Māori Party Election Campaign Launch

October 29, 2011

Today saw the launch of the Māori Party’s 2011 election campaign in Whanganui-a-Tara with several major announcements, a few surprises, and plenty of fighting talk from the leaders.

The main talking point will be the announcement by Tariana Turia that she will not seek re-election in 2014.  While this will come as no surprise to followers of the Māori Party, it serves as confirmation of the end of a great career.  Turia has been an inspirational leader of Māori from within Parliament and her retirement will leave a massive hole in Parliament.  It also opens up a big debate over the future direction of the Māori Party.  Finding someone to replace Turia will be difficult, and the task will be even more immense if Rahui Katene fails to win the closely fought battle for the Te Tai Tonga electorate seat.  The survival of the Māori Party will depend on how well they can replace Turia.  Perhaps a few discussions should be held with the Green Party after their successful transfer of power from their founding leaders through to Russel Norman and Metiria Turei.

The Party’s list selection was the major surprise of the day.  The current MP’s have been placed down the list with Waihoroi Shortland (Te Tai Tokerau candidate) placed at number 1 and Rahui Katene standing as an electorate MP only.  This strategy is a huge gamble, with the Māori Party looking to signal to Te Tai Tonga Māori that now the only way to have two Māori MP’s elected is to vote for Katene as their electorate MP.  Māori voters are very sophisticated strategic voters so this strategy has the potential to swing the seat back towards Katene, but should this strategy fail, her political career is over.  It will be a sad end to a very effective, behind-the-scenes, MP.  The list ranking also shows a clear intent from the Māori Party that they are no longer intent on only winning electorate seats.  It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the Māori Party could achieve between 4% and 7% of the popular vote at a general election, a position which would bring in several list MP’s alongside the electorate MP’s.  By placing non-MP candidates at the top of the list, the Party is placing an emphasis on increasing their share of the party vote.

Policy wise, Radio NZ provides the following summary:

Radio New Zealandpolitical reporter says it will focus on three main areas: Whanau Ora, the Treaty of Waitangi and good government.

The Maori Party will push for a $16-an-hour minimum wage and is pledging to end whanau, or family, poverty by 2020.

It will also announce a new policy which would ask every Maori organisation to give two young Maori a job. It says based on current projections, that would provide 11,686 young Maori people with a job.

The tripartite focus is a strong platform on which to campaign, and reflects a forward-looking approach to policy prescriptions.  The problem for the Māori Party, however, is that this time around they are not only campaigning on their policy, but also on their record.  Their electoral fortunes will depend on how well they can defend their record over the past three years.

What will be pleasing to supporters is the fighting nature of the Party.  With attacks coming thick and fast from Te Mana and Labour, the Māori Party have responded with a clear statement that they intend to continue fighting hard for Māori and, in doing so, they still remain the only party in New Zealand doing so with a singular Māori voice.  Dr. Sharples was unequivocal in his statement that John Minto and Sue Bradford, while representing Te Mana, do not represent Māori and can not stand up for Māori.  If Pākehā wish to support Māori in our endeavours then that is great.  But the whole meaning of Tino Rangatiratanga is Māori control of Māori affairs.  The Māori Party understand this, Te Mana are not quite there yet.

The Value of Ngā Tāne Māori

October 28, 2011

The big story of the election campaign this week has been the release of Labour’s savings and retirement policy package.  Amongst other things, a Labour Government would gradually increase the retirement age to 67 from its current 65 by 2033.   There is little doubt that National Superannuation in its current form is economically unsustainable and programmes such as the Cullen Fund and Kiwisaver have been designed to address this issue.  What Labour have done is break an uneasy silence by the two main parties over the age of retirement.  Prior to this week, it had been considered an issue that, if openly addressed, would amount to political suicide for we here in Aotearoa/New Zealand believe in our right to retire at a decent age and with decent support from the Government.

