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Operating Maori Values within the System - Turia

Laws 313 Maori Customary Law Summer Trimester
Te Herenga Waka, Victoria University of Wellington
Saturday 8 December 2007; 10am

Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party
‘Operating Maori Values within the System’
[check against delivery]

If I was to think of one day where I believe the Maori Party made a difference to the 48th Parliament, it would be the first day.

7 November 2005. A historic day – a day when a proud and independent Maori voice would be heard in te whare raiona – literally the den of the lions.

Our first priority that day was not a camera shoot on the steps of Parliament, or even the customary caucus line-up that has become a trademark of Beehive photo-journalism.

Our first actions as the Maori Party in Parliament were to walk through the Beehive, along the corridors of power, heading for the eighth floor of Bowen House – home of the Greens – where we paid our respects in honour of the late Rod Donald.

It was a profound moment from which to begin the 48th Parliament.

For in reaching out and appreciating the deep sense of grief of our Green Party colleagues, we were reminded of the essential values of kotahitanga, of manaakitanga.

These are kaupapa which recognize that people are our wealth; that harmonious relationships between people are vital in achieving unity; that the expression of aroha, hospitality, generosity and mutual respect are all behaviours which acknowledge the mana of others.

We talked, we cried, we shared memories and kai and then we walked together to the debating chamber to take our oaths in the new parliament.

The officers of parliament were all poised in the quiet stillness of tradition and ritual as MPs gathered to wait for theGentleman Usher of the Black Rod to announce the arrival of Her Majesty’s Commissioners.

Into the environment of silence, suddenly a sole voice broke the air. He greeted the House, he greeted those who had occupied the House before us, he greeted us all.

It was the voice of the irrepressible Hone Harawira.

While it would be fair to say not all of the MPs gathered that day fully appreciated the importance of the gesture by Mr Harawira, we are forever proud that the first voice of the 48th Parliament was the voice of te reo rangatira.

But it was also absolutely appropriate that our traditions, our rituals and protocols could be aired in the same way that the traditions of the Westminster parliamentary system are every day.

Into this bastion of ‘Western democracy’ it is truly fitting that the rituals of engagement known to tangata whenua firmly have their place.

I have taken some time to go through one day in the life of a Maori Party MP, because in many ways that first day established the pathway which we continue to walk every day of the year.

And if I could make one clear distinction between Maori MPs of other Parties and the Maori Party MPs it would be as expressed best by Labour MP Shane Jones. Mr Jones stated on Radio Waatea, earlier this year, that for him and his colleagues, they are Labour Members of Parliament first.

What he was expressing was in fact my experience as a Labour MP. That is, you cannot represent the indigenous voice of your constituency. You can only ever represent the ‘voice’ of your political party.

Thankfully, for us in the Maori Party, we never need to face such a choice.

We are Maori; our brand is Maori; our kaupapa, our tikanga, our philosophies and worldviews are those which have been passed down for generations, from our tupuna before us.

The challenge that Carwyn (Jones) laid down for me today was to reflect what it means to operate according to Maori values within the law-making process, both in terms of engaging with the parliamentary and legislative process and also the internal operations of the party in developing policy, and proposed law.

And in the spirit of first days, I want to share with you a statement I made in my maiden speech to parliament, on 26 February 1997,

“I come from a long line of Maori political activists who, despite their efforts, died without ever seeing their vision come to fruition.

My grandfather, Hamiora Uru Te Angina, my adopted father, Tariuha Manawaroa Te AweAwe, my mother’s two sisters, Ripeka and Mihiterina, all travelled with Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana to England on two occasions to have the Treaty ratified.

They were both snubbed and ignored by the Crown, on the advice of the New Zealand Government of the day. As mokopuna of these tupuna, we continue to feel those same rebuffs and humiliations”.

Operating with Maori values within the law-making process is about living according to values handed down by our ancestors.

It is about our commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of this nation.

It is in our respect for kaupapa Mäori, the foundation principles of the Mäori world, and the bedrock from which we frame the policy objectives and the methodology by which we examine each and every piece of legislation before the House.

Operating with Maori values is always being conscious of the legacy bestowed on us by those who have passed on before us - it is the attitude of gratitude with which we treasure the gifts of their knowledge left for us.

One of the constant criticisms levelled at the Maori Party is that we are focused on the past, as if that is a form of mal-practice.

We are indeed, in awe of the knowledge, the wisdom and the values passed down over generations, and we know the relevance this learning has to contemporary situations and future opportunities.

And so, when it comes to engaging with the parliamentary and legislative process, we bring to the Debating Chamber püräkau, karakia, möteatea, whakataukï, whakapapa and many other puna korero.

We have at occasion referred to the knowledge as expressed in our waiata; we have often drawn on the tatai – the genealogies that illuminate the key players in a particular legislative process - and we constantly examine aspects of our tikanga, our customary practices, to understand the relevance of their lessons for the matters before the House.

To take a recent example, theElectoral Finance Bill.

The kaupapa of the Māori Party most relevant to the Electoral Finance Bill are rangatiratanga (chieftainship), kaitiakitanga (sustainable protection of taonga), kotahitanga (unity of purpose) and manaakitanga (mana enhancement).

What we have talked about in our contributions through the Bill, has been that the pursuit of tikanga such as accountability, transparency and integrity gives expression to rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga.

Kaitiakitanga – the proper and responsible use of resources – demands that public monies should be treated with respect.

We endorse the call for greater transparency as we would hope this would ensure that political parties desist from the devious use of Trusts or Lawyers accounts to obscure the identity of donors.

