Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Send in Kenman

You're a new party, trying to get the most out of your parliamentary numbers. Coalition negotiations are tricky, and the party trying to put together a government has a lot of experience.

So you send in the best negotiator you can find, someone with a reputation for toughness and strength under fire who knows parliament inside out and can maximise whatever small leverage you have.

Fanfare of trumpets. Spotlight falls on … Ken Mair.
Ken Mair? Don't get me wrong, nice guy. Came out of the navy, got jobs as a probation officer, social worker, got involved in protests, some clever, some just plain dumb, moved back to his tribal area in Whanganui just in time to stand shoulder to shoulder with Tariana Turia at Pakaitore.
But is Ken the best the Maori Party has got?

Matt McCarten fell out with some in the Maori Party over its strategy of chasing the party vote (he was right, they were wrong), but could still be available to once again carve out an accommodation with Labour. Laila Harre is another experienced political negotiator who could give the novices in the Maori Party a sense of what to ask for and what to set aside for another day.

But no, cousin Ken is the man. Meanwhile Tariana has regular tete a tete's with Don Brash, despite her party membership's disquiet about that direction.

Tariana's perverse strategy gives more leverage to Winston Peters, who experience shows is not going to do anything to advance any of the causes the Maori Party holds dear.

Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira put out a press release saying the party's that consultation hui "consistently expressed their confidence in us, the four Maori MPs, to deliver the best deal that we could for our people."

That sounds like religion, not politics. "Trust us, we know what we are doing."

Harawira said the party has three policy priorities: the Foreshore and Seabed Act, the constitutional status of the Treaty of Waitangi and preparation for next year's Maori option.

Earlier posts have discussed the foreshore and seabed. Might I also suggest the party's focus on the constitutional status of the Treaty of Waitangi may result in perverse outcomes.

Short version. This debate has been around a long time. Matiu Rata, who spent his political career working on this issue, backed by decades of debate and discussion within Ratana about what needed to be done, eventually succeeded in getting enough of the Treaty into legislation to give it force, in the right circumstances. But he came to the conclusion that it was a bad thing to "ratify" the Treaty or incorporate it fully into legislation. Any number of reasons, but one stands out. There is a political dimension to making the Treaty work in a real, practical way, which would be jeopardised by putting interpretation in the hands of judges.

The Waitangi Tribunal, a standing committee of inquiry including what should be some of the best Maori and Pakeha minds, is the body charged with advising parliament on how the Treaty should be interpreted. That is a system that works.

The relationship between the tribunal, the courts and parliament is evolving, but it is not broke.

Rather than grandstand, Harawira and his fellow Maori Party MPs should reread the words of Justice Cooke and his fellows in the Court of Appeal's 1988 judgment in NZ Maori Council v Attorney General 1988 - in fact it should be required reading for all new MPs and for Winston Peters, who keeps claiming no one knows what Treaty principles are.

(If anyone can find a link to the full judgment, I would appreciate it. Meantime, here is a link to a Waitangi Tribunal paper on Treaty principles.


Blogger Steve Kerr said...

The 1987 'lands case' judgement should be here:

Enjoying your pieces - keep it up!

9:45 AM  
Blogger Steve Kerr said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:46 AM  
Blogger sagenz said...

On the contrary Mair is doing an exceptional job of bluffing labour about Maori/National intentions. short term gain means nothing. If laila harre negotiated a support agreement, none of the Maori policies would be implemented anyway. When labour/Winston fall out the price for Maori party support will be higher.

9:27 PM  

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