Showing posts with label labour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label labour. Show all posts

Mar 17, 2014

The cycles of Maori politics

I’m going to make the call: all things remaining the same, the incumbents in the Maori electorates will retain their seats. Here’s how it’s looking.
Te Tai Tokerau
Labour: Kelvin Davis
Mana: Hone Harawira

Tamaki Makaurau

Labour: Shane Taurima (probably)
Mana: tbc.
Maori Party: possible candidates include Bronwyn Yates, George Ngatai, Te Hira Paenga and Tūnuiarangi McLean. The selection hui is scheduled in May.


Labour: Nanaia Mahuta


Labour: the candidates are Katie Paul, Ryan Te Wara and Rawiri Waititi.
Mana: tbc (at the AGM I believe between 11-13 April)
Maori Party: Te Ururoa Flavell

Te Tai Hauauru

Greens: Jack Tautokai McDonald
Labour: Adrian Rurawhe
Maori Party: Chris McKenzie


Labour: Meka Whaitiri
Mana: Te Hamua Nikora

Te Tai Tonga
Greens: Dora Langsbury
Labour: Rino Tirikatene

Labour has a clear run in Hauraki-Waikato and Te Tai Tonga. There are few - if any - viable challengers. Mana and the Maori Party have missed the window of opportunity and it seems that Tamaki will fall Labour's way while Ikaroa looks increasingly safe. Te Ururoa and Hone appear safe too. Te Tai Hauauru is the great uncertainty.

Labour, Mana and the Maori Party can't hope to run viable campaigns in the seats they haven't selected candidates in. The election is six months away and the window of opportunity has passed. At this point, any campaign against the incumbent is nominal. Maori politics is relationship based and its difficult to build a political relationship with the electorate with only six months on the clock. That's leaving aside the other, more practical issues, like campaign personnel and strategy.

But the bigger picture is important too: conflict characterised the last decade in Maori politics. Think of Closing the Gaps, Orewa and the Foreshore and Seabed Act. The cruel irony is that the Maori Party has resolved much of that conflict - Whanau Ora has replaced Closing the Gaps, National has abandoned its Maori bashing tactics and the Foreshore and Seabed Act has been repealed and replaced - yet Labour will be the beneficiary.

That's terribly unfair. But while stability returns to Maori politics, the Maori electorates appear to be reverting to type: Labour-led. Maori politics runs through cycles of uncertainty. When uncertainty and instability arises the Maori electorates turn against Labour. It almost happened with Matiu Rata while it actually happened in the 90s with New Zealand First and the 2000s with the Maori Party. The Young Maori Party was born amidst uncertainty and low confidence among Maori, but when certainty and confidence returned Labour and Ratana swept the Maori seats.

There was a window of opportunity when Mana and the Maori Party might have challenged that cycle. But I think that window has passed. The best they can hope to do is retain what they have.

Feb 18, 2014

Shane Taurima: political neophyte?

Patrick Gower has thrown a rat among the kiwi eggs:

3 News can reveal state broadcaster TVNZ is being used as a campaign base by Labour Party activists. 
They've even held a meeting in TVNZ's Maori and Pacific Unit aimed at fundraising for Labour. 
The unit's manager, Shane Taurima, has held ambitions to become a Labour MP and his staff have been arranging Labour Party business, using TVNZ facilities like email.
Mr Taurima has resigned following the revelation.

How did several experienced journalists miss the headlines they were creating? The use of TVNZ facilities was minor, but it should have created doubts. The stench of a story should have suffocated every journalist in the meeting room.

I stand by the claim that the use was relatively minor. But the political ineptitude isn’t. There’s a story on two levels: principled and practical. Is it ethical to remain party political while maintaining editorial control at a public broadcaster? On a practical level, does the issue speak to poor political judgement?

I think Shane checked his views at the door. His work confirms that. But perceptions demanded he resign. How could he remain objective?

Well, he remained balanced. Objectivity was a red herring. Journalism demands balance. The myth of objectivity was only a self-serving political attack. Shane didn’t sacrifice his professional skills or values. But the perception that he was tainted – a perception that’s given substance in the latest story – ran too deep.

Shane didn’t make the rod for his own back in front of the camera or in the control room - he made it in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti selection. When he revealed his political ambitions – and social democratic inclinations – he drew a target on his head. In hindsight he should have resigned permanently the moment he announced his candidacy. On a practical level he could have and did remain – I don’t think anyone can question his professionalism – but on a political level the decision to remain was stupid. Does this cast doubt on his suitability as a political candidate?

Post script: Shane has released a gracious media statement explaining his resignation. 

Jan 26, 2014

Winston’s comments overshadowed the real issues at Rātana

It’s a real shame that Winston Peters decided to launch his latest dog-whistle attack while waiting to be welcomed on to Rātana Pā on Friday. As was predictable, his comments became the major story of the day in the media, and they distracted from the very real kaupapa that were raised by the Rātana people themselves as politicians came to honour the birthday of the prophet Tahupotiki Wiremu Rātana. 

Te Temepara Tapu, Rātana Pā
For those who were lucky enough not to hear Winston’s comments, he essentially referred to the Māori Party’s policy gains in Government as “apartheid”. Supposedly, flying the Tino Rangatiratanga flag on Auckland Harbour Bridge, whānau ora, and separate Māori prison units are all apartheid policies. 

For Winston, this is all about electioneering. He is playing to his core constituency with these dog-whistle tactics. The desperate tone of his comments reveal a politician of a by-gone era trying to stay relevant. 

The comments were inappropriate given where he was speaking – one of T.W Rātana’s primary goals was the just restitution of Te Tiriti of Waitangi, a goal which he essentially disparaged with his attack on the Māori Party. They were also hugely inappropriate considering how recently Nelson Mandela passed away, a leader of the liberation movement that broke the stranglehold of real apartheid - a brutal, racist and completely inhumane regime. To compare that with the Māori Party's policies is extremely offensive.

I had the privilege of listening to and contributing to the kōrero on the paepae that day. We were informed by te iwi mōrehu (followers of the Rātana faith), of the realities of the day-to-day lives of their people. They implored political parties to work together for the benefit of the Māori people. Their key proposals were for a strong regional development strategy, investment in reducing youth unemployment, warm dry housing and an inclusive education system that equips tamariki and rangatahi with skills required for the jobs of the 21st Century. 

These are the issues that should have been debated in the media, and the issues political leaders should have been asked for comment on. But no, Winston’s strategy of grabbing the media attention with hyperbole worked for him – as it always does.

Kōtahitanga and the Labour-Green relationship 

The Labour and Green parties were welcomed on to the marae together – as has been the case for the last several years. Labour had a large delegation of MPs and candidates and the Greens were represented by co-leader Metiria Turei, Māori Green MPs Denise Roche and David Clendon, and candidates Marama Davidson and myself (Jack McDonald). 

Labour the Greens being welcomed on to Rātana
One thing that was very apparent was the health of the Lab-Green relationship; both parties work well together and are driven by many of the same core values, both are committed to raising the living standards of Māori, and working in collaboration for the benefit of all New Zealanders. 

Māori expect the parties of the Left to work together and embrace kōtahitanga. To honour Te Tiriti and eliminate poverty, we must change the government. Neither Labour nor the Greens can do that without the other. It's imperative that these parties look and act like a government-in-waiting, ready to get stuck in and work together so they can hit the ground running in the first 100 days of a new progressive government.

Of course the parties have their differences, some substantial, and the debate over risky deep sea oil drilling is a timely reminder of that. That is the nature of MMP and those differences can be thrashed out in post-election negotiations. 

At the end of the day, both Labour and the Greens need to listen to the teachings of T.W Rātana, who always stressed kōtahitanga and unity. Nothing less will improve the lives of those who need us most; the vulnerable, the disillusioned and marginalised in our society.

