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Tariana Turia answers your questions

Written By: - Date published: 7:42 am, May 7th, 2008 - 40 comments
Categories: interview, maori party - Tags: , , ,

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We’re very pleased to have Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia respond to your questions as part of our Interview the Leaders series.

Question to all leaders:

Of which of your achievements in politics are you most proud?

I am most proud of having played a part in the creation of a movement which has given our people an independent voice in Parliament. Any achievements I may lay claim to are really the achievements of many people over a long time.  The photographs of Maori politicians which adorn the walls outside our offices remind us every day that we, the current Maori members of parliament, are part of a movement which started with them, way back in 1868. We owe them so much, those early Maori politicians who paved the way; we know they did the best they could in a political environment that was hostile to Maori.

The dam-burst and outpouring of political commitment and grass-roots involvement by tangata whenua that led to the creation of the Maori Party is a further development in the political maturation of our democracy.

As we say in the Maori world “Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini” which in this context is interpreted as meaning. “Mine are not the achievements of the individual but the achievements of the many”

From reader “higherstandard”: Can you envisage a NZ when there is no need for Maori seats in parliament?

Our position is crystal clear. The Maori seats are here to stay until our people decide otherwise.

On the wider question of Maori representation, it is important to note that the four Maori seats were created in 1867 to limit the political influence of Maori who would otherwise have been entitled to 14-16 seats in the parliament of 76. The term “European seats” finally ceased to be used in 1975.

Maori MPs in other political parties cannot claim to be the authentic and independent Maori voice in the Parliament. They are the Maori voices of Labour, National, Greens and New Zealand First who are bound by party whips to expound the views of their Parties, not of Maori.

With the advent of the Maori Party, as an authentic and independent Maori voice in Parliament, we aim to increase Maori participation in the democratic processes of Aotearoa.

The Royal Commission into the Electoral System thought the emergence of a Maori Party might make separate Maori seats unnecessary. But tangata whenua opposed that idea, arguing successfully that the seats had come to represent the voice of the Treaty partner, and a guaranteed Maori voice in Parliament, as a constitutional matter, should not be subject to the vagaries of political choices.

The Maori Party is keen to discuss constitutional arrangements tailored for Aotearoa/New Zealand, which may include the creation of a Parliamentary Tikanga Maori House alongside a Parliamentary Tikanga Pakeha House – to recognise the bicultural roots of the Nation envisaged by the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

Treaty Settlements and the Maori seats should not be linked, one is about justice, the other about democratic participation.

From reader “Daveo”: Having an ethnic-based party makes a lot of sense when faced with a dominant settler majority often hostile to indigenous rights, but how do you intend to address the fundamental economic and class contradictions inherent in drawing support from both powerful Maori business interests and the large Maori working class?

The Maori Party is not ethnic-based, except that our kaupapa, or guiding principles and values, are drawn from tikanga Maori:

  • Manaakitanga
  • Rangatiratanga
  • Whanaungatanga
  • Kotahitanga
  • Wairuatanga
  • Mana Whenua
  • Kaitiakitanga
  • Mana tupuna/whakapapa
  • Te Reo Maori

None of the above lend themselves to the western non indigenous political commentary and analysis of binary opposites implicit in Daveo’s query.  We do not necessarily buy into the contradictions others do and then use those contradictions as a basis for forming relationships. We appeal to Maori on the basis of an independent Maori voice in Parliament regardless of economic status.  Many people from many diverse cultures endorse the values espoused by the Maori Party. The fundamental principles of whakapapa, whanaungatanga, kotahitanga and kaitiakitanga will determine the nature of the relationship with all our people.

40 comments on “Tariana Turia answers your questions”

  1. AncientGeek 1

    That is probably the best of the leaders posts that I’ve seen (so far). I got a clear sense of exactly who Tariana Turia is, and the history that she draws on.

    I particularly liked her answer on hs’s question about the maori seats. It’d be interesting to speculate on what would have happened in 1867 if the division had been less biased.

  2. higherstandard 2

    AG

    Agreed. Would that all leaders were so eloquent and honest.

    I don’t necessarily agree with all that Tariana says but I certainly respect her position and the manner in which her answers are put.

  3. AncientGeek 3

    hs: You get the impression that the other leaders to date are muffled a bit by politics.

