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Lisa Owen interviews Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell

Lisa Owen interviews Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell

Headlines:

Te Ururoa Flavell says the Maori Party’s yet-to-be unveiled deal with National will see continued roll-out of whanau ora, protect Maori seats but also wants to target jobs.

“The field of economic development is one place that we’d definitely like to be”.

Flavell says the template for the deal is essentially the same as before, with “some wins over some of the policy platforms that we’ve put out on the election trail”

“We are going to build on the stuff that we’ve already negotiated in the last six years, more specifically in last year’s Budget, so some of those things will continue to roll out.”

Says Maori Party also worried about issues around poverty and large number of Maori non-voters.

Indicates will continue to extend an olive branch to Hone Harawira despite the Mana leader’s criticisms of the Maori Party

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Lisa Owen: Mr Flavell is with us now from Rotorua. Good morning, Mr Flavell.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Kia ora, Lisa.
What are your people telling you?
Pretty much in— About 30 hui throughout the country in the last week, they’re pretty agreeable to us staying in negotiations with the prime minister. They recognise that we’re there by invitation and that there’s only so far we can go in terms of negotiations, but they’ve given us a clear picture and a mandate to continue to negotiate with the Government, and that’s what we’ve been doing.
During the campaign, you talked about more Whanau Ora; you talked about a review of the justice system and specific poverty reduction targets. What have you been able to get out of National so far?
You probably have to wait for the next day or so to get the full gambit of those things that we’ve been able to achieve. But pretty much the template has been the same as we’ve run in the last six years or so, that is, yes, we provide stability of government by way of support to the budget vote; that we have the ability to vote against the Government – that’s been no different to what we’ve had in the last six years; we get some wins over some of the policy platforms that we’ve put out on the election trail; we get the ability to negotiate with the Government over budget gains and also ministerial appointments, which , I say, will be rolled out in the next day or so.
So in general terms, what are the wins, do you think, for you?
Well, I mean, the first thing is that because we are there by invitation, that we firstly have an ability to negotiate some gains. In terms of the budget gains, you’ll have to see that, because we are going to build on the stuff that we’ve already negotiated in the last six years, more specifically in last year’s Budget, so some of those things will continue to roll out. Whanau Ora’s obviously a priority, and, you know—
So are you getting more for Whanau Ora out of this?
The general view, I can tell you, is that the prime minister recognises, as does the Minister of Finance, that the Whanau Ora is a kaupapa that has some huge benefits for the country as a philosophy to take forward in dealing with some of the key issues around poverty. There is a suggestion that they’re preparing to allow us to run that forward, and that’s absolutely fantastic, from our perspective. But we recognise also, that, in the end, throughout the election campaign, that people were talking about pretty much one thing – that’s employment. And we recognise that we must make some gains on that, so the field of economic development is one place that we’d definitely like to be, and we’re hoping, of course, that a ministerial portfolio is wide enough to allow us to have influence over things such as housing, health, education. Why? Because those are the strategies that we’ve already developed over the last six years or so.
When you’re talking there about jobs, is there the prospect of some Economic Development portfolio or Associate Minister in that area? Or just Maori Affairs, are you talking about?
You’ll have to wait, but I can tell you this, is that having developed the He Kai Kei Aku Ringa – Maori Economic Strategy, it’s sitting there on the table, along with the Maori Health Strategy, the Maori Housing Strategy, the Maori Language Strategy. We’re fairly determined to make sure that those are advanced, rather than just simply be strategies that sit in the cupboard. And we’ve given the Prime Minister commitment that that’s where we want to be, and he is in the current throes of considering that proposal.
The other two parties – their deals are signed, sealed and delivered, so there must have been some sticking points here with you. What have they been?
Oh, not too many sticking points. I mean, look, some of the things that we are worried about are certainly the issues of poverty. We’re concerned about, actually, the whole notion that a large number of people did not vote. That’s a huge concern for us – 45% of Maori – those eligible to vote – did not participate. So that’s huge for us. And, I suppose, there are the small sticking points, but you’ve gotta remember—