Post by Jack McDonald

Sep 25, 2013

Current reckon: the Maori Party should be worried

Maori Affairs has had a rough time. In government the portfolio is held under a minister outside of Cabinet. But under the last Labour government the portfolio was held under the fifth ranked minister – Parekura Horomia. When Labour lost government the portfolio fell with Parekura’s ranking. It didn’t recover. Until yesterday.

Shane Jones won promotion and the Maori Affairs portfolio is back where it belongs – within the top 5. Jones will take a different approach from Parekura before him and Pita Sharples opposite him. Parekura was and Pita is a relationship politician. They leverage their relationships to achieve change. Shane can build good relationships with other politicians, officials and voters – like Parekura and Pita – but Shane’s cut from a different cloth: he can and will rely on the force of his personality and intellect to drive change. Parekura and Pita didn’t and don’t exert that sort of blunt pressure.

Nanaia Mahuta won promotion too. She’s in the shadow cabinet and holds the Maori development and Treaty settlement portfolios. Nanaia can open doors. She’s experienced and knows how Maori politics works. But there’s one problem: can and will Shane and Nanaia work together? If not, Labour will forfeit its advantage over Mana and the Maori parties: stability.

The Maori caucus split between supporting David Cunliffe and Shane Jones. That might not be indicative of deep rifts – but only differences in opinion - but the perception is building that Labour’s Maori caucus is fractured. If the Maori caucus doesn’t signal that it’s going to sew up its divisions then the Greens will credibly make a claim to being the only stable kaupapa Maori party.

The other member of the Maori team is Rino Tirikatene. He retains the Associate Maori Affairs role. Rino will act as Shane’s deputy and Nanaia will go about her roles. Meka Whaitiri didn’t win a Maori portfolio. That’s a shame. I think she could have deputised for Nanaia in the way that Rino will deputise for Shane. The challenge for Shane and Rino is to find cohesion. The challenge for Nanaia is to exploit the (very few) cracks in the government’s Treaty policy. That’s not easy. Reshuffling was never going to be an outcome in itself, but it will bring a focus that the Maori Party should be worried about. There are now three Labour MPs - including two front benchers - who are coming for the Maori Party's jobs.

Post script: props to Louisa Wall and Moana Mackey. Their promotions were richly deserved. Wall steered through the Marriage Equality Act with clarity and confidence. Despite entering Parliament in 2003, Mackey hasn’t registered. That’s a shame. She works hard and is rarely acknowledged for it. In 2012 she robustly opposed the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Act. She carried Labour on that count and others. Her promotion is overdue.

Sep 18, 2013

Reasserting progressive values: the Labour Party edition

In addition to my last blog post, The Left must have the courage of their convictions, I am writing a short series of posts on the need for the parties of the Left to reassert progressive values in order to offer a credible alternative to John Key and the National-led Government. First up; the Labour Party. 

David Cunliffe needs to reassert both working class and progressive values 
while modernising Labour's political platform
The democratisation of the Labour Party’s leadership election processes have provided an opportunity for party members, the union movement and the broader left to push for the reassertion of progressive values and the repudiation of the Third Way agenda of the Clark era.

Both newly elected David Cunliffe and his primary opponent Grant Robertson took to the campaign trail with promises of significant industrial relations reform, a new-found commitment to the environment, and pledges on women’s political participation and increased student support. They would “end neo-liberalism” and even distanced themselves from Helen Clark’s legacy. Even Shane Jones in some ways promoted progressive values; he committed to supporting a universal student allowance and a pushed for a breakup of the supermarket duopoly.

This has reinvigorated Labour's base to a significant degree. It is these kinds of bold ideas that will drive greater participation and involvement in the political system. 

But the media consensus proclaims that this high-minded progressivism is fit for the campaign trail, but will be discarded at the earliest opportunity; that Cunliffe will default to the centrist direction that the Labour Party has been previously heading down. This highlights two things; the media are hostile to the interests of genuine left-wing politics, and many in the media are disconnected from the realities of those struggling to survive in this land of plenty.

At Cunliffe's first press conference as leader, he distanced Labour from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and said "my challenge to John Key and his government is to put that information in the public domain so the debate can begin". This is a radical change in the direction of the Labour Party caucus, as was put so well by TPPA expert Jane Kelsey over at The Daily Blog.

So already Labour's new leader has stood up to the proponents of liberalised free trade, many of whom are a part of his own caucus. Will he continue down this path? How far will he go? What other progressive values will he reassert? 

Inequality and markets 
Inequality is at the highest point it has ever been in the history of this country. This proves the necessity for a reassertion of progressive values and there is a great opportunity for these values to resonate widely. A fundamentally new direction in the economy is sorely needed. As fellow working class New Zealanders will know, poverty and hardship are only getting worse. Helen Clark's government stabilised things in the wake of Rogernomics and Ruthanasia, but the fundamentals of her economic management allowed for continuing unemployment, high power prices, low-wages and shocking rates of child poverty.

David Cunliffe will need a great deal of courage to steer a fundamentally new course of economic management. He leads what remains a largely moderate Labour caucus; his newly elected deputy leader David Parker is on record saying "competitive markets don't need regulation", while newly appointed Shadow Leader of the House Grant Robertson said around the same time that "as we said on the day we launched NZ Power, we have no plans to intervene in any other markets."

While I'm sure Cunliffe is in favour of the market economy where it works, if he wants to significantly reduce poverty and inequality then he will need to regulate other markets as well. Competitiveness does not always lead to positive outcomes. To ensure that his vision and convictions lead the party's economic platform, he will need to take an active role in finance and economic development and not leave everything up to the likes of Parker and Shane Jones.

Social welfare
Low benefit levels, and the toxic nature of WINZ, contribute hugely to the ongoing poverty and deprivation in this country; we know that two-thirds of children in poverty are living in benefit dependent households.

But there is a deep reluctance in the Labour caucus to provide real and increased support to beneficiary families. Given National's succesful strategy of pitting communities against each other by beneficiary bashing, it's a political minefield for Labour. But this is an issue that should be above political posturing and electoral calculation.

Social welfare is a core progressive value and was at the heart of the First Labour Government's working class agenda. The welfare system itself under that government didn't have to be a huge drain on resources, as the government ensured pretty much full employment. While it does have significant financial implications in this day and age, we must also remember that we are spending $6 billion a year on preventable crime, illness and lost educational opportunities – the direct cost of keeping kids in poverty.

Thousands of families will continue to live in deprivation if the government doesn't step in. Employment must be the key aim, but children are not impoverished because of any fault of their own. They deserve compassion.

The policy for universalisation of the working for families scheme, which has been Green policy for over a decade, was adopted by Phil Goff before the 2011 election but then abandoned again under David Shearer's leadership. This is a policy that will go a long way to reducing poverty among families on welfare and should be part of a welfare tool kit for an incoming centre-left government.

Promoting both employment and social welfare as progressive values, and convincing the public that they aren't mutually exclusive, will be a real test of David Cunliffe's leadership.

Environment and sustainability
A core progressive value of the 21st Century is environmental guardianship and sustainability. However, it has not traditionally been a value that Labour has embraced. Water quality was incredibly bad under the Fifth Labour Government and has led to the current situation of 60% of monitored rivers being unsafe for swimming. Also, the process for granting risky deep sea oil permits was instituted under Labour.

Environmental protection and sustainability represent very fundamental issues that Labour must grapple with. For example, reducing river pollution to sustainable levels is going to require a rethink of the continuing intensification of the agricultural sector, one of the nation's most economically productive industries. This reality challenges not just river pollution but the very idea of never-ending economic growth.

Deep sea oil drilling and the future of wider extractive industries is another kaupapa that Labour needs to provide clarity and consistency on. There are clear divisions over this issue. On the hand, Shane Jones promotes oil drilling and mining as a solution to youth unemployment while on the other hand, MPs like Moana Mackey and Grant Robertson are much more hesitant to support these risky ventures. A massive deep sea oil spill could effectively destroy New Zealand's economy. David Cunliffe needs to make a stand on this.

