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The Nation: Flavell Transcript


Simon Shepherd interviews Te Ururoa Flavell

Simon Shepherd: Nine months into your leadership, how different is the Maori party under you?

Te Ururoa Flavell: Well we tried to basically consolidate on the stuff that we’ve been doing in the past, sure there’s been a need to re-shape a few things and get ourselves prepared for the election. Ah, it’s basically been about consolidation, and planning, of course moving towards the election and getting things in place so that we present ourselves in a really positive light to the electorate.

You’re in a state of flux, you’ve got co leaders leaving, both the founding leader leaving and the party itself was sort of born out of the heat of the foreshore and seabed, that issue is gone, so is there room for the Maori party anymore?

I’d think so, I think that our record over the past five years, in being in a relationship with a governing party has set the scene for a belief, I think in the whole country that there is a part to be played by a Maori party in the politics of this land, that we bring a unique perspective to the politics of the country…um and that by way of the policy rollouts that we have been able to achieve, and in fact the financial amounts of that we have been able to achieve in various areas, that we have been able to provide some really good policy outcomes

I just wonder whether your relationship with National has been somewhat damaging for you, and if we look at some polling data since 2008, you can see there that you’re doing what? Less than 2.5% and trending down, since you’ve been in that relationship, it’s been damaging for you

Well I mean it’s not as if you’ve got too far to go I mean we’ve always polled at around 2%, so its neither here nor there in that sense

Our last poll had you at almost 1%, that’s almost a terminal figure

Well, the Roy Morgan poll told us that we were a little bit higher than that, so you know, polls will come and go, the bottom line is that we’ve been through a lot of history, up until this point in time, sure we were born out of protest, but I think our track record, in building on a relationship with the governing party, has set the scene for us moving forward and so we’re in a positive light

I mean, even seeing your figures within Maoridom, say Sandra Lee this week said, it’s going to be hard for you to survive, there’s a resurgent Shane Jones and Labour enticing Maori to go and vote Labour, Maori like to vote Labour don’t they?

Well they might do, but the bottom line is that people have to recognize this, I think they are, that in order to make some significant changes for Maori, then you must be at the table, now that means that means that either Labour is either going to be at the table, and the current polls say they aren’t going to be there, or else you settle in the middle as we do being able to decide one way or the other that either National or Labour could be a coalition party, and therefore make positive changes for our people, and that’s what we’re about

Okay so, whoever is at the table, so that doesn’t matter? Whoever wins it doesn’t matter. Regardless of the policies that they put forward, you are going with whoever is in power. That’s what it’s about?

We’re really clear that there are two major parties, National and Labour, and that in order to make change, you must negotiate with one of those as being the major party. Therefore we came into parliament on the belief that we wanted to make positive change, we believe we have. And the answer to your question is yes, we would like to line up with the majority party, whoever that might be

Regardless of those polices, even if those policies are abhorrent to the Maori party?

Well we can negotiate, of course you do, you get to that point in time after the election when you see; firstly you’ve got to be invited, if you’re not invited forget it, the second part is having been invited, then you start negotiations and say, here is some of our bottom lines, just as much as National or Labour will say yes, no three bags full

Who would you prefer? Let’s name somebody

I have no preference and at the end of the day it is not my decision, the decision that will be made will be made by the membership of the Maori party as we’ve done on the last three elections, that’s how we do it.

Okay, so if you do give your confidence in supply to a party, what would be your bottom line? What’s non negotiable?

Well there’s a number of things that you put on the table, the first thing is that our relationship with National has been about one vote and one vote only; confidence…uh, around the budget, will we have to do in terms of our relationship with National's vote with the budget, other than that, as we have done, we can vote against them or with them when there is good posit…

Sure but you’re not telling me, what the bottom line is

Well I’m not about to put that on television right here and right now, we’ve got an election coming up and we’ll be able to put that as the days…

What about your key policy of Whanau Ora, aye? Is that a bottom line because National says, yeah we’ll carry on with that, Labour’s not giving you a commitment on that

You’re right there, Whanau Ora would definitely be a part of the thinking that we have to be on the table when we move forward, and of course, if Labour needs us, if Labour needs us and believes that they must have us then they will certainly turn on that particular policy line if they have to I’m sure.