    I find that despite my ongoing support for labour, that I’m gladdened by the rise of the maori party.

    Been advocating a more autonomous maori position since meeting some activists in the early 80’s. They were pointing out the horrendous statistics of prison populations, unemployment, etc. It was clear that the existing system was pretty useless. It was just a drag on the whole of society.

    Once I read back and looked the the previous failed policies like benevolent paternalism, assimilation, conquest, etc. I realized that the only approach that hadn’t happened was the one that maori activists had been advocating forever. Their control of their own economic assets. The treaty of waitangi settlement process has been great for giving them exactly that. In the 80’s, I thought it would take 40 years to have any major effects – and that is still what it looks like to me.

    But the rise of what looks like a young inexperienced, but this time sustainable, political party is a good sign. Especially since it is so orientated towards maori doing their own development.

    My family has been around NZ for a long time. The earliest is the 1830’s. One thing we’re very sure about is that maori strongly identify with their family structures and culture. That has seeped into the long-term family structures amongst kiwi/europeans here as well. Kiwi family culture has a distinctly extended family system.

    It has been interesting talking to my maori cousins and their families. They’re a hell of a lot happier about direction for their kids than they were when I was growing up with them.

  4. Rocket Boy 4

    I agree that Tariana answers are very full and well thought out.

    However I do have to wonder if Tariana actually lives in the real world with comments like:

    ‘Maori MPs in other political parties cannot claim to be the authentic and independent Maori voice in the Parliament. They are the Maori voices of Labour, National, Greens and New Zealand First who are bound by party whips to expound the views of their Parties, not of Maori.’

    She seems to think that there is some ‘special’ Maori point of view that only her party can represent when clearly there is not. Maori opinion and views are as diverse as the rest of New Zealand society and saying that only one party represents this is as naive as those who try and set up ‘Christian’ political parties to represent all Christians.

  5. higherstandard 5

    AG

    Agreed apart from very occasional lapses of judgement I think the Maori party has been excellent.

    Along with the Greens there the only parties whose politicians always say what they believe and don’t give you the impression they’re lying to your face.

    Although as I commented on another post the larger parties are often forced to be duplicitous and frugal with the truth to be populist especially in election years.

  6. higherstandard 6

    RB

    I think she’s having a valid dig at the Maori MPs in other parties having to toe the party line (Whipping etc) rather than having an independent or Maori central view reflective of their electorate.

    This is not a surprising position when you look at Tariana’s history with the Labour party where she was treated poorly.

  7. r0b 7

    the four Maori seats were created in 1867 to limit the political influence of Maori who would otherwise have been entitled to 14-16 seats in the parliament of 76

    Agreed with the comments so far in general, but on what basis would Maori have been entitled to 14-16 seats? Is that a claim purely about proportion of population, or am I missing some constitutional history here?

  8. It’s a classic dodge on the last question: ‘class dichotomy, what class dichotomy?’ As if Maori are somehow exempt from materialist interests.

    but good quality answers all over. Even the dodge is a part of politics and it’s pulled off well here. In some ways it’s not the specific answer they give but how they give it that is interesting.

  9. BeShakey 9

    HS – I agree with Rocket Boy that it is inaccurate to say that Maori MPs for other parties aren’t really representing the views of their constituents. Turia did have a bad time in Labour, in fact that seems to be the most important feature of her political psyche (at times it appears to be even more important to her than representing Maori). In many ways I think that Turia (not the Maori Party) represents many of the worst aspects of Maori politics. From the dealings I’ve had with her and have heard first hand accounts of, she probably has a genuine desire to promote the interests of Maori, but has no real idea about how to do this. Fortunately this is balanced, to some degree, by colleagues who share a similar desire but are less jaded and more intelligent.

  10. Matthew Pilott 10

    I agree with all the commentators here – these are very good quality answers! & thanks to Tariana Turia for putting some real time and thought into them.

    I had similar thoughts to Rocket Boy regarding the talk of other Maori MPs being forced to tow a party line, but I see her views being driven by a factor specific to the Maori Party.

    Every issue they touch becomes a race issue. To use a contentions example, the Ruatoki raids. They were all of a sudden all about White Imperialism and Oppression of Maori. Nothing to do with a bunch of jokers running about the bush with auotmatic weapons and molotov cocktails.