And of course this all ties in with the climate crisis and our need to significantly reduce emissions and play our part on the global stage. A weak and ineffectual carbon trading scheme like our ETS will not achieve this. New thinking and innovative solutions are required.

David Cunliffe was dead right when he said:

"the nature of this crisis is far deeper and more fundamental than the standard environment-economy trade-off thinking might suppose. The coming crisis threatens more than just marine biodiversity. The species we are trying to save could be our own."

Cunliffe's Challenge 
The forces of reluctance, moderation and conservatism will do their very best to hound David Cunliffe's leadership and the opportunities for true progressivism that it represents. We need to expect more of Patrick Gower appearing on the 6 o'clock news attacking Cunliffe for stumbling on a word. He will also continue to promote the idea of Labour disunity.

Cunliffe must have an iron will and unify his caucus behind his economic and environmental vision. This will be the biggest challenge of his entire leadership in the lead up to the 2014 general elections.

Those of us who believe in a compassionate, sustainable and socially just future need to be vigilant in our support for a new direction and as equally vigilant in our critique of the forces of negativity and conservatism that inhabit both the major political parties, the mainstream media and elements of the business community.

Post by Jack McDonald

Sep 12, 2013

Shane Jones: the wedge politics edition

I'm stuck in a half way house. Somewhere between the progressive left and the tino rangatiratanga movement. Shane Jones has put me there and I'm afraid to move.

Jones' bid for the Labour leadership has opened a divide between the left and the tino rangatiratanga movement. Maori politics exists apart from the left-right divide, apparently. But I don't think that's true. Maori politics exists beneath the left-right divide.

Maori political history isn't rich with choice. Asking or telling us to wait for a more "progressive" candidate is deeply offensive. Maori have waited - and with relative patience - for the opportunity to elect a Maori prime minister for more than a century. The Maori renaissance and (more recently) the emergence of the Maori Party and the Mana Movement signals that Maori political patience has built to its limits. Carrie was right when she wrote that "the insistent hating [of Jones] overshadows a potentially major historical moment in NZ".

The Maori approach to power is changing and Jones is the most recent personification of that approach. When the left denies Jones, its denying Maori political power. It's uncomfortable. In some respects it smacks of the politics of the 20th century. When Maori stepped outside of the political role that society had created for them - as mihi men, singing women and glorified lapdogs - they were shut out. See Matiu Rata and Tariana Turia about that.

I remain ambivalent about Jones - partly for, partly against. The self aggrandising attacks against feminism grate. The struggle for gender equality shouldn't and can't be divorced from the struggle for ethnic equality. Attacking feminism doesn't empower the tino rangatiratanga movement, but weakens it. Solidarity works best when it's solidarity with all marginalised groups - whether it's women, the disabled, the LGBT community or other Polynesians - and equality works best when it's equality for the whole and not the parts.

What I'm getting at is this: I tautoko Jones because of what he represents - Maori political empowerment. But his approach to empowerment, well, not so much.  

Tangata takahi manuhiri, he marae puehu - a person who mistreats guests has a dusty Marae. The saying captures the idea of manaakitanga. It captures the approach the tino rangatiratanga movement - and by extension Jones - should take towards friends in the left. But that works in reverse too: the left should keep in mind why Jones' run is important to our movement.

Post script: According to the latest Te Karere poll Maori prefer Jones by a large margin. And again for transparency: I endorsed DC earlier in the race.  

Sep 10, 2013

The Left must have the courage of their convictions

At the launch of his leadership bid in New Lynn, David Cunliffe was handed a bunch of roses by a supporter. He held them aloft and proclaimed in a hesitant, unsure-of-himself kind of way that: "the red rose is the international symbol of socialism!”

The mainstream media seem unable to entertain the idea that David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson might actually be honest in their critique of neo-liberalism and the economic orthodoxy. By extension it seems that they believe that socialism is a defunct ideology in 21st Century New Zealand. But in ideological terms, the history of the New Zealand labour movement is relatively typical of its counterparts in other Western liberal democracies. It is a history of socialism. It’s rise, it’s dilution and it’s near death.

The First Labour Government was a truly socialist government, and is the benchmark of democratic socialism in New Zealand. But with the collapse of the post-WWII economic boom, social democratic parties found it increasingly difficult to enact further socialist reforms due to the restraints they placed upon themselves within the capitalist framework. This led to the economic liberalisation and financial deregulation of the 1980s and eventually the Third Way agenda under Helen Clark. These historical trajectories have divorced the Labour Party from its socialist traditions and its grassroots support base. Voter engagement has plummeted. Political apathy and cynicism has never been higher among working class New Zealand.

In the wake of the Global Financial Crisis and considering the climate crisis, peak oil and resource depletion, New Zealand is ready for its next ‘big change’ moment.

Evolutionary socialism: The First Labour Government
The evolutionary socialist school of thought has been the dominant and only viable socialist framework since the collapse of the USSR and the moral failures of violent revolutionary communism.

Democratic socialism was founded upon the belief that to achieve social gains, one must work within the democratic system of Parliament. Gradualists, as they were known, including the Fabian Society and Eduard Bernstein, believed their vision was inevitable because of the qualities of the democratic system itself and the truth of their ideas.

Many social democratic parties were formed across the Western world to utilise this democratic approach. The New Zealand Labour Party was established in 1916. From this early period of its history, Labour broke free from the communist movement to pursue a social democratic agenda; in 1925 a membership pledge was signed to affirm the Party’s commitment to democratic constitutional processes of governance. Yet it was clearly a socialist party; this is shown by its 1922 election manifesto which describes the Party’s key aim as the “socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange”. When Labour was elected to Government, with Michael Joseph Savage as Prime Minister and Peter Fraser as his ministerial workhorse, it enacted a wide range of socialist reforms including legislating compulsory trade union membership and passing the Social Security Act 1938, which effectively provided welfare cover from ‘the cradle to the grave’. The welfare state was expanded and entrenched under the premiership of Peter Fraser.

The second and third Labour governments continued down the same path of evolutionary socialism; egalitarianism became a mainstay of New Zealand politics from both right and left governments up until 1984. This was due to the entrenchment of social democratic principles in politics by Labour governments.

The death of social democracy: Rogernomics and The Third Way
Social democratic parties in the late 20th and early 21st Century have been embracing neo-liberal economic policies to fit within the framework of capitalist democracy.

As Dr Ashley Lavelle, an Australian political scientist, has pointed out, the solutions to the world’s problems that are being put forward by social democratic parties barely differ from the solutions of their conservative and liberal counterparts. Furthermore, the fundamental reform plans that they put forward in the 20th Century "to challenge entrenched power and privilege or redistribute the wealth have disappeared"*. 

Lavelle notes that the primary cause of the death of social democracy is the collapse of the post-war economic boom so that the return in the 1970’s of low economic growth led to the removal of the economic base used by social democrats to enact their social reform. This reform relied upon high revenues and incomes to reduce inequality and raise living standards without undermining capital accumulation. This reality required Governments and therefore social democratic parties to “remove the constraints on capital” and to create opportunities for business*. Social democrats were forced into this approach, as these were the boundaries set by economic democracies, which was the framework in which social democrats were pursuing their socialist goals.

Both David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson have pledged
 to repudiate the 'Third Way'
In the New Zealand context, it was the fourth and fifth Labour governments that implemented both the initial market liberalisation and the more moderate Third Way agenda that followed. By implementing this approach of neo-liberal policy, Labour has faced significant political consequences. They have suffered major electoral setbacks as a result of voters’ discontent with their neo-liberal economic policy and inability to stick to manifesto pledges.