The Māori Party has also opposed the dominance of third party election activities because we saw the influence of a very wealthy group opposed to the Greens and a Labour Government, and we ourselves experienced the deliberate misinformation by some Unions on behalf of Labour who implied we voted with National when statistics revealed we actually voted most with the Greens.

While the Electoral Finance Bill illustrates the way in which kaupapa Maori influences our analysis, the application of our kaupapa to legislation before the House, is equally important in determining the process by which we reach our analysis.

A particularly relevant example of a Bill that came before the House this year is the Human Tissue and Organ Donation legislation.

With this Bill, we knew the heat that this issue would generate within our whanau, hapu and iwi. And so we turned to our whanau, hapu and iwi for guidance in the way in which we should vote.

At the heart of the issue was the dynamic relationship between whanaungatanga – the collective rights and responsibilities – and whakapapa – our heritage from whom we descend, and what our obligations are to those who come after us.

Kaitiakitanga – the responsibility to protect the whanau, to protect whakapapa, to protect the hinengaro and wairua.

It was never an easy conversation to have. How could we sustain lives and protect the right of whanau to determine their own priorities? Even a small amendment to say that ‘informed consent should be within a cultural context’ was not accepted. Only a western idea of ‘informed consent’ was acceptable.

What we have witnessed in our time so far in Parliament, has been that the decisions made about a Bill progressing are based purely and simply on numbers, and on a western view of the world.

The controversialTrans Tasman Therapeutic Goods Authority legislation; more recently Treaty Settlement Bills such as Te Roroa; and even local Members Bills like the Waitakere Ranges Area Heritage Bill are all examples of Bills which the Government has parked rather than risk a humiliating defeat at the mercy of our four votes.

Applied calculations determine whether a Bill will languish on the Order Paper or be sped through the House.

49 Labour + 2 United + 6 Greens + 7 NZ First + 1 Progressives are constantly put up against 48 National + 2 ACT + 2 Independents + 4 Maori.

The game is all about the juggling of the numbers, playing bingo with the votes and hoping to make the magic 61.

But for the Maori Party, the mathematical equations of the party machinery have always been of lesser value than the set of principles which drives our movement.

As a Party, our principles, the kaupapa and tikanga of our worldviews, provide us with a philosophical basis for operating as politicians, as people.

I was interested in some comments that political commentator Jane Clifton made last year, when talking about the need for maintaining one’s principles as a basis for leadership. She said:

“One thing that distinguishes great leaders is a rather scholarly word: Authenticity. This is a measure of whether, given the need to compromise, adapt, take reversals, suffer injustices and accidents, a leader can remain true to a set of dearly held principles”.

Perhaps a perfect example of upholding principles at all costs was when we voted against theMinimum Wage (Age Discrimination) Bill.

At the first reading of this Bill we stood proudly to affirm the commitment that all workers, no matter what age, should be entitled to receive the minimum wage, rather than the Youth Slave Rates approximating to a mere eighty percent of the minimum wage.

However, during the select committee stage, Labour introduced amendments which dropped the words ‘age discrimination’ from the title of the Bill, and replaced them with the words ‘new entrants’, while at the same time, compromising the intent of the Bill to the effect that young people would not unilaterally receive the minimum wage, but had to serve an apprentice period as ‘new entrants’ on a lesser wage, for a specified period of time.

We saw this as a compromise that we would not suffer – and therefore opposed the Bill – earning the bizarre criticism from a Labour politician that we were ‘principled’. We were proud to stand so accused.

It reminds me of the comment Martin Luther King made during the Montgomery bus protests when he said,“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”.

I’ve spent some time today, sharing just some of the stories which distinguish our contribution in the chamber.

But it goes further than that.

Our kaupapa drive the way in which we run our candidate selection process; our disputes and disciplinary process must be resolved in ways which are consistent with the kaupapa of the party; our National Council meetings observe consensus decision making; our behaviour with other parties and organisations is motivated by our commitment to relationships with others which are elevating and enhancing.

We are very mindful of the need to respect the essence of humanity within each and every person we meet. It is that powerful sense of knowing that if I diminish you, I diminish myself. This has, we now realise, been quite a revolutionary action within the debating chamber. We have at all times desisted from belittling others - it was on the basis of such a belief that we were willing to promote and sign up to a Code of Conduct for politicians.

It has been of great interest to us to note that it has only been the Green Party, the Maori Party, ACT and United Future that have been prepared to sign up to standards of behaviour; appropriate codes of decorum-which uphold integrity, honour and respect.

Finally, I want to commend Carwyn for this day – and indeed for this course – and the alternative voices you will have heard from Ani Mikaere, Hirini Moko Mead, Moana Jackson and the other korero that will shape your thinking.

In recent months, the nation has been torn apart by a series of political actions which have threatened the alternative voices of our democracy. The terror raids on the people of Tuhoe; the passage of the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill and the Electoral Finance Bill all serve to place constraints on the freedom of expression of New Zealanders.

The Maori Party will always stand and deliver indigenous perspectives on community transformation. We will continue to present our analysis on the appropriate alignment of law, morality, kaupapa, justice and equity.

We will argue for the right for tangata whenua to have influence and authority over indigenous cultural and intellectual property,'te tino rangatiratanga o o ratou whenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa'o nga iwi Maori.

And in doing so, we will uphold our commitment to the dynamic partnership envisaged in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the natural tension between kawanatanga and tino rangatiratanga. For this is our vision, our aspiration; our core business – to promote the tikanga Maori House as the influential independent Maori voice.


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