    There are countless examples of this, and while I understand the party sees itself as the advocates of all Maori, I think it must be asked is it of real benefit to Maori people to make everything a race issue?

  11. Judging by the interviews I have seen with her over the years and the comments that she has said, there is no way in hell, she came up with those answers.

  12. I don’t know Brett – many people are much better on paper than they are in soudbites. These are quite complicated ideas and I can imagine that if you took one sentence out of context (as if it were a soundbite) it might seem less thoughtful and more like a random thing to say.

    As an example a journo looking for some conflict (and sadly there ain’t many other kinds nowadays) might take this line:

    Maori MPs in other political parties cannot claim to be the authentic and independent Maori voice in the Parliament.

    And build a story around it that would be headlined:

    Other MP’s not real Maori says Turia

    Go figure…

  13. Tane 13

    Good point Sod, the Maori Party do get a rough time in the media.

    For example, you could just as easily turn

    On the wider question of Maori representation, it is important to note that the four Maori seats were created in 1867 to limit the political influence of Maori who would otherwise have been entitled to 14-16 seats in the parliament of 76.

    into

    Turia demands nine more Maori seats

  14. Oh I like this game.

    How about we take: The Maori Party is keen to discuss constitutional arrangements tailored for Aotearoa/New Zealand, which may include the creation of a Parliamentary Tikanga Maori House alongside a Parliamentary Tikanga Pakeha House – to recognise the bicultural roots of the Nation envisaged by the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

    and turn it into:

    Turia calls for Maori law

    I can hear the Kiwiblog right’s shrill screaming already!

  15. Robinsod

    True, some people are better on paper than on television, but the way those answers were written, I could almost guarantee from the comments she has said in the past, that didn’t come from her pen.

    I understand, the Maori party wanted extra time to answer the questions, I guess they were looking for a good speech writer.

    By the way if those answers came from Dr Sharples, then I would agree, that he said that, but there is no way, Turia wrote that.

  16. Matthew Pilott 16

    The dam-burst and outpouring

    Hydro Disaster in Unspecified Location!

  17. Ben R 17

    “Every issue they touch becomes a race issue.”

    Very true. NoRight Turn highlighted her blatantly racist comments about immigration from European countries last year.

    “Turia’s comments are in short a nasty, racist little blurt, of exactly the sort indulged in by Winston Peters, though with a different target. And it will do her party no favours. Unfortunately, they seem to be less then concerned; Turia has apparently convinced them to adopt NZ First-style state racism as party policy.” http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2007/02/nasty-racist-little-blurt.html

    She’s also taken some bizarre positions, suggesting that race is the main factor in her opinions:

    – Supporting Donna Awatere Huata when she used money assigned for Maori children’s reading programmes for personal cosmetic surgery. “How dare you call her a thief”.

    – Saying Maori teenage pregnancy was not a problem. “go forth and multiply”

    – Refusing to criticise Robert Mugabe’s brutal slum clearance programme.

    – Supporting gangs and pulling Pita Sharples into line after he suggested they should be “named and shamed” last year.

  18. Matthew Pilott 18

    Ben R – the other one I had in mind was smoking. While it is true that smoking rates are far higher for Maori, it is not because they are Maori and genetically predisposed to it or whatever. The solution could be targeted at Maori parhaps, but the problem isn’t theirs alone, and calling it as such was cunterproductive.

    I guess the MP get more mileage out of ‘maori’ problems, but talking down their own culture – it’s not how I’d roll.

  19. deemac 19

    did no-one else notice that she did not actually provide a concrete answer (as opposed to political waffle) to the first question? Of course it’s hard for small paries to have “achievements” but then how do they justify their existence?
    So many social problems are a function of class, they just look like Maori issues because they are over-represented among the lower socio-economic groups. Does the MP have a raft of policies to address this?

  20. BeShakey 20

    Part of the problem seems to be she has a persecution complex. Maori have been screwed over by the state in the past (some of it the recent past), but why is she so desperate to equate their experiences to the holocaust? She might win some votes by appealing to a certain demographic (and lets face it, she clearly isn’t interested in appealing to many here), but she also runs the risk of alienating large portions of the voting public to the extent that it puts at risk the possibility of a coaltion that would actually achieve some of their goals.

