Mar 6, 2012
Maori Party complicit in attack on Maori rights
So the government has announced that s9 will be retained, or replicated according to Bill English, in the mixed ownership act (or whatever it’s going to be called). The new section will read: "Nothing in this Part shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. For the avoidance of doubt, ss1 does not apply to persons other than the Crown."
The first thing to notice is the wording “nothing in this part”. Read, the section will not apply to the entire act. Instead, the new section will apply to the parts of the Public Finance Act (PFA) that relate to the mixed ownership companies (the purpose of the PFA is here). This isn’t good enough. The government will retain a controlling stake in the new companies; therefore a treaty clause should operate on the companies themselves – not just the Crown in respect of the PFA. Read, a treaty clause should be inserted in the new act not just the PFA. After all, for all intents and purposes the new companies will be Crown entities.
The second thing to notice is that subsection 1 will not apply to persons other than the Crown. The government reasons that it is impossible to bind non-Crown groups to Treaty clauses. If this is the case, why bother to include a section that states this? Carwyn Jones takes the government to task on this matter.
The government also reasons that s9 as it stands applies only to the Crown and not the SOEs themselves. This is a strange claim. SOEs are Crown entities. A part of the executive. Hence the Treaty clause, hence the ability to OIA an SOE and so on.
This cannot be seen as a win for Maori. Joshua Hitchcock makes the point that s9 is weak as it is and that the entire debacle over retaining the section is an opportunity lost. Rather than having a debate about strengthening treaty rights, we’re having a debate about retaining the weak protections we already have.
Tony Ryall understands that the Maori Party is satisfied with the wording. Well, if that’s the case the Maori Party cannot continue to claim to any credibility as a representative of Maori. This is a weak outcome and not the one Maori signalled they wanted. The government comes out of this looking clean, but the reality is far from it. Contrary to media reports, the status quo has not been maintained, it has been eroded.
The Maori Party will, given their complicity in this, suffer the political consequences. Selling out on ACC changes, the ETS, the 90 day law and the Marine and Coastal Areas Act built the perception that the Maori Party’s principles are flexible, or in other words it built the perception that the party are a bunch of sell outs. Hone Harawira and, but to a lesser extent, Labour have exploited this narrative well. A refusal to walk over s9 will solidify that perception, or that reality as you could credibly argue. This opens the door for a resurgent Labour and a dominant Hone Harawira.
Maori are, without a doubt, better off because of the Maori Party. The party does a poor job selling this proposition, but most Maori know it intuitively. However, this is becoming irrelevant as more and more Maori begin to view the Maori Party as a waste rather than a use. The gains the party has secured this term are minimal and, so far, the losses are substantial. Attacks on s9, TPK, the Maori Policy Unit in MFAT and so on outweigh any good achieved thus far.
I’m confident in picking that this will be the Maori Party’s last term. Turia and Sharples are retiring and Flavell will be on the wrong end of an epic thrashing in Waiariki.