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Flavell: MMP and the future for Maori

5th Maori Legal Forum Duxton Hotel, Wellington Te Ururoa Flavell, Member of Parliament for Waiariki

Monday 31 July 2006

'MMP: Current Parliament 'make-up' and the future for Maori'

I am really pleased to be at such an important conference, being able to contribute to key developments in Maori law, including an analysis of the MMP environment and its implications on Maori. It is timely to be meeting here today, after the week we have had, in which the Labour-New Zealand First Government conspired together to delete the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi from law.

This Bill eliminates all references to the expressions "the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi", and the "Treaty of Waitangi and its principles" from all New Zealand Statutes including all Preambles, interpretations, schedules, regulations and other provisos included in or arising from each and every such statute.

It's an explicit elimination; confiscation; annihilation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, as the foundation document for the Nation. And it came to you through MMP.

The coalition document signed between Helen and Winston in October last year, put it in black and white - that Labour will support New Zealand First in the "deletion of the treaty principles" bill. The same Bill was put up I am told last year by Winston and was defeated with Labour voting it down.

So whatever feeble excuses are played out in the media, it was clear from day one, that the support of New Zealand First would come at a cost. The cost being Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which is the key source of the Government's moral and political claim to legitimacy. This is the Te Tiriti o Waitangi of which Sir Robin Cooke, the then President of the Court of Appeal said

"It is simply the most important document in New Zealand's history....a nation cannot cast adrift from its own foundations"

E kii, e kii. What mandate did this Labour-New Zealand First coalition government have to believe it had the right to cast Aotearoa adrift from our very foundations?

In a study released last year, 'Waitangi revisited: perspectives on the Treaty of Waitangi'; Ann Sullivan describes references to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in legislation as a key variable in accommodating Maori participation needs in a democracy. 'References to Treaty principles' have resulted in reasonably high levels of trust by Maori in government. And yet, less than a year later, Labour is prepared to sacrifice this trust by the retrograde action they took last week.

This is one of the crisis points of MMP in the 48th Parliament. A Parliament which was elected as virtually as a First Past the Post Parliament, with two major parties; and Labour forced to kowtow to New Zealand First for confidence and supply. Maori trust in MMP has been based on the concept that Maori participation would be far greater, our ability to influence legislation improved, by more Maori in the House. MMP - More Maori in Parliament.

And indeed in 2005, when 21 Maori Members were elected, comprising 17.4% of the Parliament, one would have assumed that improved Maori representation would influence the perception that Government is more responsive to Maori concerns.

But here's the thing - if Maori representation is muzzled by the branding of the party machine - whether it be Labour, National or New Zealand First, the party interests will always subsume those of tangata whenua. Another example, would be the Education Amendment Bill, in which the Maori Party put forward a number of amendments, to advance the aspirations of tangata whenua. Proposals such as:

Maöri owners who gave their land for education purposes last century and which land is no longer required by the Minister - should be offered back to the Maöri owners;

all kura kaupapa Maöri to retain Maori control of their special character;
the diversity of early childhood sector, including köhanga reo, should be preserved. Yet when it came to the vote, clause by clause we were defeated 60/61. Despite assurances made in private, when it came to the crunch, it was definitely a block vote against all our proposals. It was a vote against the Maöri Party and not against the proposed amendments. But in its effect, it became a vote against Maori.

An Independent Maori Voice of Parliament has the capacity to create change - but when the people vote predominantly for only two parties in their party vote, the added new strength of the electorate presence cannot be enhanced by the list. What the independent voice of the Maori Party has done in Parliament is expose the two-faced behaviour of Labour. They have belittled their Maori MPs who are encouraged to be staunch when they go home but are muzzled and whipped in to line when in Parliament.

In the 2005 elections, the distribution of list seats was no different than an FPP environment: 19 Labour, 17 National - while we were unable to secure even one. We campaigned on a 'two tick' campaign precisely to encourage voters to have the courage to use MMP to its full potential, and yet at crunch time, obviously that was too big a leap of faith for our people.

Interestingly, our research tells us that a 1999 survey revealed that nearly twice as many Maori believed that MMP was fairer than FPP as those who believe that it is less fair; and yet when it came down to the ballot box, Maori voted in conventional ways - overlooking the reality that there were actually eight parties on the list. Our commitment as the only independent Maori voice in Parliament is to encourage every opportunity for people to participate - for voices to be heard. And we are doing that on a massive scale.