So you are asking for specific--? Are you asking for specific poverty targets? Reduction targets?
Not specifically, but we certainly want to be involved in decision-making around strategies to deal with that. That’s where Whanau Ora comes in, along with the other strategies I talked about, because there is obviously a clear link with issues of health, issues of housing that link into how issues of poverty are played out.
What about protecting the Maori seats? Is that part of it?
Certainly, the protection of the Maori seats, but, I mean, the Prime Minister has left that alone, knowing full well that six years ago, that was a National Party policy, and because of the relationship with the Maori Party, that it’s been put aside now. The Prime Minister’s suggesting that until Maoridom is ready to do that, that’s on the table, so in that regard, certainly there’s something there to be pursued around – the entrenchment of Maori seats – but it’s not as if it’s going to be at front and centre and will get in the road of us moving towards signing up to a relationship accord.
You must admit that the relationship with National has cost you. So is this deal worth it or should you be walking away? Would that be the politically astute thing to do?
Well, who’s to know? That’s arguable. But I can say that over the last six years, that through our ministerial portfolios and through policy gains that we’ve been able to make, clearly we’ve made a difference for many thousands of Maori and New Zealanders in this country.
But you obviously accept there’s a risk in this when you say ‘who’s to know?’ You accept that this is quite a risk for you.
Well, sure, but I think the country’s fairy clearly clear right now, that National can govern by themselves. They don’t need the Maori Party; never needed us three years ago; never needed us six years ago. But because the Prime Minister believes that we bring something special to the Government arrangement, that we take this opportunity, and that is absolutely the full, unanimous view of all of the hui that we’ve had so far, by pretty much unanimous decision, that we need to be at the decision-making table. There was very—if any—I didn’t hear of any dissention about us being at the table to negotiate any gains that we can get, knowing full well that National could go ahead and the opposite would apply – that if we’d sat in Opposition, we’d get absolutely nothing. Our people are not that silly to give up that opportunity and have told us, ‘Get to the table and negotiate some gains, as much as you can get from the Government, and we’ll be happy.’
All right. Well, Hone Harawira was down at Parliament yesterday, basically giving a farewell speech. And in it, he said that Maori used to speak with one voice until the Maori Party signed up with National. And he said that you ignored his pleas to stop accepting what he calls ‘National Party lies’. You supported tax cuts, benefit cuts and million-dollar bailouts for failed finance companies. Is the olive branch that you extended to him – is that still on offer?
Oh, look, still early days yet. I’ve made a clear statement that—and it’s still to be debated, and we’ll probably do that at the AGM at the end of October, but there is no possibility of the Maori Party getting next to any arrangement associated with Internet Party, and indeed Kim Dotcom. Until that has been dealt with, and until we’ve had the discussion, you know, everything else is secondary. And I suppose the view is that while Hone might have—and indeed the Mana Party might have ditched us with respect to what we had or had not done, actually, we’ve done far and away more than they ever did. In fact, the problem would be probably that they weren’t able to achieve anything sitting in opposition--
Just one last thing, Te Ururoa—
…for Maoridom, we must be there.
Mr Flavell, one last thing. He was making a plea for someone to pick up the Feed the Kids bill. Is that something that you will do – the Maori Party?
Well, in fact, we’ve already done it. The Kickstart Programme that we introduced last—
His bill.
…last year—
His bill.
Pardon? Well, I mean, whether it’s his bill or a bill we’ve already done, the object of the exercise was to feed children breakfast when they go to school. We’ve already done it. It’s already been in action for the last six to 12 months, in the sense that we’ve already passed the budget allocation and it’s out over 25—25,000 children area already receiving the benefit of that particular policy, so, I mean, we supported it, we’re prepared to support it at first reading, but we’re already doing it, so I don’t see too much of a problem with that.
All right. Thank you for joining me this evening. That’s Te Ururoa Flavell from the Maori Party.
Kia ora, Lisa.
Transcript provided by Able. www.able.co.nz

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