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Agenda: Hone Harawira IV Transcript

21 September 2008

Agenda: Hone Harawira IV Transcript

Presented By Rawdon Christie

Agenda transcript courtesy of Agenda TV and TVNZ

RAWDON All eyes are on the Maori Party this election campaign they are highly likely to hold the balance of power after the election and their leadership is saying that this time they won't stay neutral but be supporting either National or Labour, however their post election negotiation spokesman Hone Harawira has already described Labour as a corpse, he's with Guyon now.


Well let's start there, you did say that didn’t you, you said that they were a coalition corpse and that everyone associated with them or too associated with them was gone, does that mean that do you think that it is inevitable that National's going to lead the next government?


Just a bit of clarification first Guyon, I was sitting down talking to Shane and Parekura at the time and I said to them guys, cos they're always asking us who we're gonna go with, I said guys you’ve gotta get your numbers up to be considered as an option, at the moment you're a coalition corpse you're so far behind and declaring now that they're gonna hang in with you is like jumping into the graveyard after the corpse.

GUYON That’s interesting in itself isn't it, so does that mean that you wouldn’t be part of you know a four or five way coalition to actually get Labour over the line because if Labour is well in second place are you saying you wouldn’t go in with the Greens and maybe New Zealand First as well and get these guys over the line?

HONE I don’t think anybody's actually declared their hand and we see no reason why we should be declaring our hand at the moment. Our focus is on winning the seven Maori seats and maintaining the position that Maori have always wanted which is an independent and strong Maori voice in parliament. Now regardless of whether it's Labour or National we want to be at the table.

GUYON But it was more than that though wasn’t it, you said that they were arrogant and that they had gone stale?

HONE Oh sure, I mean they have, to assume that they can simply sit there and pass an Electoral Finance Act when the whole world was saying this sucks and in fact it's come back to bite them on the bum shows how disconnected they were with reality to try and ram through legislation at this late stage in the game is arrogant, it suggests that they are really only – and then to stack all of these quangos with their cronies suggests that they see themselves going out and they're really just trying to maintain as much power as possible, that’s arrogant, that’s nothing to do with coalition building, and in fact the Labour Party has yet to come out clearly and say these are the sorts of things we'd like to do with the Maori Party.

GUYON What about National then are you comfortable, could you actually work with National?

HONE Another difficult one there, but no more difficult than working with Labour as far as we're concerned. People have this big fear of National and Maori in terms of oh they'd get rid of the Maori seats wouldn’t they, but my response constantly is always the greatest land theft of my generation has actually been the Foreshore and Seabed and that wasn’t stolen by National that was stolen by Labour, would you expect us to jump into bed with them happily. So at the end of the day the Maori Party's view is that, and Derek explained this quite well I think when he said Maori people can vote Labour or they can vote National and they’ll be right 50% of the time. We're suggesting that they vote for the Maori Party and give themselves an opportunity to be right 100% of the time.

GUYON Isn't your problem partly though that your voters, Maori voters overwhelmingly with their party vote, vote Labour. Now if you after an election are going to prop up a National government don’t you risk a real backlash from Maori of going with National?

HONE I think one of the things that the Maori Party does that nobody else does is after the last election as a classic example we made 35 hui in one week to discuss with our people what our options should be. In fact a lot of them came back and said they thought we should be hanging out with Labour, hardly any of them thought that we should be going with National, the great majority of them they said that they thought we should stay independent. So that was a good guide.

GUYON Is that what you're gonna use this time?

HONE No, absolutely, we are committed to that process after this election.

GUYON But haven’t voters already given you a mandate if they vote for you haven’t they given you a mandate to then decide how to use that power?

HONE That’s true, but the thing about the Maori Party is we don’t have a lot of money, what we have is a faith in our people and our people have a faith in us and when we say we'll take this issue back to them first then we will, and also because we believe that their support for us is absolutely critical, it's our number one priority and our number two priority, without the people we are nothing, we have no money to try and do the flash ad thing, all we can do is rely on the goodwill of our people.

GUYON So when a Maori Party voter goes into the booth they're not going to know which side you're gonna work with are they, I mean is that fair, if I'm a Maori Party voter, if I think you know I'm a Maori Party voter I'm gonna vote for the Maori Party I don’t know whether that’s a vote for John Key leading the country or Helen Clark, cos you’ve got to accept one of those two is gonna lead the country.