Another major issue that is affecting social democratic parties is a decline in membership. This is an issue for all parties in the 21st Century but there is evidence that social democratic parties have lost members specifically in response to capitalist entrenching policy. This disconnects parties with their own history and the ideological base which gave them the mandate to exist in the first place.

The Third Way agenda of Helen Clark failed to address environmental degradation, carbon pollution and resource depletion. Centrist social democratic parties like the current Labour Party are unwilling and ill-equipped to tackle the underlying problems of our capitalist economic system.

Can Labour, on the back of the democratisation and re-invigoration of their party, redefine 21st Century politics in New Zealand by bringing its traditional values to the fore, while at the same time modernising it's policy platform?

Eco-socialism: democratic socialism in the 21st Century
Eco-socialism, which is an ideology that has roots as far back as the mid 1800s*, has the potential to become a dominant ideology in the 21st Century. Eco-socialism draws on both the ecologist and socialist opposition to capitalism.

Ecologism is founded upon the basic reality that there are natural limits to growth as we live on a planet with finite resources. This is a complete contradiction to the structure of capitalism that promotes never ending economic growth and labels environmental protection and social equality as “external dis-economies"*. Eco-socialists assert that the world is interconnected and that the economy is based on the health of the environment and those living within it.
The Greens have led a change in the political climate and
ensured that eco-socialist ideas are firmly on the agenda

It is evident that eco-socialist ideas have been gaining traction in the Western world, especially since the Global Financial Crisis. The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand has over the last decade lead a change in the political climate and ensured that eco-socialist values and solutions are firmly on the agenda in this country. While no longer radical in tone and appearance, the Greens champion a future economy and society that is far from the status quo.

But it's no longer just the Greens that are talking about transformative change; Labour leadership front-runner David Cunliffe, and to a lesser extent Grant Robertson, have also been articulating a vision that is starkly at odds with the capitalist orthodoxy.

Cunliffe's rhetoric in speeches such as 'The Dolphin and the Dole Queue' and 'Get your invisible hand off our assets!', represents a kind of thinking that is remarkably similar to prominent eco-socialists and the Green Party's co-leaders.

The clean tech revolution can build resilience in our economy, while protecting the environment and under the right settings could ensure full employment for our people. The scale and pace of change that we require is even greater than the situation that the First Labour Government faced. Harnessing a revolutionary ideological base combined with a democratic approach to fulfillment, the eco-socialist movement proves that socialism is a relevant ideology in the current political climate.

The real test lies ahead
For New Zealand's progressive leaders, both Red and Green, the real test lies ahead. If they follow through on their bold rhetoric and abandon the weak social democratic agenda, then the First Labour-Green Government could be as historically significant, world-leading and revolutionary as the First Labour Government that was sworn into power over three-quarters of a century ago.

While some in the media are probably right in that many see the word 'socialism' itself as an "instant turn-off"*, that does not mean that the ideological underpinnings of the candidates and the movement that they are seeking to lead won't have a huge effect on the outcome of not only this election, but also Labour's electoral platform for the next general election.

Its a no-brainer that New Zealand will remain a mixed economy, with the private sector playing a large role in our economic future. For example, both Labour and the Greens favour market incentives and price signals to address certain economic and environmental problems. But the time has come for the Left to reassert the fundamental values that built this nation.

Radicalism has for a long time been seen among the media as both a cardinal sin and a sign of electoral oblivion. But with the economic and environmental crises that engulf the world, and the massive skepticism of many people towards the political establishment, there are so many issues that require radical solutions. It could well be just what's needed to get disenchanted voters to turn around and listen.

The Left faces a host of challenges, not least of which is the courage of their own convictions. It seems that they themselves are aware of that. In the words of soon-to-be Labour leader David Cunliffe:

"We must also have leadership that has proven it can stare down vested interests – because make no mistake, the beneficiaries of neoliberalism will not give up their privilege quietly."*

Post by Jack McDonald

* Ashley Lavelle, The death of social democracy: political consequences in the 21st Century (Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Limited), pp. 1-2
* Lavelle, The death of social democracy, p. 2
* Bradley J. Macdonald, ‘William Morris and the vision of ecosocialism’, Contemporary Justice Review, Vol.7, No.3, 2004.
Bradley J. Macdonald, ‘William Morris and the vision of ecosocialism’, Contemporary Justice Review, Vol.7, No.3, 2004, p. 287
*Jessica Williams, 'It's just a jump to the left...',, Radio Live, accessed 09/09/2013
*David Cunliffe, 'David Cunliffe',, The Standard, accessed 09/09/2013

Sep 2, 2013

Shane Jones: selling out the kaupapa edition

Willie Jackson ripped into Nanaia Mahuta, Moana Mackey and Louisa Wall on Marae Investigates. Willie argued that they're guilty of "selling out" the kaupapa. The kaupapa being supporting a Maori leader of the Labour Party. He was unkind, but he might be right.

There seems to be little point in having a Maori caucus if it isn't going to support a Maori leadership candidate. (Honourable exception: Rino Tirikatene). Surely that's the guiding kaupapa. But does solidarity demand that they support Shane? Thoughts.

Aug 30, 2013

History: the Shane Jones edition

Sir Michael Joseph Savage, father of the Labour-Maori alliance

In 1932 Eruera Tirikatene won the byelection for Southern Maori. Tirikatene became the Ratana movement’s first MP. In 1935 Haami Tokoru Ratana secured Western Maori – the movement’s second seat. When Tirikatene took office the movement instructed him – and later Haami Tokoru Ratana – to vote with Labour. Recognising the electoral potential, Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage and Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana (the movement's founder) met in 1936 and established the Ratana-Labour alliance.

In an effort to sanctify the relationship, TW Ratana presented Savage with five symbolic gifts:

  1. Three huia feathers. The feathers represented Maori. The huia is extinct – killed by introduced species and habitat loss – and its death represented the struggle of the past century.
  2. A pounamu hei tiki. The pounamu represented mana Maori. 
  3. A kumara (or potato depending on the source). The kumara represented the land taken from Maori (i.e. the loss of the Maori sustenance base) and ongoing poverty. 
  4. A broken gold watch. The watch represented the broken promises of the Crown including the broken promise of the Treaty. 
  5. And a badge shaped as a whetu marama (crescent moon). The crescent moon represents te tohu o te Maramatanga – a sign of enlightenment. 

If Savage could restore the mana of the Maori people (the pounamu), eliminate Maori poverty (the kumara) and rectify the broken promises of the Crown (the broken watch) then he would earn the right to wear the three huia feathers. The gifts had an enormous impact on Savage. It’s said that before he died he left instructions to have the gifts buried with him. Cynics say that Labour's commitment to Maori was buried with Savage and the gifts.

I don't believe that. Well, not entirely. Maori have a 77 year relationship with Labour. But despite the depth and symbolism of that relationship, it's been one-sided. Maori voters awarded Labour with a 50 year monopoly in the Maori seats. In 2011 Labour won more than 40% of the party vote in the Maori seats and more than 50% in previous elections. But that loyalty has often been sacrificed to expediency.

How Shane Jones is treated when he (inevitably) loses the leadership race will determine the health of the Labour-Maori alliance (it's no longer a Labour-Ratana alliance). Maori are watching closely. 

It's argued that right wing governments have helped Maori to climb the greasy pole better than their Labour counterparts. Sir James Carroll was a deputy Prime Minister and Acting Prime Minister in the Liberal government in 1909 and 1911. The Liberal Party was a precursor to the National Party. In 1996 Winston Peters secured the deputy Prime Ministership in a National government. There's also Ngata and more recently Parata, Bennett, Bridges and so on. A similar tradition of Maori leaders is harder to find in the Labour Party. 

But Labour has done more for Maori as a people, apparently. I take that view as correct. It was Norman Kirk who appointed Matiu Rata Minister of Maori Affairs - the first Maori to hold the position since Ngata - and the third Labour government that created the Waitangi Tribunal and the fourth Labour government that empowered the tribunal to investigate historical claims. The establishment of the tribunal and the Treaty settlement process has done more to influence Maori development than, say, Winston Peters holding the deputy prime ministership ever did. 