    It’s also interesting that, following some initial love for her comments, a number of left-leaning people here are showing some distaste for her. I personally wouldn’t want to see them as part of a Labour coalition (maybe a confidence and supply agreement would be OK). She lacks the intellect to come up with workable solutions, or the skills (unlike Sharples) to unite the broader voting base behind a programme that would make real steps forward for Maori.

  21. outofbed 21

    Turia, Jeannette and Helen or
    John Rodney and Peter ?

    Tough choice eh ?

  22. higherstandard 22

    OOB

    At least the boys would agree with each other most of the time

  23. Lew 23

    The third response is the most important of these; it’s these kaupapa from which all maori party policy, and speech derive. The fundamental point is that it’s not a race-based party, it’s a philosophy-based party – just that the specific philosophical framework from which it emerges is a maori one. in this is’t no different to any other party; all are based on philosophy in one way or another, and all those philosophies are non-maori. most are explicitly European; based in political or social theories of the englightenment, or classical, liberal or neoliberal economics, or marxism, or environmentalism. The party is essentially an attempt to shift or modify the paradigm in which NZ politics is currently played out; the philosophical `rules of the game’ as it were. The name maori party, in lower-case, reveals this perspective, because the word `maori’ means `normal’ or `ordinary’. It could possibly be called `our party’ where the `us’ speaking is Maori people with a perspective rooted in traditional philosophy and values. In this respect it is more a populist party (with a particular focus) than anything else, a fact reinforced by the fairly rigorous programme of consultation its MPs and officials undertake around the country.

    I’m currently doing a MA on the differences in discourse between maori party MPs, other Maori MPs, and non-Maori MPs, trying to determine the extent to which this philosophical basis makes any difference to their discourse.

    A few other comments in response to others:

    RocketBoy: “She seems to think that there is some ?special? Maori point of view that only her party can represent when clearly there is not.”

    The point is that the diversity of different perspectives among Maori can in principle be united by their common basis in kaupapa learned through the experience of being Maori. They make no claim to represent people who identify as Maori per se – they make a claim to represent those who find significant value in traditional Maori philosophy.

    higherstandard: “I think she?s having a valid dig at the Maori MPs in other parties having to toe the party line (Whipping etc) rather than having an independent or Maori central view reflective of their electorate.”

    This is explicitly their point. Maori MPs have for decades been constrained by their party, becoming subalterns to other agendas – essentially the argument is that most Maori MPs have been Labour first, Maori second. This disjuncture only comes into full relief when the two agendas are totally incompatible, such as the Foreshore and Seabed. Obviously it’s not a zero-sum game, but anecdotal evidence such as the fact that four maori party MPs in their first year in parliament made ten times as many speeches as all other Maori MPs in the past decade gives some indication of how much that voice has been subsumed.

    Steve Pierson: “It?s a classic dodge on the last question: ?class dichotomy, what class dichotomy?? As if Maori are somehow exempt from materialist interests.”

    Same argument as made above: Maori have diverse views and even across a class divide can be united by their common history, upbringing and philosophical basis. How much you believe this is a matter of your own ideological bent, but it certainly can’t be discarded out of hand.

    Brett Dale: “Judging by the interviews I have seen with her over the years and the comments that she has said, there is no way in hell, she came up with those answers.”

    If you genuinely think the party leaders sit down and personally type out responses to these questions, you’re very naive. If not, you’re just taking a needless sideswipe at Turia.

    I entirely agree that the maori party has the media against them, just as Maori do in general. This is their major challenge: to re-normalise `maori-ness’ in NZ politics.

    L

  24. Lew 24

    Err, obvious cock-up in my above post: “four maori party MPs in their first year in parliament made ten times as many speeches as all other Maori MPs in the past decade” should read “four maori party MPs in their first year in parliament made as many speeches as all other Maori MPs in the past decade”.

    That’s ten years’ worth – not 100 years’ worth. Sorry.

    L

  25. Patrick 25

    OOB – I’m hoping your comment is meant to be flippant, because I don’t think bunching Winston in with John and Rodney is very wise.