HONE Yeah, but at the end of the day the Labour voters thinking about where the Maori Party should be Labour or National need to also keep in their mind the simple view that if they decide that we give all of our party vote to Labour does that mean they want us to also be in opposition for another three years, or do they want Maori to have an opportunity to be a player regardless of whether it's Labour or National and the whenua we're getting back from right around the country is they want us to be a player, they want us no longer just to be sitting on the cross benches and that’s big for us.

GUYON So that means ministerial role?

HONE Well we have our own idea about what that kind might mean, I mean there's the Jim Anderton I'm locked in I'll never argue with the boss kind of a coalition, there's the Winston I'm a Minister outside of Cabinet kind of coalition, there's the Green Party we've got a special deal kind of a coalition. The fact the Maori Party have already nutted out our own arrangements for what we'd like to have after the election and we have an option A and an option B and I'm not gonna tell you what either of them are today actually Guyon, just thought I'd let you know, but we are planning for it.

GUYON But to have any real clout you need a ministerial warrant in your hand don’t you?

HONE We do, it's the way in which we manage that that I think is going to be the important part.

GUYON Do you aspire to be a Minister?

HONE I aspire to have responsibility for funding which can be of assistance to Maori people as do the rest of my party, they don’t want us simply to have an influence they want us to step up beyond that and have an actual responsibility.

GUYON Let's talk about a couple of the things that you said you want to do if you have influence over a government, you wrote recently in the Northland Age that you want to remove GST from food and abolish tax for people earning $25,000 and under, how much would that cost?

HONE Actually Guyon I couldn’t care less how much that costs, what I do know is this.

GUYON No no hang on hang on is that good enough, I mean does anyone go along and say I want this and doesn’t know what it's gonna cost not in any aspect of life.

HONE Let's go back to reality here and the reality is there are 230,000 children in this country who are described as living below the poverty line right, now any party that’s not prepared to assist them immediately by taking GST off food simply goes along with that poverty, we're not prepared to go along with that.

GUYON Well we did something that you should have done, we asked Treasury how much this would cost, they said it would cost two billion to remove GST from food and three billion more to cut taxes for those earning less than $25,000. You want free health care for kaumatua and kuia too, where is the money coming from?

HONE Well let's say the tax off cigarettes for the last we'll say five years, that’s five billion dollars. This isn't very hard eh, this isn't rocket science, the government is taking a billion dollars a year off tobacco tax, they could certainly spend it in this area.

GUYON So take the tax from tobacco and cut GST from food?

HONE There's a whole range of other areas where you can do it but the government's taking a billion dollars of tax just off cigarettes, now when you asked me a question that’s gonna cost five billion dollars I can tell you where the five billion dollars could come from.

GUYON Okay, many people are talking about the fact that the Maori Party may well hold the balance of power and may have a major influence, what are the bottom lines for you guys is it repealing the Seabed and Foreshore is it retaining the Maori seats, I mean in some ways you could name your price couldn’t you?

HONE We don’t want to get into a game where we're exhibiting arrogance in terms of we want this we want that, what we want to do is to be able to put Maori into a position of a strong and independent voice in parliament, that’s number one, number two we want to show that we can be measured in the way in which we negotiate with whoever's going to hold the most seats, it's not about saying we want the whole world and we want it tomorrow, but eventually the repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act is simply a repeal of a piece of legislation that denied every Maori the right to present argue for and claim their Foreshore and Seabed rights, Treaty rights guaranteed to us, the rights that you have in terms of human rights etc etc we have been denied so yes the repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act is still very very important to us, Maori seats is also very very important to us.

GUYON Is the Seabed and Foreshore at the top of the list?

HONE It's not at the top of the list but it's certainly way up there.

GUYON Can you tell me what is the top of the list?

HONE I'd say guaranteed and ongoing participation by Maori within the parliamentary system at the table, not just as an advisor but at the table.

GUYON Can I ask you just before I leave it cos no interview at this stage would be complete without it, Winston Peters has he done anything seriously wrong or is this a beat up on him?

HONE Whatever Winston does he has to face in Privileges, Serious Fraud Office, Police and then the court of public opinion, we've chosen as a Maori Party to stand completely aside from all of this there's a lot of quite nasty and personal attacks going on we'd rather not get involved in it at all.