But symbolism can't be ignored. There's historical context. If Labour continues to refuse to put Maori in positions of power and leadership, the perception will strengthen that Labour treats Maori as vote fodder. With the Maori Party to the right and Mana and the Greens to the left, Labour is in danger of destroying the Maori-Labour alliance. There's choice in the Maori seats now. Labour can't rely on being the best of a bad lot. 

So here's the call: there's no need to elect Shane Jones to reaffirm the Labour-Maori alliance. David Cunliffe seems to have some mandate from members of the Maori caucus and he has made noises around the importance of winning a mandate from tangata whenua. But if Shane Jones isn't given a leadership position after the race - top 5 or better top 3 - then Labour can expect another decrease in its vote in the Maori seats. And who could blame us. It's sometimes a one-sided relationship. 

Post-script: here's an earlier post I did on Shane's run. And again for transparency: I've already declared for DC, but I want to keep putting context to Shane's run. He might be sexist, but his run represents far more than an egomaniacal sexist running for the sake of his own perception of self importance. 

Aug 27, 2013

Power: the Shane Jones edition

Labour leadership candidate Shane Jones

If you’re interested in Maori history, one of the most accessible books is Struggle Without End. But if you’re interested in the tool shed account...

Reducing it to its bones, our post-Treaty political history can be divided into four stages: the mid to late 19th century and the imitation of British political institutions, the late 19th century to the early 20th century and the flock to religion and its leaders, the mid to late 20th century characterised by urbanisation and unionism and the Treaty settlement phase with the adoption of a Maori model of Anglo-American capitalism.

The Treaty settlement phase hasn’t ended. But Shane Jones and his bid for the Labour leadership signals that that phase might be closing. The Treaty settlement era is characterised by the adoption of the neotribal model. Accumulating economic power was and is seen as the most effective way to achieve tino rangatiratanga. That might well be right, but Shane’s run for the leadership signals a new approach.

“Power is a lot like real estate. It’s all about location, location, location. The closer you are to the source, the higher your property value”.

That sums up Shane’s approach to achieving tino rangatiratanga: you have to get to the source of power. In this case, the Prime Ministership or a position close to it. The Cabinet controls the executive and (in our Westminster system) the Parliament.

The Maori Party has adopted the approach as well (in watered down form). Two of their MPs might hold ministerial warrants, but they’re not members of Cabinet. They’re on the periphery of power and their value is low as a result. In the government, the heavy lifting and influence is held in the top, say, five members of Cabinet. In the current government power seems concentrated in the Key/English/Joyce tripartite. Shane is aiming to form or be a part of an equivalent power group.

Shane’s run can’t be understood without the help of history. A supporter of Shane’s bid made an outstanding point this morning - Shane is the successor to Sir Apirana Ngata’s legacy:

E tipu e rea, mo nga ra o te ao,
Grow up o tender child in the days of your world,  
Ko to ringa ki nga rākau a te Pākehā,
In your hands the tools of the Pākehā,  
Hei oranga mo to tinana.
As means to support and sustain you.  
Ko to ngakau ki nga taonga a o tipuna,
In your heart the treasures of your ancestors,  
Hei tikitiki mo to mahunga.
As a plume for your head.  
Ko to wairua ki te Atua,
Your spirit given to God,  
Nana nei nga mea katoa.
The source of all things. 

Shane lives that. For that reason alone – casting aside the strategic significance of the bid – Shane might be worth supporting.

Post script: although I tautoko Shane’s run, I’ve already declared for Cunliffe. I’ve set out my reasons at The Daily Blog and I don’t retract them. This post is an attempt to put Shane's run in its proper context. Shane is polarising. My politics aren’t closely aligned with his (except on Maori issues) and I'm unsure how he will change the left. "Geldings", too. Enough said.  

Aug 25, 2013

Should a Māori MP stand for the leadership of the Labour Party?

Haare Williams, the Māori Vice President of the Labour Party, appeared on Marae Investigates this morning and made it very clear that it was time for a Māori leader of the party:

He was also clear that the party needs to embrace the Treaty partnership. In his own words:

"E rua ngā wāhanga kei roto i Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Ko te taha ki te Pākehā, ko te taha ki a tāua ki te iwi Māori. Whaia te maramatanga e puta ai te houhoutanga o te whakawhanaungatanga; tēnā iwi, tēnā iwi, te iwi Pākehā me te iwi Māori, ā me ngā iwi e noho horopani ana ki Aotearoa. Mā Te Tiriti, e kukume mai te iwi kia whakakotahi i a tātou."

At present Māori issues aren't being considered in this leadership contest. But the beauty of the new rules adopted by the Labour Party is that a democratic selection process is being used, a primary election.

The process is similar to the rules used by UK Labour Party. In the leadership election that followed the resignation of Gordon Brown in 2010, a healthy and robust selection process was used. Diane Abbott, a long serving Labour backbencher, stood in the election and was consistently dismissed by the mainstream media and political pundits. But she brought issues to the fore that needed to be heard in the Labour Party itself. As a black woman and a staunchly Left MP, she represented a huge part of the population that is consistently marginalised in British politics. She didn't win but when Ed Miliband won the election he appointed Abbott as a front bench Shadow Health Minister.
A run in the primary election by one of the Māori MPs could produce similar outcomes, and may end up with that candidate being elected Deputy Leader. I’m not of the view that Shane Jones could do this effectively as he is despised by other minorities in the party and probably most of the female members. It’s unlikely if even the Māori caucus would unite around Shane Jones. Nanaia Mahuta appeared on Te Karere and said she thought David Cunliffe was ready to go as leader and that she didn't see Jones as one of his supporters. This made it clear that she wasn't pushing for a run by Shane Jones. 

But in my view, she and the other Māori MPs should consider a run. Louisa Wall and Moana Mackey would also be well placed to do this. As John Tamihere pointed out in the above video, they aren't going to realistically win the election. But they could ensure kaupapa Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi are firmly on the Labour Party’s agenda.

Māori have supported the Labour Party for over 80 years, but in recent years Māori support  has been taken for granted. It's time for a Māori voice in a leadership position.

UPDATE: Duncan Garner has announced on Twitter that Shane Jones is in the race. While it's pretty clear I'm not one of his fans, good on him all the same. At least one Māori MP is in the race. It will be interesting to see if the Māori caucus support him.

P.S - this also raises another question; should Haare Williams stand for Parliament? He would be an ideal candidate for Labour and add real depth to their Māori caucus. He may feel that his efforts are more needed on the organisational side of the party, but he could be an excellent Labour MP if he wanted to be. There are rumours going around that Shane Jones may not stand in Tāmaki Makaurau. Is this because Williams is considering a run, or is Shane Taurima angling for it?

Post by Jack McDonald

Aug 24, 2013

Shane Jones, oil drilling and sustainable development

Last month while on a visit to Taranaki with Andrew Little, Shane Jones made his latest attack on the Green Party. Taranaki is one of the biggest parts of my electorate Te Tai Hauāuru and is where I whakapapa to.

Jones, in his capacity as Labour’s Māori Affairs and Regional Development spokesperson thought it appropriate to distance Labour from the Greens so called “anti-development” agenda.

Jones seems to think that oil drilling and gas exploration are popular in Taranaki, even though they aren't on the East Coast. Well, Mr Jones is simply wrong. We as Māori, whether we are from Taranaki, Gisborne, Kaitaia or Dunedin, have a fundamental commitment to the protection of Papatuānuku.

What makes his argument even more disingenuous is that the Greens don't even oppose most shallow oil drilling in Taranaki. We oppose risky deep sea oil drilling that has no adequate environmental safeguards. We do support a moratorium on fracking and we know that the oil and gas industry is not the answer to our youth unemployment problem.