    Disregarding ideological views (where I do think NZF is *normally* closer to Labour), it really seems that Winston and Helen work well together and have a significant amount of respect for one another.

    I can’t imagine NZF and the Nats entering in a successful long term coalition.

    Oh course, depending on the results of the election, Winston may be forced to work with Key, but I can’t imagine that being his preferred option.

  26. Lew:

    I know any politician wouldn’t of typed out the answer on their blackberry and sent it in to the standard.

    My point being was, as lot of the replies to her answers were how eloquent and honest she was.

    Perhaps they should of said how eloquent and honest her speech writer was?

    The language that the writer used was so out of touch with Turia. Those words would not come from her mouth, Dr Sharples, yes, but not Turia.

  27. Lew 27

    Brett: Counterfactual speculation, useless except as polemic. A party leader’s response (whoever wrote it) is by definition the response of the party.

    L

  28. Brett. Most of the replies have been written by the leaders. Clark wrote her own and so did Hide, Fitzsimmons, and Anderton.

    Turia I don’t know for sure but it doesn’t matter because Lew is right, what goes out in the leader’s name is the leader’s words even if he/she didn’t write them – do you think that Clark and Key write the press releases that go out in their name? No, they approve them, just like they do letters and emails that go out in their name.

    And remember, the words that come out of a leader’s mouth can be just as much a creation of media advisors as a press release – watch Key, listen to him speak – he gets a line from his media advisors that has been tested and then he repeats it every time he’s interviewed for weeks until it sticks.

  29. Lew 29

    Steve, I’m curious as to how you know this.

    L

  30. Ben R 30

    “The fundamental point is that it’s not a race-based party, it’s a philosophy-based party”

    Lew,

    That may be what they say in theory, but in practice many of Turia’s comments simply demonstrate the universal human tendency towards ‘in-group bias’ & ‘out group bias’.

    In her case her bias is pretty explicit and seems to go beyond simply favouring Maori, but anyone who isn’t white. Consider her reluctance to criticise anyone who isn’t white (ie. Awatere – Huata, Robert Mugabe, Taito Phillip Field, Mongrel Mob/Black Power gangs). She also wanted Pasifika people to be able to vote on the Maori roll, which suggests she’s more interested in gaining power than simply providing a Maori voice.

  31. because I called the offices and they said things like ‘oh I sent the question off to her but they’re not back yet’, and some are clearly in their personal styles – Hide and Anderton and the PM (and no media professional would put “there are so many!” as Fitzsimmons does at the start of her first answer).

    Plus Hide mentioned responding to our questions when talking about his problems with people ‘believing’ in climate change in another interview the other day.

  32. Ben R 32

    “I entirely agree that the maori party has the media against them”

    With the exception of Paul Henry, I don’t think that’s the case. He was the only person in the media I can recall who seemed to think Turia’s comments about immigration were racist.

    Imagine if John Key or Helen Clark had made the kind of comment she did, basically saying she was unhappy a particular colour of person was coming to the country. They would have been skewered.

    I think the maori party enjoy extremely good coverage in the media, and probably get some leeway because reporters want to avoid appearing racist.

  33. deemac 33

    Lew makes some good points but really, “Maori have diverse views and even across a class divide can be united by their common history etc…” So if you are Maori and your employer is too, that solves any minor differences over pay and conditions? We live in a capitalist society, and no amount of cultural input can sort its inherent conflicts.
    PS I suspect Sharples would have been rather more coherent.

  34. Lew 34

    Ben: “That may be what they say in theory, but in practice many of Turia’s comments simply demonstrate the universal human tendency towards ‘in-group bias’ & ‘out group bias’.”

    I agree that there’s a cognitive gap between philosophy in practice, but that’s hardly confined to the maori party. All parties have lofty principles they strive towards and fail to achieve in some way or another. Individual politicians so much more so. I also wonder how well Turia serves her cause by backing (or failing to condemn) obvious villains.

    “She also wanted Pasifika people to be able to vote on the Maori roll, which suggests she’s more interested in gaining power than simply providing a Maori voice.”

    She said it was worth thinking about. This is a long bow.

    “I think the maori party enjoy extremely good coverage in the media, and probably get some leeway because reporters want to avoid appearing racist.”

