There were dramatic scenes in Parliament yesterday. Judith Collins chose to again attack Jacinda Ardern about the He Puapua report.
I watched the video and my initial reaction was concern that Jacinda was showing human weakness and frailty in trying to address a very complex issue with compassion. My second reaction was admiration that Jacinda was showing human weakness and frailty in trying to address a very complex issue with compassion.
In one sense she is not suited for conventional politics. Occasionally, actually quite often, you watch her and get a very strong sense that her words and her actions are based on what she is thinking and feeling, not what she has calculated will gain the best political advantage.
Long may that continue.
Here is the video:
For Judith Collins and National, clearly all they wanted to engage in was some good old dog whistle race baiting.
Equally clearly the Māori Party has had enough. This question from Debbie Ngarewa-Packer to Ardern clearly signifies this:
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer: Can you please give your view on whether the Leader of the Opposition’s continued attack on Māori is racist?
SPEAKER: There’s a couple of things about that question. One of them is the “you” in it and the other is, I think, asking for a view on a matter which is well outside the Prime Minister’s responsibility.
Mallard’s response was technically pristinely correct but clearly unsatisfactory to the Māori Party.
The next question and answer brought a tear to my eye. My father Don Presland was the swing voter on the 1977 Mangere selection committee that gave David Lange his start in parliamentary politics, and Lange so impressed me as a teenager that I decided to become a lawyer.
Hon Judith Collins: Does she agree with former Prime Minister David Lange, who stated that “Democratic Government can accommodate Māori political aspiration in many ways. … What it cannot do is acknowledge the existence of a separate sovereignty. As soon as it does …, it isn’t a democracy.”?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have no doubt that if David Lange had the ability to remark on what we are doing as a Government in the area, for instance, of health reform, he would applaud it. What the member characterises as separatism I characterise as partnership, and it is just unacceptable, I would hope, for any member in this House to stand by while we have a health system or systems across the board that lead to different outcomes for different people in New Zealand. Our job as Government is to make sure that we see opportunity and the potential of all New Zealanders realised, and our current systems do not always achieve that.
Just remember, Collins’ questions are scripted, Ardern’s answers are from the heart.
It is clear that Rawiri Waititi by this stage had had enough.
Rawiri Waititi: Point of order. Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance and advice. Over the past two weeks, there has been racist propaganda and rhetoric towards tangata whenua. That not only is insulting to tangata whenua but diminishes the mana of this House.
SPEAKER: I thank the member for his point of order. I think I relatively ineloquently made comments in this area last week, and that is that we are a House of Representatives, that there are a broad range of views within the House, and part of my responsibility is to allow those views to be aired. Many things in the time that I’ve been a member of Parliament have resulted in discomfort to other members because the views are very different, and there are almost certainly some views that were expressed earlier in my career that would now be regarded as out of order for the reasons that the member has expressed. In my view, we are not at that point now.
Waititi clearly did not accept the response and then raised a new point of order. The accompanying Hansard is something that you could only read in Aotearoa New Zealand:
Rawiri Waititi: Point of order.
SPEAKER: I am going to warn the member that—no, the member will sit down when I stand up—litigation or relitigation of points of order or decisions on points of order is in itself disorderly, and now that the member has been warned, it would make it deliberately disorderly. So I am asking the member to make sure that if he has a point of order, it is a fresh and different one.
Rawiri Waititi: Fresh and different point of order, Mr Speaker. When it comes to views of indigenous rights and indigenous peoples, those views must be from those indigenous peoples for the indigenous rights of our people. They can’t be determined by people who are not indigenous. So what I am asking, e hika mā, to this House—tēnā koe e te Pirīmia—is that if we find this attitude acceptable in this House, the constant barrage of insults to tangata whenua, then I find this House in disrepute and—
SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Rawiri Waititi: —Te Paati Māori—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member’s mike’s off, so he will resume his seat. [Member performs haka] Order! The member will now leave the Chamber.
Rawiri Waititi withdrew from the Chamber.
I think a trip down memory lane will put the implications of this development into perspective.
Remember John Key? He thought that a long standing and respectful relationship with the Māori Party was in National’s best interests. Probably the motivation was to drive a stake into Māori support for Labour but the quality of the political calculation could not be questioned.
The election results in 2008 went like this. National won 58 seats, Act won 5 seats and Peter Dunne won his seat. Although they did not need to for insurance National signed up a confidence and supply agreement with the Māori Party.
The agreement was not without consequence. As I noted in an earlier post the fifth Labour Government had issues with the UN convention on the Rights of Indigenous People, which He Puapuaseeks to implement, and refused to sign it. National was persuaded by Pita Sharples however and decided to support the convention. They were interesting times. As I said earlier:
The fifth Labour Government did not want to sign the treaty. In 2007 then Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia said this:
There are four provisions we have problems with, which make the declaration fundamentally incompatible with New Zealand’s constitutional and legal arrangements.” Article 26 in particular, he said, “appears to require recognition of rights to lands now lawfully owned by other citizens, both indigenous and non-indigenous. This ignores contemporary reality and would be impossible to implement.”
But National reversed the decision and supported the convention. At the UN Maori Party leader and part of Government Pita Sharples said this:
New Zealand’s support for the Declaration represents an opportunity to acknowledge and restate the special cultural and historical position of Maori as the original inhabitants – the tangata whenua – of New Zealand. It reflects our continuing endeavours to work together to find solutions and underlines the importance of the relationship between Maori and the Crown under the Treaty of Waitangi. Its affirmation of longstanding rights supports and safeguards that ongoing relationship and its proclamation of new aspirations gives us all encouragement and inspiration for the future.
In 2011 National won 59 seats. Act gained one, the coiffured one from Ohariu hung on and the Māori Party won three. Again the Māori Party provided Key with insurance.
In each election, when National appeared to be ascendant the Māori Party gave them security. Without the Māori Party National would have needed no losses of MPs due to any sort of problem and to rely on the extremist ACT MPs to get things done.
The chances of a National Maori Party coalition now?
Short term National may get a slight bump in the polls. This is probably their only goal. Any momentum would be welcome for them. It also cannot hurt the Māori Party and I expect they also may get a bump in the polls.
Long term? Māori have never been fans of National and this will only get worse. And instead of having a party that is able through deft tactical negotiations score some gains for Māori in consideration of confidence and supply now the phone will be off the hook.
And the country will be the big loser. This sewer based ravaging of our complex and repairing relations with Tangata Whenua will set us all back.