by Metiria Turei
I was at the announcement of the terms of reference of the Foreshore review yesterday. It was rather hard in some respects, seeing many people there who were such a major part of the campaign against the law and remembering what an awful campaign of hatred it was.
I heard the Maori Party clearly state that they wanted the bill to be repealed and their hope, expectation even, that the review would result in that. I heard John Key leave the door open but not make any promises. There was also reference to Tariana’s repeal bill and mention of her having resigned her ministerial position and leaving Labour over it.
I couldn’t help but wonder why no-one asked the question: “If National does not repeal the Act, will you relinquish your ministerial posts as you did before?” It is a tough question but needed to be asked.
The Maori Party is an exceptional political advocate for kaupapa Maori. But the Act is the Maori Party’s raison d’être. Anything less than a repeal (with a sop to public access) will give them serious credibility headaches. Could Pita and Tariana really stay on as Ministers with anything less than repeal and still be the principled MPs that they are?
The National Party will also be feeling the pressure. What if they were to lose the Maori Party from their government? They don’t need the Maori Party for votes, but they do for credibility.
The Nats are promoting themselves as able to work across the political spectrum, trying to woo Maori. They are purposefully looking quite different from the “last cab of the rank”, the much more defensive previous Labour Government. The Maori Party is critical to this image.
I hope that the Maori Party is seriously considering abandoning its ministerial posts if the outcome is a white wash and I hope they have said as much to National.
I can understand that they could not secure a promise to repeal the Act when they signed up to Government. They didn’t have the clout then.
But as more time passes, National is investing more and more of their future political credibility in the apparent stability and management of diverse political interests. They will not want to have the happy lovefest ruined only a year into Government. The Maori Party is at its strongest over this period of the review, if they remain willing to talk and willing to walk away. We could see the back of this legislation if they flex that muscle. I sincerely hope they do.