Maori Party is ‘finished’ says Shearer
Sunday 30 June, 2013
Maori Party is ‘finished’ says Shearer and talk of a challenge to his own leadership is ‘nonsensical’
Labour leader David Shearer has told TV One’s Q+A programme that the Maori Party is finished after placing third in the Ikaroa Rawhiti by-election on Saturday (June 29).
Labour’s candidate Meka Whaitiri won the Maori seat comfortably gaining more than 40 per cent of the vote, followed by Mana Party’s Te Hamua Nikora on around 24 per cent and the Maori Party’s Na Raihania on 20 per cent.
“I think the Maori Party is finished, frankly. I mean, I do think it’s going to slide away to nothing.” David Shearer said.
He said leadership issues within the Maori Party as well as being in coalition with National in government has damaged support for the Maori Party.
But Shearer dismissed his own leadership woes brought about after a recent poll showed support for Labour dropping and rumours he had been given two months to lift his performance or face a leadership challenge.
Shearer told deputy political editor Jessica Mutch that he had the full support of the Labour caucus and dismissed talk of a deadline to lift his game as “nonsensical”.
“I know what’s out there. What’s happening is a great deal of volatility and a huge amount of soft vote, and what it’s doing is sloshing around, and people are not focused on an election, they’re not focused on politics. They are moving around. And what we’re hearing is that the government is out of touch, it’s not listening, it doesn’t understand where people are. And they move to us, particularly around the policies like our affordable housing, build 10,000 houses, bringing down power bills, creating jobs through boosting our manufacturing sector. Those are the things that people want to hear about and want to talk about.”
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JESSICA MUTCH INTERVIEWS DAVID SHEARER
Listening to that interview [Meka Whaitiri] was the leader of the Labour Party, David Shearer. Thank you very much for joining me in the studio this morning.
DAVID SHEARER - Labour Party Leader
Nice to be with you, Jess.
JESSICA You needed this win, didn’t you?
DAVID Look, obviously we needed to win. Of course we were going out to win. It was our electorate. It was Parekura’s electorate, and, as you just heard, Meka’s going to be an outstanding candidate to take on Parekura’s legacy.
JESSICA Did she just win, though, because of Parekura, because of the Parekura factor?
DAVID No, not at all. I mean, this is the whole thing about this. She was up against two much higher profile candidates, certainly for the Maori and Mana Parties. She was virtually unknown around the place, and in four weeks, has been able to reach out and grab that electorate and really turn people around. And, you know, by the time the special votes come in, we’ll be close to a 2000 majority. That’s really significant, and when you actually look back at Parekura’s, certainly in 2011, he got a very big majority, but in 2008, he only got a majority of 1600. So Meka’s done incredibly well-
JESSICA But when you look at it, though, it’s not just her, is it? It’s the huge Labour machinery behind her. I mean, you were the only big party competing for that seat. You needed to win, didn’t you?
DAVID Well, we went out for it, obviously, Jess. You know, I mean this is our electorate. We’ve owned it for the last 12 years, and we wanted to carry on doing that, so we tried our best, and we didn’t take it for granted. I made that very plain at the very beginning. It gave us an opportunity too to get the Labour machine out and dust it off and get it working, which is great, because it stands us in good stead then for next year.
JESSICA Do you think that the Maori Party machinery hadn’t been dusted off for a while? Do you think that’s why they struggled in this seat?
DAVID I think the Maori Party is finished, frankly. I mean, I do think it’s going to slide away to nothing.
JESSICA Finished? Why do you think that?
DAVID Well, because they performed so badly in this election. Mana beat them easily. The Mana campaign out there was much, much stronger on the ground. We saw much more of the Mana people out there. And so the Maori Party really hasn’t fired. The leadership issues have been-
JESSICA Do you think those leadership issues were the main thing here? Because it’s now had to go around and explain that they weren’t completely linked with the National Party.
DAVID Well, there was partly the leadership issues and partly, frankly, that they’re in bed with National. I mean, I was at a house, knocking on doors yesterday in Gisborne. I met five very smart Maori women who just said, ‘Look, in the past, we might have voted Maori Party. They say they’re at the table, but they’re just getting the crumbs off the table. We’re not going to back them anymore.’ They’re going to vote for Labour. They want a party that will be able to get out there and really represent Maori, and so that’s what they went out and did. And that, I think, is the impression right across the electorate about the Maori Party. It’s finished. And, frankly, to be honest with you, John Key, when he endorsed the Maori Party and couldn’t remember-
JESSICA We’ll talk a bit more about John Key later. But, I mean, you-
DAVID When he couldn’t even give you the name of the person standing for the Maori Party, it was the kiss of death for the Maori Party.
