What I’ve always liked about the Green Party is that they are honest brokers. They are always straight up about where they stand and they don’t do deals that betray their principles for power or trade-offs. I guess I had kind of assumed that the Maori Party, coming from a base with similar politics was the same.
But that illusion was shattered by their disgraceful behaviour over the ETS. Rahui Katene first tried to hide her own dissenting select committee report.Then, Maori Party MPs sung the praises of a law that gutted the ETS they had previously opposed for being too weak.
So, I always had a sinking feeling about the Foreshore and Seabed.
National was never going to give the Maori Party what it wanted and the weasel words coming out of the Maori Party told me before the official announcement that they were set to sell out once again.
As I predicted, there will be two changes that will allow the Maori Party to save face.
The first is the name change. By choosing something other than public domain (yet to be decided) the two parties can go to their constituencies and claim mutually exclusive success. National will say that whatever the name is, it’s just public ownership in drag. The Maori Party will go to its people and say the new name means it is something different, expecting their supporters to believe a pile of crap by any other name doesn’t smell as bad.
The second will be some kind of apparent back-door. The Maori Party will claim that some part of the deal (these ‘universal recognition orders’, I’m guessing) allows iwi to get more than they otherwise would have under National’s original proposal. National will say that it is no practical change from the existing situation under the Foreshore and Seabed Act. Shades of the DRIP.
Keeping things vague suits the purposes of both National and the Maori Party.
As we look at the outline of the deal National is offering, there is no real change from the current law:
Some people are saying ‘well, they got what they could and they can win a better deal later’. It doesn’t work like that. Both National and Labour have every incentive to view this as a full and final settlement. In fact, I think Labour will happily vote for it (once these issues around iwi veto rights and minerals are defined satisfactorily) because there is little significant difference between the new regime and the FSA.
By signing on, the Maori Party gives this Crown ownership public domain whatever permanent legitimacy. If they come back in five years time and demand a new deal, they’ll get a big public backlash and no major party will want to go near it.
The deal the Maori Party makes now is the one Maori are stuck with. That’s why the Iwi Leadership Forum is so unexcited about it. A deal that amounts to little more than a symbolic rearranging of the deck chairs is not what the Maori Party was established to achieve.
The winner here is Key. He played the Maori Party into a position where he won either way. Either they had to say ‘no deal’ and bail out of government losng their ‘achievements’ to date, and Key would claim he was standing up to extremism, or they had to kneel down and ‘take it’, and Key would be labeled the ‘great uniter’ for a law that is essentially a restating of the FSA.