I have sat on the Māori Affairs Select Committee for most of the last 12 years.
I love the committee, its work, its constituency and I especially love how it works differently than other committees, with a strong commitment to tikanga and a very collegial atmosphere. Even when Tau Henare chaired it (actually especially when Tau chaired it, if I am honest). We have very significant policy arguments but tikanga and our collective purpose as Māori MPs means we are pretty good with each other.
And I have seen terrible treatment of the Māori Affairs committee by governments over those years. Most notably the side-lining of the committee through the establishment of the Fisheries and Other Legislation Committee to deal with Māori fisheries law and the controversial Foreshore and Seabed legislation. At the time, Labour had no confidence in the MASC and undermined our role.
In the 6 sitting weeks since the election, National has outdone itself in its disdain for our work.
Firstly they put up Nuk Korako as Chair who is a nice guy but has zero experience working on a select committee, let alone knowledge of the rules in running one. We will find that our business takes more time to complete, despite his best efforts to learn the ropes. Then, contrary to the agreement last term, Gerry Brownlee is now scheduling debates on Treaty legislation in the House during our select committee meeting times. When we argued with Gerry Brownlee about this, his view was that the committee isn’t doing much so it doesn’t matter that our meeting time is being sacrificed to Government legislation.
And to top it off, the Minister of Māori Development wants the MASC to hear submissions on the Te Reo Māori bill, despite setting up an advisory group to tell him what changes should be made to the bill. As members of the committee, we will be wasting everyone’s time as we are responsible for hearing submissions on a bill that the Minister knows may never proceed.
Māori can be rightly assured that this Government, supported by the Maori Party, is intensely hostile to Māori interests. They display an astounding disrespect for Māori MPs, including their own, as well as for the work we do for our people.
The next three years for Māori, in policy and law, will go slow and hard.