JESSICA Looking at it from Labour’s perspective, you needed this win because of your leadership as well. You haven’t had a good week. The polls aren’t moving for you. What do you think’s going wrong here?
DAVID Look, the polls go up and down, and when I go out and talk to people, they never talk about the polls. What they do talk about is the fact that they’re not being listened to, that they’re working harder than they’ve ever worked before and they’re really struggling to pay things like their power bills. That’s what people talk to me about. They don’t talk about polls. And, in fact, when somebody was saying to me, ‘What were the polls five weeks ago?’ I couldn’t remember either. I do know that we were higher than we were at the moment-
JESSICA You’re 33 with ONE News poll.
DAVID Well, they’re bouncing around. I mean, let’s face it. I mean-
JESSICA But why aren’t people seeing you as prime ministerial material?
DAVID It takes time, Jess. I mean, this doesn’t happen simply overnight.
JESSICA How much time, though?
DAVID Well, we’ve got until the election next year, and that’s the only real poll that actually counts, and that’s the only one certainly that I’m looking at and focusing on.
JESSICA Do you have a time limit, though? I mean, this can’t be fun for you, doing this week after week after week. Do you have a time limit that you say, ‘If the polls aren’t moving, I’ve got to think of other options’?
DAVID No. There’s absolutely no- Obviously not.
JESSICA So that two months’ timeframe that’s been talked about, that’s not accurate?
DAVID Who says that? I don’t know who-
JESSICA Some of the MPs that we’ve been talking to behind the scenes this week have said two months is-
DAVID Well, nobody’s spoken to me about it, and I can tell you, I’d like to know who the MP is.
JESSICA Well, we obviously don’t reveal our sources for things like that.
DAVID No, but what I’m saying is anonymous people or a person talking like this, um, I’d like to have a chat to them.
JESSICA Is it hard not having the support completely of your caucus?
DAVID Look, I have the support of my caucus. I mean, the fact that you’ve spoken to one anonymous person, and I haven’t heard of any-
JESSICA I’ve actually spoken to several people.
DAVID …any of this before, I think, is nonsensical.
JESSICA I mean, for you, is there a limit where you say, ‘Right, if I go below 30 in the polls.’ Is that your cut-off? What are we talking about here? What’s your limit for saying, ‘I’m just not leadership material’?
DAVID Six weeks ago, we were in mid, upper 30s. That was six weeks ago. The fact of the matter is that polls go up and down. You don’t change things in every three weeks. It’s stupid. It’s ridiculous. And, actually, I think you would accept that as well. You’ve been around the gallery. This is not something you do without thinking about it-
JESSICA So you’re saying no panic yet, is basically your message? Is that what you’re saying?
JESSICA Yeah. In terms of when is enough enough? I mean, this must have been frustrating for you. At the beginning of the year, your polls went up. You were feeling a lot more comfortable, a lot more confident. And now they’ve dropped back again. Are we just going to see this see-sawing now until the election? Is that what’s going to happen?
DAVID I know what’s out there. What’s happening is a great deal of volatility and a huge amount of soft vote, and what it’s doing is sloshing around, and people are not focused on an election, they’re not focused on politics. They are moving around. And what we’re hearing is that the government is out of touch, it’s not listening, it doesn’t understand where people are. And they move to us, particularly around the policies like our affordable housing, build 10,000 houses, bringing down power bills, creating jobs through boosting our manufacturing sector. Those are the things that people want to hear about and want to talk about.
JESSICA So why aren’t they resonating then?
DAVID Look, it’s part of the political cycle. I don’t think it’s anything more than that. But there is a soft vote that was not there a year ago, and it’s starting to move. I know that six weeks ago, for example, that the National Party was looking at their vote in the low 40s and panicking. And they were saying, ‘How do we get out of this situation?’
JESSICA So they splashed some of that cash around-
DAVID Well, they splashed around the cash. Exactly.
JESSICA Almost tried to steal your ground a little bit, taking away some of the wind out of your sails.
DAVID Well, they did. They’ve thrown a few things over the side, um, come around to Labour Party policy, which is ironic, not through any vision, for example, for Auckland-
JESSICA It’s smart politics, though, isn’t it?
DAVID But not for any vision for Auckland. It’s just simply polling, and that’s kind of worrying when the only real vision that they have is what’s in the next poll.
JESSICA Isn’t polling important to you, though?
DAVID It gives you an indication, but it’s not about- You’ve got to look long term. You can’t look week by week, day by day. It doesn’t work like that. So, the Auckland issue is now the government has actually endorsed Len Brown for mayor, effectively. They have given him the election victory that he wanted, and they’ve promised stuff 17 years out. You know, $5 billion for a harbour crossing when to be honest with you, John Key is going to be in a Zimmer frame by the time that first brick goes in.
