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July 23, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Political Porn With Hamish

Maori party Cry Wolf

Maori Party co-leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia are at risk of becoming the Parliamentary equivalent of the boy who cried wolf.

The duo threated to walk away from their confidence and supply agreement with the Government, following Prime Minister John Key’s comments regarding the urgent “water ownership” case before the Waitangi Tribunal.

This is not the first time Sharples and Turia have threatened to walk away from National. Back in January the Maori Party was “reconsidering” its position after suggestions that Treaty provisions would be discontinued under the Mixed Ownership Model. The Maori Party huffed and puffed then but National’s house stood strong. (http://bit.ly/ Q8OKOv)

The more recent threat (to be exact it was a lack of commitment to upholding the confidence and supply arrangement) resulted in a 9 pm meeting with the Prime Minister. The outcome was that National would not legislate over any Maori water rights, Foreshore and Seabed style–not that that ever appeared to be under any serious consideration from National in the first instance.

The Maori Party has now used the walk- away tactic twice for very little, if any, gain. The fact that neither threat was not followed through is not a huge surprise. The Progress Report’s Patrick Leyland noted that Dr Sharples told the New Zealand Herald in 2010 that the Maori Party hoped to be a part of any government, regardless of its leanings. “Actually, I got so used to the increase in salary I told the Prime Minister you’d better be good because if the other guys get in, I’ll go sell myself over there to keep my ministerial salary. I just got a new house, man – I can’t afford it on a backbencher salary so I’m up for grabs.” (http://bit.ly/NQGz35)

Other commentators have noted that it is more beneficial for the Maori Party to “be at the table” with the government than to join a multitude of parties on the other side of the House.

There are bigger issues facing the Maori Party though. It is a party at crossroads. We heard talk before, around and immediately after the election that Sharples and Turia could step down this term, bringing in new leaders and a new generation of Maori Party MPs. This plan, which was more than just pure media speculation as it was discussed by Sharples himself, now appears to be shelved. (http://bit.ly/MxdpvV) The heir-apparent, Te Ururoa Flavell, failed to impress when it came to selling his Gambling Harm Reduction Amendment Bill, coming out second best against the collective might of this country’s pokies trusts. The Bill itself was badly drafted and media had issues determining what exactly the 80 per cent figure referred to, so much so that the Waiariki MP’s office had difficulty answering that question.

Rahui Katene, the party’s other co-leader prospect, failed to hold her Te Tai Tonga electorate, losing to first term Labour MP Rino Tirikatene. Katene has attempted to keep herself relevant, criticising Tirkatene for referring constituents to a Pakeha MP’s office, in this case Lianne Dalziel, back in April.

The issue around asset sales won’t go away for Key but he was never going to compromise on centrepiece legislation for his second term government over the issue. The Waitangi Tribunal is non-binding and governments have previously ignored recommendations. This non-binding nature is arguably favourable for the Tribunal as it provides it with the freedom to make decisions without needing to consider the in-depth policy implications such a decision may have.

The Maori Party were, however, genuinely offended by the Prime Minister’s comments about ignoring the Tribunal, as they view it as a place to “relive the mamae and pouritanga of the past”. Dr Sharples blog, Honouring our ancestors, leading with our hearts, is a good read, and the link is here; http://bit.ly/Lzb81C. His party just simply needs to do better than crying wolf when it comes to resolving issues with National.

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