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Lisa Owen interviews Mana Party leader Hone Harawira

Lisa Owen interviews Mana Party leader Hone Harawira

Headlines:

Mana leader Hone Harawira says only exploring options with Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party

Harawira: “There’s whole range of areas in which we stand in common with the Internet Party as we do with the Greens, as we also do with Labour”

Stresses Mana won’t work with the Maori Party because he wants to get rid of National and the Maori Party has “made it clear they’re prepared to work with anybody”

Harawira says could fund his policies through increased taxation and suggests targeting ACC’s investments


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Hone: My role will be simply to set the stage, where the discussions came from, what brought them about and what Mana’s involvement has been in the discussions and then I hand it off to Kim Dotcom.

Lisa Owen: Will you be advocating for this deal, trying to convince people it’s a good idea?

My view is that we need to be as open-minded as possible in election year to secure as many votes as possible to grow Mana and any of the other opposition parties to try to get rid of National. If that means entering into a formal relationship with Labour, or the Greens, or the Internet Party then it’s my job as the leader to explore those options, and I intend to do so and to present them back to the membership for their consideration.

The reason I ask is - even you’ve said in the last couple of weeks – your membership has increased more than it has in the last six months, you’ve has lots of columns and newspapers and plenty of time on TV, so is it just a publicity stunt?

No, absolutely not. The opportunity to work with another party whose focus is very much aligned with ours in terms of greater access, lower cost for the internet, free internet into schools, new jobs - in helping people enroll to vote, getting rid of National, reining in the GCSB, stopping United States spy agencies from accessing private electronic data by New Zealanders, opposition to the TPPA – there’s a whole range of areas in which we stand in common with the Internet Party as we do with the Greens, as we also do with Labour.

I want to talk to you about those policies. You say that there are shared goals, but fundamentally aren’t you about big government and the Internet Party is anti-intervention? So, your shared interests seem to be quite shallow, aren’t they?

Well, given that you haven’t heard the Internet Party say exactly what its policies are in respect of government intervention in anything, I think you need to be a bit careful about the kinds of questions that you’re posing to me. What I do know is that the Internet Party is against government intervention in terms of stealing and accessing the electronic data of New Zealand citizens, so too, is Mana. In that respect, we are also against too much government intervention into the lives of New Zealand citizens.

But the Internet Party hasn’t come out saying that it wants to build 10,000 state houses a year for the next five years, it wants a tax on bad kai, fast food, hasn’t said it wants to ban cigarette or alcohol advertising. How is getting rid of the GCSB going to put food on the plates of people in Te Tai Tokerau?

Look, that’s my responsibility and I take on that responsibility as the leader of Mana to work with Labour, to work with the Greens, to work with the Internet Party, and in terms of feeding the kids, working also with New Zealand First and the Maori Party to try to get general support for that kind of initiative. Now, you shouldn’t try to narrow the focus and say, therefore, we shouldn’t be able to work together. My job as the leader of Mana is to maximise the spread, to broaden our appeal and show New Zealanders that Mana isn’t just an organisation that can be pigeon-holed into the Maori, the dispossessed and the activist. We have a broad reach, as all New Zealanders are now realising, desperate poverty is affecting more and more New Zealanders, no longer just Maori, no longer just Pacific Islanders.

What would your end goal be? How many MPs do you want out of this?

As many as is possible, no specific numbers in my head, but in terms of the focus of getting rid of National, that requires Labour, the Greens and anybody else to be working together, not against one another, to build the numbers of MPs we can get into Parliament. Mana’s focus, and I understand the Internet Party’s focus, is not to go after the votes of Labour voters or Green party voters, but to focus on bringing new people onto the roll and new people to the polls.

When you say anybody that would help get National out of power, does that include the Maori Party? What is your relationship with them now? Previously you were talking about announcing common policies on housing – it seemed like there was a truce – where is the relationship at?

Okay, does it include the Maori Party? Unfortunately, no, because you can’t get rid of National with a party that’s prepared to work with National. The Maori Party’s made in clear they’re prepared to work with anybody, well, our focus is to get rid of National, and the parties I’ve mentioned also have the same focus. In terms of the possibility of the Maori Party working with Mana, we’ve made it clear, as we did to the Internet Party, our relationship will be with those parties that will not back a National government. The Maori Party chooses to back a National government, the Internet Party won’t be.

So for the Maori voter, then, are you saying that the Internet Party is a better fit with Mana that the Maori Party is?

No, I’m saying the Maori Party has abandoned the hopes and aspirations of the many Maori people who voted them into parliament, and has in fact lost membership –when I was there it was 24 and a half thousand – now it’s below 800. Maori people are voting with their feet and walking away from the Maori Party and coming back to where Mana stands.

Let’s talk about your election strategy, then. You’re looking at some particular Maori seats and you are confident that Waiariki is winnable. How?

We have an incredibly talented candidate, we have a very good organisation on the ground and we have a commitment from Mana members from different parts of the country to come and support that particular electorate in terms of the campaign.

What about your own electorate then? Unemployment in your area is still on the rise – 9.9 percent – way above the national average.

That’s not because I haven’t tried hard to promote the notion of community jobs for all. It is a position I’ve taken in the past, it’s a position I maintain right up until now.

Let’s look at some of Mana’s policies. Maternity leave, you’d like to see that increased to a year. One extra week a year would cost around 34 million - so if you do the math that’s like an extra billion dollars. You’d like the first $27,000 dollars of income to be tax free – the first $5000 tax free would cost 1.3 billion in lost tax revenue. Adding up the figures for a lot of these policies, the number wouldn’t fit in the calculator yesterday. How are you going to pay for this?

Why are people so scared to think of taxing the rich? There’s so much unearned wealth in this country that comes from financial speculation and not one cent of it is taxed. Why are people so scared to tax unearned wealth? We are asking Gareth Morgan to come speak at our conference tomorrow because he also believes that New Zealanders should be paying tax on unearned wealth. When he made 78 million dollars from the sale of Trade Me he publicly said ‘why am I not be taxed on this? I didn’t earn this money, this is unearned wealth. I shouldn’t be getting taxed on this?’ Not just him, but many, many other New Zealanders realise now there should be tax on unearned wealth.

So, to be clear, you think you can cover several billion dollars worth of spending through taxation?

That’s one of them, there’s another one as well. Did you know there’s 22 billion dollars sitting in the hands of ACC, simply amassing wealth, amassing wealth through the corporatisation of injury? There’s something wrong with that notion. That money should be spent on the needs of New Zealanders, not on investments which are aimed at maximising the wealth of the corporates that are running it.

How much is riding on this weekend for you and the discussion about a merger with the Internet Party?

We come to this AGM, and two months before we’d had our Mana Exec where we gave clear focus to our electorate campaigns and to a strong party vote campaign -that’s underpinning everything we do. If we work with the Internet Party, that will be another relationship. If we work with the Greens, that will be another relationship. If we work with Labour, that will be another relationship, but nothing changes the momentum of Mana to focus on its electorate seats – Maori electorate seats in particular – and the party vote campaign.

Ends

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