Well that sounds like a non negotiable even though you said you wouldn’t name one

Well, you know…you’d think that having put in five year of work to a policy line that has been accepted as being good for this country, that they would come to the party to support it, and would you give up all that amount of work to have it crash down? I don’t think so that’s why I'm suggesting to you that whanau aura is likely to be at the very top of the list

Lets talk about Whanau Ora, a key plank you know and that was supposed to be part of your mana enhancing and your sort of you know, your joining up with National, it wasn’t a billion dollar policy at the end, it was only a one hundred and thirty four million dollar policy, so did you really get much out of this ongoing relationship with National?

Well, Whanau Ora is about one of a plethora of policy gains that we’ve been able to make, I mean thinking back to budget 2009, we had 120 million dollars was secured by the Maori party, budget 2013, over one billion dollars secured by the Maori Party, so look we’re not just about Whanau Ora…we’re about housing, we’re about education, we’re about living standards, were about…certainly, and at the very top end things like the constitutional review

To achieve those you have to get back into parliament okay? Pita Sharples himself doesn’t think that the National relationship is any good anymore. At Ratana he said you know, maybe its time to distance themselves from National , well are you going to distance yourself from National? Because that’s what your co-leader is saying

No, no he didn’t say that, he didn’t say that…what we both said was that we recognize the fact that commentators; Maori and otherwise have seen that being too close to National , have suggested that being too close to National has done an element of damage to us, well…that’s debatable, but be that as it may, we’ve heard that discussion and we’ve said come what may at the next election we will do what we’ve always done, and we’ll go back to our supporters, we will ask them the question ans they will give us guidance from that.

Okay, can I put it to you that since you’ve been in there we talk about Whanau Ora and things like that, but jobs for Maoridom is not good, I mean the trend is going the wrong way; in fact if you look at the unemployment rate up to 2013 its now 14% 2008 it was 8%, its going the wrong way, you’re not delivering jobs for your people.

Well, lets put it into context where three members out of 59, have formed…that form a relationship with the Government , so you can’t heap all of that on us. That’s point number one. Point number two, what we have been able to do is identify that education is an absolute must in terms of moving forwards to jobs, and so we have secured on that line, we’ve secured apprenticeships, we’ve secured the Maori trade training programmes, where four to five thousand new people come through every….

Is that good enough? Are you getting enough out of your relationship with National, is that good enough?

Well no we’d always say that we can do better, just as much as if it were Labour we can do always better, but we have been able to, influence significant budget changes from a relationship with the governing party at this point in time, and therefore it comes back to the importance of having a relationship with a governing party

To have a relationship, you’ve got to have two co-leaders, you’ve only one Tariana Turia is leaving; who’s it going to be?

Well that’s still to be determined, at this point in time, our (not audible) says, we must have waihine and tane, and that…Tariana remains in that position until…

Shouldn’t she just step aside now so that the party has got certainty?

No that’s for her to make the decision, we hold her in huge, huge respect…and therefore the decision for her to step aside will be her decision

So her mana outweighs the interest of the party?

No, no, she knows. She knows what its all about, she’s been around politics for a long time. She will make a decision in the best interests of our party, I’m absolutely convinced about that, if its before the election…then so be it, if it’s not then we’ll be making the decision after that.

And one last question. The Kohanga Reo Trust debacle, the Maori Party was in there from the beginning in terms of drawing up the terms of reference and those terms of reference looked in the wrong closet for the skeletons

No, I don’t believe that, in the first instance we talked about state funding, that has been put to bed, it says that the state.. the state

What’s the difference between state funding and the funding that trickles down into TPO?

Well there is issues around the TPO, the Te Pataka Ohanga? I accept that, I think most people accept that and that both ministers, minister Sharples and minister Parata have moved towards getting the Serious Fraud Office to the bottom of it, and in that respect, bearing in mind that they only found out, and had confirmed in writing a compliant whenever it was, just a few days ago..

But they should have looked in TPO at the beginning.

No because the issue was about state funding and have they used state funding. I mean the minister’s outlined this, I'm not going to go back over it, suffice to say look I acknowledge this as much as anybody else that there are some issues to be dealt with, within the Kohanga Reo movement, and in particular about the trust, not about how everything happens on the ground Whanua is still delivering Maori language and culture within those environments as it has done, for over 25 years, that’s fine. In terms of that Trust at the side, there are concerns and I'm happy that the Serious Fraud Office is getting involved and all of it will come out in the wash at some point I’m sure

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