We see every issue discussed in the House as a Maori issue. The history of Hansard reveals that for too long, Maori in Parliament have been restricted to addressing the negative social indices or Treaty settlements and that's about it. And yet we view every bit of legislation on the statutes affecting Maori as much as it affects every other citizen of Aotearoa.

It has been a shock to us to see how restricted the voice of the Government Maori MPs is. Last week, our staff asked the parliamentary library to analyse the speeches in every general debate, urgent debate, first reading, second reading and third reading of the Government bills, the private and local members Bills tabled in the House since the election last September.

The numbers were a real revelation. My esteemed colleague Hone Harawira and I both scored the record number of speeches at 27; closely followed by Dr Pita Sharples at 22 and Tariana Turia on 21. And then, a huge leap to Hon Nanaia Mahuta on 5; the Associate Minister for Treaty Negotiations, Hon Mita Ririnui on 2; Hon Mahara Okeroa on 1; and the Minister of Maori Affairs, the Hon Parekura Horomia, with the grand total of one speech delivered since the last election. While we have always been confident in our efforts and the work done by our small team, I was still shocked by the records - but the library never lies. That is how Maori who voted for Labour Maori MPs have been served - the electorates of Tainui, Tai Tonga and Ikaroa Rawhiti come to a total of seven speeches delivered in ten months; while the electorates served by the mighty Maori Party - reach a total of 97.

And that's only part of the work we do each day. If you were to add in to the mix our contribution in the Questions session of the House, in the health, finance and expenditure, education, and Maori Affairs select committees, in standing orders committee, privileges committee, business committee, regulations review committee, Parliamentary services committee just as a start, I think you would see that it has indeed been possible for a distinctive and independent Maori voice to permeate through every area of Parliament. Labour can only boast that during this term it has micro-chipped the dogs and muzzled the Maori MPs.

One of our greatest challenges as a nation and indeed as a Parliament lies in the test of breaking out from First Past the Post thinking. Tomorrow, the Maori electoral option campaign concludes after a four-month period giving profile to Maori electoral participation. Yet the Representation Committee that is established to consider the new electoral boundaries is comprised of two representatives - one of the Government, one of the Opposition. Red and blue again - with hardly a touch of green or brown or even black and white to be seen.

We have come in to the MMP Parliament as the Independent Maori Voice of Parliament. We recognise our indigeneity and the indigeneity of others as the strength of the many peoples who live in this land. We claim our difference and we speak to it.

When a Bill came up about a flea market and a skate ramp in Gisborne, a mere technicality, we required the House to consult Rongowhakaata and Türanga iwi. When a local member brought a bill about Manfeild Park north of Wellington, we asked,.... and what do Ngati Kauwhata think? When a notice of motion was brought to the floor about parliamentary renovations, we used it as an opportunity to remind the House of the history and contribution recorded in the Port Nicholson claim.

We look to our tikanga and our kaupapa to guide us in our responses. Our customs and traditions guide our behaviour both within our parliamentary offices and within the House - we desist from belittling others, we resist the party political point-scoring. We speak in our reo - our whakataukï, pepeha, and korero tawhito enhance even more our speeches, our histories are now enhancing Hansard.

We are adamant about the goal of realising the potential of all people - we ask the House not to eradicate principles, or to eradicate PC - but to eradicate poverty. And we are always mindful of who isn't there. We talk constantly of the 63,000 Maori families who are deprived of family support because of their position as beneficiaries. While we are not advocates of welfare dependency, we know that there must be real, tangible support in order to enable whanau to truly believe they are best able to determine their own solutions. We seek genuine progress in our nation where incarceration rates are not seen as a measurement of success but environmental health and cultural vitality are. We have an ambitious programme ahead of us. In this term of government, we will be placing before the House legislation to :

- repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Bill;

- entrench the Maori seats; and to

- introduce Te Tiriti o Waitangi into the oaths of allegiance. We are also developing proposals to address institutional racism, to reduce smoking illnesses and deaths by targeting tobacco companies; and we do all this within the context of a regular schedule of going back to our constituency.

We have returned to our electorates on nationwide tours three times since the elections - we know it is the people power that keeps us focused on the really important issues before us. And indeed it is hui like this, and the ideas and pressures that you will give us to think about, that keep us real. We love that constant dialogue with our people - and if you haven't already, make sure you add www.maoriparty.com to your list of favourite websites.