By painting the Greens as the opposition to economic development on the basis of their opposition to oil drilling, Jones is doing a disservice to prominent Māori values and perspectives. Māori and the Greens have a holistic world view. We can’t have a prosperous economy and high quality of life without a healthy environment at its foundation.

So these comments from Jones really won’t fly in Te Tai Hauāuru:

"Sustainability is as much about sustaining the livelihood of people as it is about guarding the ecological habitat of the Hochstetter's frog. As long as I am in politics as a Maori politician I am going to be unambiguous in standing up for jobs and people,"

The Greens do stand up for jobs and people, consistently. Indeed their track record on these issues is much stronger than Shane Jones’. Sustainable development and jobs aren't mutually exclusive concepts. They work hand in hand.

Interestingly, Mr Jones also said that ‘he occasionally found common cause with New Zealand First it was only with the aid of a telescope that he might do the same with the Greens’. So he would prefer to work with a party that is consistently anti Māori rights and self-determination than with the Greens who present a vision completely compatible with kaupapa Māori. This is astounding.

Labour really needs to rein in Shane Jones if a coalition between Labour and the Greens is seen to be palatable for voters. Labour won’t enter Government with New Zealand First alone.

Most of Jones’ own party seems to understand this, including the Māori caucus. Moana Mackey, who is Labour’s spokesperson for Energy, has been critical about the lack of regulation and safeguards in place for deep sea oil drilling and Meka Whaitiri MP for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti came out against it during the by-election campaign. In her maiden speech she said:

“Regional development is critical to the success of the nation’s sustainable economic growth, and more needs to be done at the regional level. In Ikaroa-Rāwhiti it is about people as much as it is about market drivers. 
Oil exploration and dams that wipe out complete valleys are not sustainable. There are alternatives, and greater investment in regional research and development will show that. Developing high-level strategic goals with community movers and shakers encourages ownership and, therefore, commitment.”

Well said. This is such a stark contrast with Jones’ vews. Maybe Labour should make Whaitiri there Regional Development and Māori Affairs spokesperson. Her attitude is more in step with the times we live in.

Labour's new leader is going to have to provide clarity on their deep sea oil drilling policy and their wider economic development framework.

The key to the future of the Māori economy is investment in research and development and Māori innovation. Global investment in clean energy will reach $800 billion by 2015. It would be transformative for the Māori economy if we could get even just a small piece of this action.

Post by Jack Tautokai McDonald

Aug 7, 2013

Dirty words: (re)distribution

Meka delivered her maiden speech on Tuesday. I’ve embedded it below:

It’s a proud day for her, her whanau, hapu, iwi and Ikaroa-Rawhiti. All power to her.

However – and this isn’t necessarily a criticism – a Maori Party MP could've delivered the speech without without fuss. On close examination there’s little that separates Labour’s Maori Caucus from the Maori Party. The divide is more circumstantial than ideological. The greater divide is between Mana and Labour. Mana offers a working class critique of Maori society and the Maori economy. Generally speaking, Labour favours the capitalist co-option approach that the Maori Party has adopted.

There’s a wealth of talk over the “Maori economic renaissance”, but precious little discussion on how we can ensure the fair distribution of the benefits of that renaissance. Iwi should have strategies to avoid replicating inequality. We don’t want the gap between Maori and non-Maori replicated on a micro-level or iwi level. The discourse has to shift and include development and fair distribution.

Jul 12, 2013

Labour and National tag team on the MASC

I’m disappointed. RNZ reports:

The Maori Party is staggered at Labour and National's decision to put a stop to a proposed inquiry into how the 2007 Urewera raids affected local communities. 
Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell says the parties gave no explanation about why they don't want an inquiry into the aftermath of Operation Eight.

Shane Jones offered an explanation to Waatea:

Labour’s Māori Affairs spokesperson, Shane Jones, says getting the commissioner of police in front of the Māori Affairs Select Committee will be more useful than an all out inquiry into the Operation Eight Urewera raids.

A Maori Affairs Select Committee inquiry would reflect poorly on the last Labour government (and taint the current Labour opposition). An inquiry would reveal the human cost of the raids and the trials. Labour has to oppose the inquiry out of self-interest.

National’s motives aren't noble either. An inquiry is an opportunity to “terrorise [their] political opponents”, but an inquiry that revealed the extent of the suffering and injustice would strengthen the moral and legal claim to compensation. Compensation – if it happens – must be given on the government’s terms.

Te Ururoa has taken a principled stand. Credit where it’s due. Labour’s solution - an interrogation of the Police Commissioner - is not the same as investigating the effects the raids and trials had on the affected communities. It's a weak excuse. The Independent Police Conduct Authority released a damning report into the legality of the raids, but if the Police are to be held properly accountable against their actions the extend of the human suffering must be revealed.

Jul 3, 2013

Maori politics: crises, opportunities and the Greens

I was born in 1991. In 1991 Pita Sharples was working across the public service and he was a visiting professor at Auckland University. In 1991 Pita Sharples was working with and for Maori. In the decades before 1991, Pita Sharples was working with and for Maori. He’s still working with and for Maori. For that, he has my deepest respect.

Though service is the rent we pay for living. Pita Sharples’ record of service is long and it's his time to step down.

Crisis versus opportunity

There are two views on Pita’s resignation: that it represents a crisis in the Maori Party or that it presents an opportunity for political renewal.

Well, political crisis’s trigger resignations, but vacancies come with opportunities.

Generational change will create a break from the political period that Turia and Sharples embody. The post-settlement era is close and the Maori renaissance era is closing. The Maori Party must use the leadership change (and the ideological and personnel openings that that change creates) to renegotiate the contract between their party and the Maori electorate.

That means recreating the Maori Party’s political identity. The party was founded in opposition to the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 and based on the premise that the party wasn’t left or right – it was Maori. 

In other words, the Maori Party was a pan-Maori political party. That has failed. The Maori political landscape has fragmented (Mana has split to the left, Labour might be “rising” and the Greens are emerging). The Maori Party doesn’t have to accept the left/right dichotomy, but it must carve a coherent position (e.g. tino rangatiratanga for the post-settlement era). There is space for a kaupapa Maori party – that is independent (and is seen to be). The Maori Party, in its current arrangements at least, is not (and is not seen to be). A leader who doesn’t hold a ministerial warrant (e.g. Te Ururoa) is better positioned to reclaim the party’s independence.

However, the great barriers are that the Maori Party is accountable against its record and Pita Sharples helps anchor the Maori Party’s remaining support. He’s Papa Pita – one of the most trusted Maori MPs. Pita has to leave on his own terms. If his resignation is seen to be forced that will compromise the mana of the man and the party. In that sense, the resignation poses its consequences.

Who deserved the blame?

It’s unfair that Pita has shouldered the blame. Na Raihania’s poor placing in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti byelection was not solely a reaction against the leadership battles in the Maori Party. The party’s troubles are more deep rooted.

If you view politics as a horse race it’s tempting to identify leadership battles, disunity and the back-and-forth of the political process as reasons for the poor showing of party X or politician Y. Reality is more complicated.

Doubts developed in the Maori Party’s first term. The party entered government on a high. Te Tai Tonga elected a new Maori Party MP and a “mana-enhancing” deal was reached with the Prime Minister and the National Party. After the conflict of the previous four years, 2008 felt positively peaceful.

When in Rome, do as the Romans. When in government, don't always do as the government. From 2008 to 2011 the fatal narrative crept in and solidified: that the Maori Party wins had been more symbolic than substantive and that a vote for the Maori Party is a vote for National. Colin James encapsulated it well in arguing that the Maori Party is and was seen as National’s “proxy” in the Maori seats.