What then to make of this policy?  From a purely economic standpoint it will prove to be beneficial to New Zealand over the long run.  New Zealanders are living longer, with the current life expectancy a shade under 80 years.  However, from a Māori perspective, Labour’s proposal is disgraceful, discriminatory, and totally negligent of the circumstances of Māori, most especially of Māori men.

Why? Because while it may be true that the current life expectancy of people living in New Zealand is about 80 years, the life expectancy of Māori is much less.  The average life expectancy of a Māori wahine is 75 years, compared to 83 for a Pākehā wahine.  Thus, a Pākehā wahine is rewarded with, on average, 16 years of superannuation benefits under Labour’s proposal, whereas a Māori wahine receives, on average, 8 years.  The biggest discrepancy, however, lies with Māori Tāne.  A Tāne Pākehā, with a life expectancy of 79 years, will be rewarded with an average 12 years of retirement.  A Tāne Māori, with a life expectancy of 70 years will only have, on average, 3 years of retirement.

Let that sink in.  Three Years.

With most Māori men entering the workforce immediately on completion of high school, their “reward” for 50 years of work, paying taxes and supporting their whānau, is 3 years of retirement.   That is what a retirement age of 67 means for Māori men.  The sad reality is that a large percentage of Māori men will never even reach the age of 67 whereby they can retire with all the honour and dignity that should be afforded to them.  Labour’s policy, while being completely blind to race, serves to discriminate against and denigrate Māori men.  Our lives are simply not as valuable as that of a Pākeha.

We need a new approach to superannuation and retirement which takes into account the wide disparity of life expectancy between male and female, Māori and Pākeha.  One approach is to set the retirement age at 85% of the life expectancy for your gender and race, with a maximum retirement age of 70 years.  Under this approach, a Māori man would be entitled to retire at the age of 60, providing an average of 10 years of retirement to enjoy.  A Pākeha man would be entitled to retire at 67, providing an average of 12 years of retirement.  A Māori female would be entitled to retire at 64 and a Pākehā female at 67.

Another possible approach designed to ensure fairness between Māori and Pākeha, would be to implement a two-phased retirement system.  Any person could elect to retire from the age of 60 with partial superannuation being paid by the Government, supplemented by the person’s Kiwisaver funds.  At 70, full Government superannuation would kick in.

Ultimately, however, the problem is not solely the retirement age.  It is clear that there are major shortcomings in the health of Māori men.  To have Māori men die at such a young age in comparison to other New Zealanders should be a cause of national shame.  Yet, to date, not one political party has come out and set forward policy to improve the health of Māori men.  The situation is not that great for our Wahine either, dying on average 8 years earlier than Pākeha wahine.

These ideas should not be seen as fully costed and argued retirement proposals, they are merely designed to highlight the need for fresh thinking in this area.  Fresh thinking is needed in order to ensure that the work and contribution of Māori men is recognised with a decent and honourable retirement period.  As it stands, Labour has this week told Māori men that they do not value our contribution to society and do not believe that we are entitled to the dignity of retirement.

The Start of the Election Campaign

October 27, 2011

Now that the Rugby World Cup is over attention can once again turn to politics and the upcoming General Election.  With voting only a month away this week has seen the de facto beginning of the election campaign.  As my focus here at Māori Law and Politics is with all things Māori, I invite readers to assess the policies of the various political parties on whether of not such policies will be beneficial to Te Ao Māori:

  • Does the policy recognise Tino Rangatiratanga through the involvement of whānau and hapū in the development and implementation of the policy;
  • Does the policy acknowledge and respect Māori rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga over whenua, moana and/or taonga?; and/or
  • Does the policy unfairly target Māori.
For me, the key issues for Māori to keep an eye on during this election campaign are:
  • Addressing Māori unemployment;
  • Addressing the economic well-being of Māori whānau;
  • Ensuring adequate housing assets for Māori;
  • Enhancing Māori education; and
  • Providing Iwi and Māori Businesses with the right economic framework to continue to grow and develop their enterprise.
Over the next few weeks I will be taking an in-depth look at policy as it relates to Māori and the impact that this general election will have on Te Ao Māori.