JESSICA But it’s those promises that they need.
DAVID But anybody can promise that. Let’s face it, it’s 17 years out from now. The city rail link he’s promising to start in 2020.
JESSICA But isn’t this what people want? Don’t they want to hear about the plan and the vision?
DAVID Sure, but there’s no vision. That’s what I’m saying. They have not come to this through any vision of Auckland.
JESSICA But the polls say he has got vision. (DAVID LAUGHS) That’s the thing. I mean, the Prime Minister, you’ve got to say, cares a lot about the polls. You must as well, and this must be difficult for you.
DAVID What I’m saying is that right now, the city rail link, which for the last four years the government has bagged and said it can’t work, it doesn’t meet its costs, over and over and over. It’s done an about-face.
JESSICA So they’ve gazumped you, really?
DAVID No, of course they haven’t gazumped me. It’s been our policy for the last four years, for heaven’s sake.
JESSICA But it’s taken away that power, though.
DAVID No, don’t be silly. That’s ridiculous. Honestly, it’s ridiculous. What they’re doing is they’re putting this out to 2020 and saying, you know, we’re not even in government, because they won’t be in government in 2020. Everybody knows that. They can make lots of promises about that. We will, if we’re in power in 2014, we’ll start that drill going in 2016 so that we can actually have a rail link that starts to work before 2020.
JESSICA But it’s not silly, though, is it, because if you’re a voter in Auckland, sitting there and you’re saying, ‘The government’s promising me the rail link. Labour’s promising me the rail link.’ It takes away that power that you would have had next year in the election.
DAVID Look, politics aside, this is good for Auckland, let’s face it. I mean, it is good for Auckland, and I’m pleased about that. The government’s come to this realisation either through its polling or through our policy. They’ve ended up where they are. That’s great for Auckland, and I’m pleased about that. I mean, let’s face it, at the end of the day in politics, what we do try and do is actually make a difference. And if we can get the government doing the same things as what we would like, with the same vision that we want for Auckland, that’s great. And the same thing with food in schools the other day. It was our policy, and the government took our policy.
JESSICA I want to just ask, just to speak to you about this leadership issue still.
DAVID Just let me finish this, because it is important. I mean, it is opposition. You’re obviously in opposition at lot of the time, and you put your policies up, and often, you know, they don’t get heard or whatever happens, but the government takes your policies and uses them for the benefit of NZ. I mean, that’s good.
JESSICA And you’ve got to help that that starts being shown in the polls soon.
DAVID Look, yeah, at the end of the day, the big poll is the one in 2014.
JESSICA And you’ll still be here?
DAVID Absolutely. And yesterday-
JESSICA I just want to move on-
DAVID We had a great poll. There were 10,000 people that went out and voted, and they voted for us.
JESSICA I want to talk specifically about GCSB. What do you think needs to change quite specifically for you guys to support the GCSB legislation?
DAVID Well, we think it’s been done round the wrong way. There are some elements of that GCSB Bill that obviously we support.
JESSICA So what would have to change for you to vote for it?
DAVID The toughening up, for example, of the Inspector General and the strengthening of that office. But the bottom line here is something much more significant, and the significant part of it is that there are changes which have occurred within this bill. There is a lot of doubt, a lack of confidence by the public in our intelligence agencies. And in addition to that, there are major changes that have taken place in cyber security, and what we need to be able to do is to give the public the assurance that we’ve got the best possible set up in order to ensure privacy, on one hand, and cyber security and whatever security on the other.
JESSICA But this is such an important part of legislation. Don’t you need to sit down with the government, put politics aside and thrash it out so that we’ve got a lasting piece of legislation that will actually go beyond the next election and the next after that? Wouldn’t that be a smart option?
DAVID What we’ve said is that let’s sit down- And I’ve said this to John Key. What we’d like to see is a wide ranging inquiry, and in 2014, if we’re in government, we’ll initiate that wide ranging inquiry. They did it in Australia. They actually got the terms of reference for the inquiry agreed right across the parliament, and they reported back to parliament. It was all very public, except for, obviously, the confidential stuff. And what I would like to see is that so everybody gets to see what our intelligence agencies are doing, the bounds in which we try and hold them within, and on the basis of that, we go forward with legislation. But at the moment, what we’re doing is we’re trying to ram through a quick fix that’s all around Dotcom and all those other scandals.
JESSICA We’ll have to leave it there, but thank you very much for your time this morning, David Shearer.
DAVID Thank you, Jess.