The party swallowed its defeats, but its wins weren’t seen to neutralise the eroding trust that the defeats had triggered. The debacle over the Rugby World Cup broadcasting rights, a defeat for Maori seats on the Auckland Council and bad faith in the Tuhoe settlement negotiations contributed to the idea that the Maori Party was part of a mana-diminishing deal. The party also voted for unpopular pieces of legislation (e.g. the ETS) and (consistent with their supply and confidence agreement) a budget that Maori opposed. The Maori Party’s strength is that it’s independent and accountable to Maori (c.f. Labour). But its independence was beginning to be questioned.

In 2010 the negative narratives started developing and the consensus within the party begun unravelling. Hone Harawira tried to cross the floor against budget 2010 and he appeared increasingly isolated. In early 2011 the consensus broke when Hone – after taking a swipe against the Maori Party in the Sunday Star Times – was expelled. The Maori Party split right and Hone (soon to become the Mana Party) split left with prominent Maori Party members (including Annette Sykes, Angeline Greensill and Mereana Pitman) too. The narrative that a vote for the Maori Party is a vote for National solidified and Maori politics divided along class lines. Mana carved a position for the Maori working class and (mostly by omission) the Maori Party was seen to be the party for iwi and the Maori middle class.

Accepting a deal with the National Party was always a risk. Although Labour’s vote had been trending downwards, the Maori electorates remained overwhelmingly left. There was little affection for National, but a grudging acceptance that Maori should operate across the political acceptance. Tough circumstances (e.g. high Maori unemployment) took that acceptance to its limits and in 2011 it broke. With this in mind, the decline of the Maori Party is best traced to 2011 – when the narratives solidified, Hone steered half of the party left and broke Maori politics along class lines - rather than contemporary leadership trouble.

Te Ururoa is the heir apparent

Te Ururoa Flavell is the ideal leader for the contemporary Maori Party: pragmatic and respected across the left and right. He also offers continuity post-Turia/Sharples and a generational change.

However, the party must consider whether their interests are better represented by an external leader. A leader who isn’t tainted by the debacles in 2011 or the leadership disunity in 2012 and 2013. Rawiri Taonui has identified Naida Glavish as a potential leader. If she were elected that would be a platform for her to succeed Pita in Tamaki Makaurau.

Alternatively, a co-leadership arrangement. Glavish as the female leader and Te Ururoa as the male leader. That gives Te Ururoa the position he has been seeking for (literally) years and Glavish represents a break from the toxic period 2008-2011. Rahui Katene has indicated that she is interested in co-leading the party too. However, Rahui wasn't reelected as the MP for Te Tai Tonga in 2011. She does not represent the clean break that Glavish does. Glavish is the clean break, Te Ururoa is the continuity.

Tamaki Makaurau has fallen

Unless the Mana and the Maori Party come to a deal, say the Maori Party runs Glavish and Mana runs a party vote campaign, then Tamaki Makaurau will fall to Labour.

In 2008 Pita won a 7000 vote majority and the Maori Party secured 28% of the party vote. In 2011 Shane Jones came within 1000 votes of unseating Pita and the Maori Party secured 14% of the party vote. The Mana Party secured (literally) half of the Maori Party’s 2008 vote.

The new Maori Party candidate is not guaranteed to inherit Pita’s vote. The vote will fragment further and the Labour candidate (Shane Jones isn’t guaranteed) will storm through the middle. If Mana and the Maori Party want Tamaki Makaurau to remain with a kaupapa Maori Party then they must come to an arrangement.

Te Tai Hauauru might not fall
Ken Mair has been named as a potential replacement. I think he can win. He has the name recognition and the reputation (he is a respected activist and isn’t tainted by association with the National Party).

Of course, it all depends on how strong the field is. A stronger Mana candidate might cannabilise the Maori Party vote and Jack Tautokai McDonald (assuming he stands again) is well placed to increase his share of the vote. It’s too early to call, but I think Te Tai Hauauru remains winnable for the Maori Party.

The Greens are rising?

The beneficiary might not be Mana or Labour, but the Greens. Mana could be perceived as too close (and partly responsible for) the toxicity in Maori politics. Labour is stable, but associated with the foreshore and seabed era. The same is not true of the Greens.

The Greens are now an accepted part of Maori political discourse. The Treaty is at the heart of the party and its policy is aimed at equality. After 173 years of inequality, Maori are hungry for structural change and the equality that the Greens promote.

The party affirmed its commitment to Maori in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti belection and Metiria Turei has been a consistent and prominent voice on Maori issues. If Maori voters are shopping around for a replacement, the Greens are the best alternative. The Greens are rising? 

Jun 20, 2013

Meka will win Ikaroa-Rawhiti: discuss...

I’m suffering from cognitive dissonance. I know – I feel – that Meka’s going to win. The momentum is with Te Hamua, though.

John Minto isn’t wrong to write that “most pundits are picking the seat as Labour’s to lose, on the ground the feeling is very different. If I was a betting man I’d put money on Te Hamua to win”. Mana Poneke has been and is knocking on doors and discovering that most households are committed to voting for Te Hamua. I’ve received several emails (thank you) arguing that I’ve misread the electorate. Maybe I have.

Byelections turn on, well, turnout. That’s where Labour’s at an advantage. The future is micro-targeting. Labour gets that. Micro-targetting requires 1) knowledge of who and where your voters are and 2) the right messaging.

As bad as Labour’s messaging has been (“we will organise, mobilise and terrorise”), the party knows who and where its habitual voters are. Even putting terror and immigration comments aside, Labour and Meka are still at a messaging advantage. Meka can credibly frame herself as the successor to Parekura’s legacy and she can position herself to inherit the affection that Parekura earnt.

Requesting a copy of the electoral roll with the names and addresses of every person enrolled in Ikaroa-Rawhiti – as I believe Mana, the Maori Party and the Greens do - is is an exercise in hit and miss. Political campaigns are about the allocation of scare resources. Sending your human resources on door knocks that don’t guarantee a political return can be wasteful. Having said that it appears that Mana has a good hit rate.

However, on the issues, the field is even: jobs, housing and health and local issues like empty state homes in Maraenui, erosion on the East Coast, oil exploration in Dannevirke and school closures in Gisborne favour no one.

I might be horribly wrong (wouldn’t be the first time) and this election might not depend on turnout at all. I’m open to people sharing their experiences on the ground. The comments section is open.

May 22, 2013

An update on Ikaroa-Rawhiti

The race for Ikaroa-Rawhiti is taking shape. Let me trace the contours:


With scarce resources and limited time Mana needed a name candidate. I think that’s why Te Hamua edged out Leon Hawera. Although Leon offered a better political mind (apparently), Te Hamua offered name recognition and street appeal.

Low turnout out will work against Mana, Bomber’s right to argue that it’s a race for second place. To win the momentum Mana needs to supplant and be seen to supplant the Maori Party as the independent Maori voice.

Te Hamua needs play off of his street appeal (the “Haati Naati” stuff). If he can do that effectively turnout will increase (I assume) and so too the chances of snatching second place. For his sake I hope he backs off any talk of marijuana.

The Maori Party

Na Raihania carries himself well, but that’s not enough to win. He was gracious and able in 2011, but the structure of the electorate hasn’t change - overwhelmingly Labour.

The Maori Party is running to win. The party needs to build momentum off of their budget wins and the byelection is the platform to do so. The problem, though, is that the party’s narratives are vulnerable. The ‘at the table’ argument is easily undermined against the ‘under the table’ narrative. In other words, the party can point to their wins, like $34m in new funding in budget 2013, but that is nullified against the context, $34m represents less than 4% of new funding in budget 2013.

Add to that inferior branch operations (in comparison to Labour at least) and the mana and affection Parekura had earnt (that will mostly flow to the Labour candidate) and the Maori Party seems better off going for silver.

The Greens

The Greens are serious about the Maori vote. Good. Standing demonstrates that their commitment to kaupapa Maori is more than rhetorical.