Māori and the Criminal Justice System

October 13, 2011

I am Māori and I can safely say that the Criminal Justice System in New Zealand does not discriminate against me.  Why not?

Because I do not break the law.

If you want a criminal justice system where Māori do not feel discriminated against then there is little point arguing about sentencing.  Instead, focus your energies on preventing your whānau from breaking the law in the first place.

An Interesting Definition of Māori

October 10, 2011

From the Māori Housing Act 1935:

Section 2A: Maori includes certain other Polynesians

For the purposes of this Act, the term Māori shall be deemed to include any Polynesian who is a native of any island of the South Pacific Ocean and any person who is a descendant of such a Polynesian if, in either case, –

(a) He is a New Zealand citizen; or

(b) He has lived in New Zealand for 3 years and is permanently resident in New Zealand.

This section was inserted in 1969, at which time it would seem that the Holyoake Government say little distinction between Māori and Polynesians.  I also wonder whether the definition of Polynesians was also intended to include other Pacific Island peoples, such as Melanesians?

Incidentally, this Act is a very useful tool for Māori seeking to finance the construction of houses on their own property, or on jointly owned Māori land.  As I have discussed previously, there is a clear market failure in the provision of finance on Māori land and this Act was a 1930s attempt to provide for state-financing of Māori housing.

What I am interested in knowing is first, if the market failure was as clear in the 1930s as it is today, then why have we yet to see a Māori solution, such as a Māori Mutual Society, to remedy the failings of the private market and provide for the unique characteristics of Māori land.  And second, how widely used are the funding mechanisms under this Act?  I have written to Te Puni Kokiri seeking their data on funding provided under this Act and I will let you know what I find.

Strong Support Evident For The Māori Party

October 3, 2011

There was good news for the Māori Party yesterday with the release of the Marae Digipoll showing strong support for the Party and their actions over the course of the current parliamentary term. The highlights from the poll are:

– 22.2% of Māori voters support the Māori Party;

– 27.7% of Māori voters enrolled on the Māori role support the Māori Party;

– 56% of respondents believe that the Māori Party have represented Māori well; and

– 54% of respondents support the Māori Party’s decision to vote for the Takutai Moana Act;

Conversely, Te Mana should be very worried about their poll results, with only 8.5% of Māori voters expressing support for Te Mana and the repeated attacks by Te Mana on the Māori Party and their support for the Takutai Moana Act and the National Government have failed to resonate with Māori voters. This is a very clear indication that very vocal minority support will not necessarily result in support from the wider electorate.

Te Mana even find themselves with less support than the National Party, not just amongst Māori but also with those enrolled on the Māori roll. As I have said many times before, Māori are not a homogeneous group and Te Mana appear to be making a tactical mistake in focussing on class warfare rather than on Tikanga Māori. The Marae Digipoll indicates that 40% of Māori support the centre-right pairing of National and the Māori Party. The success of Te Mana will, therefore, be determined by how well they can convert traditional Labour supporters to their cause.

Of course, the Party vote is only one part of the equation. Of greater importance to the Māori Party and Te Mana will be the number of electorate seats they hold come November 27. If the Māori Party can maintain their four seats then they will be in a very strong position to maintain their position around the Cabinet table for the next three years. On the other hand, a loss of one or two seats will require a dramatic overhaul of the Party and the injection of new candidates and new ideas. For Te Mana, the failure to pick up at least a second seat in Parliament would constitute a failure of monumental proportions. For all the talk, for all the rhetoric, it would be a big wake-up call for their high-profile supporters and candidates.

I look forward to hearing the reaction from the respective parties as the day unfolds. From the Māori Party, it will be a case of shouting the results from the rooftops. From Te Mana, expect to hear a lot of criticism of poll methodology. One thing that cannot be ignored is that strong support continues to exist for the Māori Party, and they will be pleased to know that the efforts and achievements of the past three years have been recognised and appreciated by a large proportion of the Māori population.


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