I don’t think this is a new position, it’s how I’ve always understood the Māori Party – that they would work with whoever was in government. But it’s good to have it so clearly stated. I have respect for Marama Fox, because she is wahine toa, but also because being a politician is doubly hard when you are willing to walk the line of needful compromise in order to effect change for your people.
Fox was interviewed on Newstalk ZB yesterday, primarily about institutional racism within the justice system, and in reference to an article on police violence against Māori youth. At the end she was asked about whether the Māori Party would work with National again and if she thought Māori voters disenfranchised from Labour could stomach that,
“They’re not voting for us because we support National. They would be voting for us as a vote of faith in themselves that Māori can make a difference in the system of government, to try and make changes to, just these statistics about unconscious bias. There’s no point in sitting in opposition if you can’t look the Police Minister and the Justice Minister in the eye and question them over unconscious bias and demand that something be done about it.
You know what, they’re all trying to get to the power seat too, and if Labour and Greens are successful then we’ll be looking to do a deal with them, because it’s obvious to me that under Labour Māori are tossed aside all the time and you can have a look at the Point England development to see that.”
“I think it is better to be at the table making decisions or at last being the social conscience of a government who may be disconnected from its community or don’t know how to address those things. And Labour want the same thing, that’s why they’re trying to win the seats of government. So if they are successful, then we’ll happily work with them. And yes, It is better to be at the table at the decision-making end, and have as much influence as we’re able to ensure that we can correct the disparities that currently exist.”
What will happen if Labour needs the Māori Party to form government? Some on the left see the Māori Party’s relationship with National as a betrayal that can never be forgiven, and speak in the most scathing terms despite National being able to govern irrespective of where the Māori Party stands. Myself, I think Māori are entitled to their own politics, and it behooves the rest of us to pay more attention to what those mean on Māori terms. What I see here is a strong Māori woman being clear that they have their own business in parliament that doesn’t fit neatly into one side of NZ’s traditional left/right schism, and that she is willing to do the mahi in that environment to further the aims and needs of her people.
I certainly don’t like everything the Māori Party has done, but I think we need to look more deeply here, especially as the left may end up needing this alliance to form government. But more than that, the Māori Party have many policies that align well with both Labour and the Greens, including in critical areas like climate change and water. We should be building relationships here for that alone not just because of the vagaries of MMP.
When Fox first came into parliament in 2014, she had this to say,
Ms Fox says the relationship with National had hurt the party and she had seriously considered whether the Maori Party would have been better to sit on the cross-benches this term. “I thought seriously about that. I saw benefits in perhaps sitting and standing up strongly for what we oppose.”
However, she said she was convinced the relationship did allow the Maori Party to oppose other than on confidence and supply. “That’s quite an astounding arrangement.”
She won’t give a personal preference between National or Labour, saying that would be up to the people. “I wouldn’t ever decide for them.” However, she acknowledges most Maori prefer Labour. “I think in our hearts we are left-leaning liberals maybe.”
“That’s what we’ve known. And that’s what in this case Maori have always fallen back on. What they’ve known. When they are in a place of despair, you go back to your safety net. And Maori people still think the Labour Party are their safety net. We need to change that thinking, because we need to believe in ourselves.”
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