Maori Party & balance of power

In recent threads on other blogs speculating on the outcome of the election, left-bloggers routinely take Maori Party support for a left bloc for granted.

That’s because they see a big difference between the way that Labour and National have approached Maori issues, culture and status over time. I’m inclined to agree with that assessment of the differences, but then, you see, I’m pakeha.

Maori don’t necessarily see it the same way. So it is foolish to take their post-election support in Parliament as a given.

First up, left bloggers do not seem to have grasped the significance of the Seabed & Foreshore legislation, which prevented Maori from testing their claims in court. That act must be seen in the context of two centuries of colonisation: te riri pakeha — “the white man’s anger” — and all. For many Maori it underlined the point that, at the end of the day, pakeha haven’t changed all that much.

Consider the musings on Friday of influential activist Willie Jackson about what a National victory this year might mean. He begins by observing that “The Nat’s history in dealing with Maori is dodgy”.

He then allows, “I know they came up with the treaty settlements programme but a process that recognises less than 5 percent of what Maori owned is shameful…” An attempt at balance here. (Never mind that it was the 3rd Labour Government that enacted the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 and the 4th Labour Government that extended the Tribunal’s powers to allow it to consider Crown actions dating back to 1840.)

Jackson continues, “And unfortunately they have a tendency to overplay the race card.” The bottom line is that Jackson “remains unconvinced” by Key’s hongi with Tame Iti and smiling his way around Ratana Pa. “I want him to disown what Dr Brash said and reassure us National won’t revert to the anti-Maori views he espoused.”

You get the message? The tone is gentle, there is some convincing to be done, but Willie Jackson for one is open to being convinced. I suspect that Tariana Turia would take less convincing still.

This is important. As Matt McCarten points out in today’s HoS, should the Maori Party take all seven Maori seats this year — a distinct possibility — the number of MPs would increase to 124, a sizeable overhang. “For Key or Clark to be Prime Minister, they would need the support of 63 — not 61 — MPs, making the Maori Party crucial.”

National’s “me too” policy making may yet turn out to be to its advantage in possibly unforeseen ways. In the rough and tumble of post-election deal making, the Maori Party may be looking for some fairly iron-clad assurances about the treatment of the low paid and beneficiaries, in return for abstaining on confidence & supply, say.

As Matt says, the pivotal role of the Maori Party could thwart the ambitions of the far-right. Note that he doesn’t say that this will be achieved by going with Labour. Just, no return of Ruthanasia. Kind of comforting, in a way.

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8 Responses to “Maori Party & balance of power”

  1. Ari Says:

    Given that the whole reason we have a Labour-NZF-UF coalition right now is due to lack of co-operation between Labour and the Maori Party, I’d say your point is a good one.

    The Seabed and Foreshore issue was definitely mishandled. (The same act but with “the public domain” in place of “the crown” would probably have been well-recieved)

    I have to agree with you that leftists as a political movement take the support of the causes they champion for granted far too often. If Labour wants party votes from Maori, and support from the Maori Party, they need to have policy that targets Maori without alienating other voters. And broadly, if they want to defeat National, they need to point out that Maori, women, and gay/lesbian voters are all part of “mainstream New Zealand”, and that National hasn’t announced anything that deals with their issues. 😉

  2. jafapete Says:

    Well put. Couldn’t agree more with your last point.

    Over on the Standard there’s a report of Cullen’s speech to the Drinking Liberally session in Wellington last night, and people saying how much they wish these things were said in public. Couldn’t agree more.

    There’s much that the Labour-led governments have done over the past 8 1/2 years that hasn’t been so well sold, and that we should be shouting from the roof tops. Chris Trotter recently bemoaned Cullen talking to uninterested business leaders about the Budget, when he could have been in South Auckland (or Porirua, etc) who would have cheered him.

    In this vein, I’ve observed a fair amount of policy in recent years aimed at improving the position of Maori, but haven’t seen Labour shouting about it. That may be an after-effect of the Orewa 1 shock — topic for another post — but I think most people now understand just how duplicitous Brash was, and how we can’t afford to leave any group behind.

  3. stargazer Says:

    i’d have to disagree with you re the foreshore & seabed: in 2005 the party vote from maori electorates went significantly to labour. consultations that the maori party held across the country indicated that maori did not want a coalition with national.

    further, the recent decision in the south island granting customary rights to ngai tahu (?) shows that the bill is able to deliver. and the difficult settlement for the central north island has i think now been signed off as well.

    add to that the fact the labour is still delivering in terms of raising minimum wages, WFF, cheap doctors visits, reducing unemployment, investing in education at all levels etc etc, and i really don’t see what maori have to gain by going to national.

    in fact, if you join keys recent murmurings on MMP with the business roundtable report on the viability of maori seats, i think maori voters should be very concerned.

  4. jafapete Says:

    Thanks for your comments stargazer, and thanks for including me on your blogroll. I’ll happily return the compliment.

    I agree that the deals signed with Ngāti Porou and Whānau-a-Apanui in February shows that the Foreshore and Seabed Act can deliver.

    And I agree totally that Labour policies have been good for Maori and much better than anything that they can reasonably expect from National.

    That said, I still don’t think that we should automatically add the Maori seats in with Labour and the Greens, as some people do.

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