    I don’t buy into this theory of anti-racist backlash. I’m not really talking about the specific things commentators say in response to maori party issues, but the overall ways in which the issues are handled. Discourse, not content. Researchers from Auckland and Massey universities have found significant disadvantages to Maori in newspaper coverage, for instance: examples include more Pakeha than Maori being cited, and more prominently, on issues of primary concern to Maori; negative framing of issues to imply malfeasance, dishonesty, wastefulness or privilege when referring to Maori in business, etc. My preliminary research indicates these sorts of problems apply more or less equally to the maori party, who have cast themselves as exemplar.

    L

  35. Lew 35

    deemac: `can be’, not `are’. There’s no need to sensationalise. And I think you might be surprised to find how many Maori (or Chinese, or Indians, or family members, or whatever group here) will put up with poor conditions, wages or treatment on the basis of cultural relations.

    L

  36. Ben R 36

    “My preliminary research indicates these sorts of problems apply more or less equally to the maori party”

    In terms of the amount of coverage they receive, would they get any less than other parties of comparable size? My general impression is that their members are regularly sought for comment in print & on tv/radio. If anything, they seem to have a relatively high profile for a party with 4 seats?

    “I don’t buy into this theory of anti-racist backlash. I’m not really talking about the specific things commentators say in response to maori party issues, but the overall ways in which the issues are handled. ”

    I don’t know if you call it “anti-racist backlash” or simply reverse racism. Whatever it is, it seems that a maori party member can make a comment on race & reporters/commentators will not blink an eyelid, but if a white policitian says the equivalent, there is an outcry. Look at the reaction to Turia’s comments on immigration against the reaction to Peter Brown’s comments. I think the media were a lot more critical of Brown. It’s as though it is acceptable (in fact expected) that maori party members would be racially biased.

  37. Matthew Pilott 37

    Ben R – I can see what you’re saying from an anecdotal perspective. It took Turia (or whoever it was) to call the Land Wars akin to the Holocaust before she got a seriously negative reaction. (If my facts are wrong, my apologies; though it might just serve to illustrate the fragility of anecdotes, but that is my perception of the MP take on race issues – they never seemed to be called on it).

  38. Lew 38

    Ben: Minor parties can be relied upon to garner more than their proportion of coverage on the basis of pure representation. I haven’t done any quantitative, but my instinct is that the maori party do get a bit more media time than other minor parties, but nowhere near as much as the Greens, for instance.

    Not getting into the debate as to whose pronouncements on immigration were worse (i’m not very familiar with them), I’d just note that `reverse racism’ is essentially a propaganda term. It’s like `forward slash’ and `back slash’ on your keyboard: there is no forward slash, only slash. There is no reverse racism, it’s racism whichever way you slice it.

    But Pakeha in NZ are notoriously quick to cry `OMG racism!’ when they perceive it as it emanating from anyone other than them. Read Tim McCreanor & Ray Nairn’s research on Pakeha reactions to the Haka Party incident if you want an insight into this.

    L

    Captcha: `Emigration 29′. Heh.

  39. AncientGeek 39

    rOb: not sure if this got answered. This all recollection.

    but on what basis would Maori have been entitled to 14-16 seats? Is that a claim purely about proportion of population, or am I missing some constitutional history here?

    The origional provincial electoral franchises were based on property – something in the order of “male and owning x pounds of property”. This lasted until about 1880 when the property requirements were removed.

    The problem was that maori owned property in common as part of the hapu/iwi – not as individuals. So they couldn’t fufill the property requirement, despite ‘owning’ more than sufficent land. So 4 seats were set aside that did not have the property requirement.

    There has been discussion ever since about equivalences. Think about it. In the european population is you owned x pounds of property you could vote, less then you couldn’t. That meant that there was a proportion of ‘wasted’ property. Of course it would have been difficult to figure out that wastage factor for maori.

    Those 4 maori seats were retained even after the 1880(?) reforms. That went through the maori dieback (mainly disease) and resurgance in population.

    I think thay remained 4 seats up until the 1996 election(?) when they became proportional to the population enrolling on the maori roll.

    Why am I saying all this – try this wikipedia article

    captcha: yelling and
    sounds like this comment stream

  40. r0b 40

    AG, many thanks, very interesting, and fills a gap (I have far too many) in my understanding of our history.

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