I wouldn’t have a clue who they have in mind, Manu Caddie is happy in local government, but I’d caution against parachuting in Metiria Turei. She’s more than capable, but without strong whakapapa connection it’s difficult to win legitimacy.*

The Greens role in the byelection will be, I think, to keep Labour honest. In the race for second place (i.e. between Mana and the Maori Party) there is a chance that Labour will gallop through the middle of a clear field. That’s not healthy and that’s where the Greens will be most important.


The byelection will be won or lost in the selection hui. Four candidates have stepped forward: Hayden Hape, Henare O’Keefe, Meka Whaitiri and Shane Taurima. All four are capable of winning the seat. The smart money is on Meka and Shane.

Hayden Hape is capable, but the indications are that he isn’t ready and lacks the recognition that the other three enjoy.

Henare O’Keefe is a legend. With local government experience (as a Hastings District Councillor) and a deep commitment to Maori (he’s fostered hundreds of kids over two decades), Henare is hard to bet against. However, without networks in the party he can’t and won't win selection. Winning selection is mostly about political manoeuvring, the strength of your CV is secondary.

Shane Taurima suffers from the same problem: a lack of networks in the party. The difference between Shane and Henare, though, is that Shane knows how to play the selection and is being well advised. He has leveraged off of the media and is signing up new members too. Aside from running a smooth operation, Shane's communication skills and wide whakapapa connections are his biggest assets.

Meka offers wide whakapapa connections as well, although her central strength is her iwi experience. Arguably an ideal candidate for post-settlement Maori society. Meka is signing up new members and is well advised too. Shane is a favourite, but Meka is more of a favourite (if that makes sense). She is a better sell on the ground and Shane - whether justified or not - is perceived to be a candidate that the Labour leadership is attempting to parachute into the electorate. That perception might be fatal if Shane is selected.

Lastly, if you want to be the first to find out who the winning Labour candidate is you can sign up here.

Final thoughts

This is a dry run for the Maori seats in 2014. An upset win is possible, but falls well short of being probable. Labour can win by default. The mana and affection that Parekura had earnt will fall to the Labour candidate. High turnout and the introduction of a strong Green candidate could fracture Labour’s vote and push their winning margin to the edge. Possible, but not probable.

*Turns out I was wrong on that one. See the comments. 

May 9, 2013

Shane Jones key to Labour's future

Hon. Shane Jones MP
Now Parekura Horomia has been safely buried next to his mother at Kohimarama in Uawa, the political world looks to Ikaroa-Rāwhiti to see who the various political parties will select as their candidate for the by-election to fill the vacant seat. I'm of the view that it will be a fairly straightforward election for Labour if they aren't complacent and don't take Parekura's large margin for granted. I don't think they will. They know better than anyone the dynamic nature of Māori politics in recent decades. 

In 1993 Tau Henare won Northern Māori and in doing so broke Labour's more than 50 year hold on the seats. This was the catalyst that saw New Zealand First sweep the five Māori seats in '96. Since then the Māori seats have been hotly contested and have seen some fairly significant swings of support between parties. But due to the unfortunate circumstances the nature of this election is unique. If Labour select a candidate who is believed to be able to carry on Parekura's local work and commitments then they should be pretty confident.

So assuming Labour do win comfortably they will be well placed in the Māori seats for the 2014 general election. But it's not just Parekura's position as Māngai for Te Tai Rāwhiti that will need to be filled. His role as the Labour Party's 'Chief' will now probably be taken up by Shane Jones.  As Annette King said in the Parliamentary poroporoaki on Tuesday, Parekura passed his 'baton' of political position within Labour to Shane Jones. There will now be huge expectations on Jones, whose career has had its controversies, but I think he is perfectly placed to respond to the challenges of the current Māori political climate. As he showed in his Parliamentary tribute, which was by far the best of the day, Maori statesmanship has not perished with Parekura Horomia. Jones composed a mōteatea for his "closest friend in the political world". It was a beautiful and moving waiata that confirmed that Jones himself is "a link with the old world", as he described Parekura on the day he passed away. Jones was intensely trained and educated during his youth by the kaumatua of the North. He has oratorical brilliance, an exceptional intelligence and a sharp political mind, all of which will be necessary for Labour to try and fend off Green and Mana advances in the Māori seats. The Māori Party will probably continue to decline further with the departure of Tariana Turia.

So it's almost certain that David Shearer will now give Jones the Māori Affairs portfolio, the position of seniority in Labour's Māori caucus. Even if Shearer and Robertson decide instead on Nanaia Mahuta, who has the Parliamentary experience, whakapapa and talent to be able to do well in the role, Jones will still be seen as the 'Chief'. This will help him if he stands again in Tamaki Makaurau as it would be a contest between the two kaumatua of Parliament, himself and Dr Pita Sharples, and also an electoral battle between the current Minister and probable Shadow Minister for Māori Affairs. Jones has the political instinct and nous, but Sharples has better established links with the electorate. If I were to hazard a guess more than a year before the election, I would put my money on Jones. Sharples' declaration that he wants stay in Parliament until he is taken out in a box, won't go down well in what is actually quite a young, liberal electorate.

Jones campaigning at Otara Markets in South Auckland

Jones' biggest challenge will be his perception within flaxroots communities. He needs to be able to convince low paid workers and community sector advocates that he is on their side, like Parekura did so excellently. He does not have the same working class background as Parekura Horomia, but his oratory and achievements do, and will continue to, endear him to many Māori and Pākehā alike. But if Labour really want to stop Green and Mana momentum in the Māori seats they will need to try and inspire the taiohi Māori vote. The 18-24 grouping is the largest in all seven of the Māori seats but many taiohi don't vote on election day. The Greens are relatively strongest in this area of the population and have a lot of potential in electorates like Tāmaki Makaurau, Te Tai Tonga and Te Tai Hauāuru, while Te Mana will probably continue to do well among young people in Te Tai Tokerau and Waiariki. 

Jones does have the potential to inspire young voters as he in many ways epitomizes Māori aspiration. He has worked at the highest levels of Māori and Pākeha society in both the public and private sector, while always retaining a deep level of commitment to tikanga Māori, reo Māori and iwi Māori. Be sure that Jones will do his very best to hammer the Greens and Mana in the run up to the election. However, his recent call for the re-planting of native trees in the North as part of a strategy to support the reforestoration of marginal land, shows that he has a high level of political discernment, because he realises that his attacks on the Green Party maybe seen as hostility to strong environmental policy. He knows that Labour can't ignore environmental concerns in the Māori electorates.

With the passing of Parekura Horomia the political dynamic of the Māori seats has once again changed. Shane Jones looks set to play a central role in the lead up the 2014 election and beyond.

Shane Jones' mōteatea for Parekura via Claire Trevett at the NZ Herald:

Ko te uranga o te Ra
Terenga waka torangapu
He waihoe tuku iho
Ko Apirana kei te ihu
Ko Parekura kei te rapa.
E Hina i te po hutea
E Tama te painaina
Hei a wai te hoe a Pare
Haupu a tini moehewa
He waka utanga kaita
E ahu ki te pae o te rangi
Ma te tai a Paikea - ariki
Te Matau a Maui tikitiki
Te Upoko o te Ikaroa
Tena te ripo kawanatanga.
Nana te ohaki whakarere
Whangaia a pipi patere
Kia ngata, kia mapuapua
Aue e Pare ngakaunui
E whakawairua kau iho.

Under a rising sun
A waka appears
A time-worn journey.
Apirana is at the prow,
Parekura at the stern.
Moon goddess of pale light
Sun god, we feel your heat.
Who takes Pare's challenge?
Driven by great dreams
His is a waka of legacy.
Fix your course
By the tides of Paikea
Past the Hook of Maui
To the Head of the fish
Where power swirls.
Your departing words:
Feed the little ones
To grow and flourish
Pare, of great heart
Your spirit enjoins us.

Post by Jack Tautokai McDonald