GUYON But you were telling me off camera before you sense quite a bit of sympathy from Maori voters who think that he's what been getting a hard time here?

HONE Maori tend to back the underdog particularly if that underdog is Maori, hence the Warriors, we backed the Warriors, we won. Winston is – he may be wrong but the fact of the matter is that’s not how Maori people perceive it.

GUYON Back to you Rawdon.

RAWDON Brian do you want to take over here?


Well I'm interested given this tendency for people to split their vote and vote for say you as their constituency vote and either Labour or another party, do you think Winston Peters will get any benefit from that practice in your neck of the woods, I mean how's his mana standing up to all of this up north?

HONE It's a strange thing, Maori don’t particularly care that Winston has been very anti Treaty, they see a Maori in trouble and they want to back him, it's just the way we are, we're not particularly worried too much about the Winston vote or the Labour vote or the National vote we're just gonna focus on our job which is to win the seven seats and do as much as we possibly can to increase our vote and let everything else look after itself after the election.

BRIAN But given the strength that you have in the constituencies it does give people an option of voting practically and getting two for the price of one.

HONE Sure, and that’s certainly been the case in places where I live a lot of my aunties say oh boy you know you’ve got our vote but you know we love our whanaunga Shane, I said well if you want to give your party vote for Shane give your party vote for Shane, so very much a Maori thing too. I go to Ngati Wai and the Chairman of Ngati Wai says oh come on in have a cuppa tea boy but you know I'm gonna give my vote to Winston, so we just laugh about it and we just move on, it's not a biggie.

GAVIN ELLIS – Former Editor, NZ Herald

When you look at the constituency seats though a vote for the Maori Party is a vote against Labour when they're really only two players in the constituency in the Maori seats aren’t there, so if you get all seven isn't that telling you that Maori voters want you to go somewhere other than a coalition with Labour?

HONE Ah no. The Maori vote, if we won the seven seats for example will tell us that they want us to continue to be a strong and independent voice in parliament, they want us to come back after the election to talk with them about where they think we should be going depending on where the numbers are stacked up and they want us to be doing the best deal possible for Maori into the future. We're not locking ourselves into either Labour or National in the same way that neither Labour or National are prepared to lock themselves into the Maori Party,.

GAVIN In the Sunday Star Times today Matthew Hooton has a column in which he looks at the role of the Maori Party, he makes the point there that if the Maori Party went into coalition with Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First and Uncle Tom Cobble that in fact it would have far less clout than if it went into a coalition say just between the Maori Party and National, does that influence your thinking?

HONE At this stage no, we're not gonna – like I say we don’t want to be so caught up in where we might be after the election that it's hampering our ability to be as effective in the run up to the election, so go back again, first of all win the seats, secondly make sure we've got a platform prepared and I was saying earlier that we've got two options prepared for after the election that’s number one, if we are the player, and number two if we are just a player, so we're trying to get our heads around what that might be and what that might mean to us.

RAWDON Hone can I just ask you during the break you said you'd answer any questions about the economy in Maori but I'll get rid of that, how concerned are you about the overseas exodus of Maori to Australia and do you think that National Party's approach to economic growth is gonna benefit or reverse that more than what's been happening in the last sort of six or nine years?

HONE I don’t know necessarily that it's going to benefit things for Maori, what I do know is that there is a time for a change eh, Maori people are going away they feel that they’ve been trapped, they feel that they're going nowhere they want to be free, I've noticed Maori who have been away for a number of years come back, will come back in very easily buy a shop, buy a pub, buy a business and yet while they were here they never felt free enough to try it, so obviously this country is sort of – that’s that whole staleness – has gotten into a situation where nobody seems to think that there's a genuine future here and when you sort of break that open so that people get hungry, people want to take a risk, people are ready to say shit I can do this and I can do it here.

BRIAN Your party voted against the Emissions Trading Bill was it that you were offended it was being pushed through so late in this parliament or did you think that the effect on petrol and power would hit people excessively? I just wondered how you arrived at that decision because to be frank I didn’t see you sitting through a lot of the hearings about the details of the bill on the Select Committee.

HONE Yeah well I didn’t sit in on them because by the time it got to Select Committee it had already had a thousand amendments, by the time it got back to the House there was hundreds more, so what started off as a fine looking stallion ended up looking like a donkey.

RAWDON Okay Hone Harawira thanks very much for joining us.


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