When we think of people power, we know that our greatest investment in the future for Maori lies in the hands of rangatahi. Rangatahi are tomorrow's parents, workers, leaders, lawyers, helpers, spokespeople and mentors. To ensure rangatahi have the ability, confidence and support required to fulfil these roles to the very best of their abilities, we believe a far greater rangatahi focus needs to be given across all policy and funding priorities. And as a Party, our commitment to rangatahi must see that when we next get to the point of elections, it will be rangatahi who are prominent in our list.

In closing I do want to talk briefly about a situation we as the Maori Party find ourselves in at present. I am aware that over previous conferences, there has been some time devoted to views about Treaty settlements. I see that this conference is no different. One of the key issues we have had as a team is working out how we vote when Settlement Bills come before Parliament. Settlements are so often held up as being the catalyst to this big, great, bright future of Maoridom. They are promoted as if all of this money will bring Maori into the promised land of economic self sufficiency and allow us all to "move on" in a spirit of good will, true justice and whanaungatanga, Maori and Pakeha.

Well this is certainly not my experience of settlements. My experience as one heavily involved is that of deception, divide and rule, manipulation, court. There has been physical confrontation. There has been on going tribunal hearings about:

* The quantum - the fiscal envelope
* The process to get to mandate
* The mandate process itself
* Post Governance entities

Some iwi seem to accept that they must swallow their pride. The political climate and use of Maori people as the political football at each election frightens many.

It seems to me that Governments will stop at nothing to get settlements and many of our people have become tired of the whole deal. Get in while you can even if you are getting ripped off. There may not be another chance we are sometimes told.

The Crown Forests Rentals Trust has a publication called "Maori Experiences of the Direct Negotiations Process" which provides some insight into the views of some who have been involved. Hirini Moko Mead of Ngati Awa, Greg White of Ngati Tama, Peter Adds of Te Ati Awa and others have contributed and basically confirm the trauma of the whole process. In our case at home, the things that settlements have brought us is division and mistrust to a point where those in leadership positions feel out of place even going on to some marae to tangihanga because of how they believe they will be received.

We, of the Maori Party absolutely believe that all hapu, whanau, iwi have the right to make decisions about their affairs as they see fit. This is the expression of tino rangatiratanga that we sing about and talk about on marae throughout the country.

We know however, that there are some gaps in the information that the majority of our people get about settlements. Should we allow the privileged few to determine the future of the many?

It is well known that the quantum amount available is set against the first settlements for Ngai Tahu and Tainui. Amounts are already known before negotiation. Is this truly negotiation?

The Crown has determined which areas of land have been land banked.

Pulling out of negotiations is to put you to the back of the queue.

Last week it was so ironic for example when Ngati Mutunga were acknowledged by most speakers for their, "generous gesture" in their settlement. Even they I am sure would say, it came down to a decision of a little of something is better than a little of nothing. Hapu, iwi and claimants seem to be resigned now to a process that they acknowledge is flawed and they feel powerless in this situation.

So how do we vote with Settlement Bills acknowledging the rangatiratanga of iwi to make decisions, against what we know to be inherently unjust, flawed processes and settlements? How do we vote for settlements that do deliver something yet we know that there are matters involved in settlements that are just WRONG?

My experiences of the courts are that they have provided arguments in law but do not really have an understanding how the people think. If you could provide some answers to that, it would be most helpful. One way would be to stop talking about settlements as grievance but instead as matters of justice.

While I believe that most New Zealanders are fair minded people, it is of great pain and anguish to me that little is said about the settlements issues except in court and yet things roll on now against the notion of "its in the best interests of the nation". I wish that someone besides us would speak up. Under the current climate, the treaty settlements process will come back again and again in the next generations. Replacing one wrong with a further wrong means that the issues will always be alive.

There's so much more that I could say. I do want to leave some time for you all to create some new policy priorities for the Maori Party work programme. Our commitment to you is straight up - we exist to defend Maori rights, and advance Maori interests, for the benefit of all who live in Aotearoa. In another two and a half years time, we will be taking this message again to the people. We will have a clear determination to get all of the Maori seats and thereby be the third largest political party. We intend to be the first limousine off the rank thus allowing us to contribute to the positive future for our people.

ENDS

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