would have got similar treatment. I don’t think he is getting a hard ride because he is Maori. The media coverage and public reaction, like that of English and Hide, has been tough and deserved.
I think there’s been a failure of leadership regarding English, Hide, and Harawira.
English and Hide should have lost their ministerial warrants. They would have in any previous government, I’m sure. But Key is too weak to enforce the standards he announced, particularly against these two, and more interested in preening than good governance, which gives them a licence to rort.
Turia and Sharples are also too weak. They want rid of a thorn in the side of their cozy relationship with National but they fear the schism that expelling Harawira could create. The illusion that Maoridom can be a single political movement with coherent interests and the illusion that this National government is advancing Maori interests may be shattered if Harawira is expelled and becomes a strong voice on the outside. Turia and Sharples are torn between needing him out and fearing him as an independent, so they’re giving him plenty of rope and hoping the problem will take care of itself – a weak strategy, which is letting this issue drag on far longer than it ought have.
Harawira’s behaviour is wrong and racist. And it is the unprecedented and extreme nature of his behaviour that has prompted the intense media coverage. I am confident that a Pakeha in his place would be getting the same media treatment. I don’t think he has been treated more harshly than English and Hide.
The blame for all these messes lies with the weak or dishonest leadership – Key, English, Hide, Turia, and Sharples – that is supposed to be running this government.