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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Back in the House

Hone Harawira was sworn in without any to do. It was done very quickly and in marked contrast to all the drama last time round when the Speaker became hyper-sensitive and chucked him out for daring to do what others also try to do: add the Treaty and one's constituents to their statement of allegiance. Lockie took that as dissing the Queen and kicked him out instead of asking him to repeat it - a contrast to other affirmations at the start of term when it was nowhere near as strict.

Different story today - a fortnight after the initial attempt was made - it's all business now and Hone has taken his new seat on the front benches.

However, this is not just any other day in parliament. This is the first time (at least certainly in my generation) that a real Maori - someone who speaks and thinks and acts Maori and leads a Maori party with an authentic Maori kaupapa - has ever been in parliament.

The Ratana movement displaced the conservatives in the four 'native' seats in the 1930s, but their MPs were soon thereafter co-opted and then absorbed by Labour and lost their independence. Matt Rata left Labour and stood for Mana Motuhake in Northern Maori in the early 1980s, came close, but never made it into the House. Tariana Turia left Labour after the foreshore and seabed confiscation of 2004 and returned with a party that appeared to fit the bill of authenticity, but her and her colleagues' shabby deal to reinstate the confiscation and their weakness in supporting a suite of National's right wing policies means the Maori Party can no longer be considered to progress an authentic kaupapa Maori. Hone on the other hand now carries that with him.

There is more hope than certainty perhaps with someone as maverick as Hone, but his headway against the Maori Party is demonstrable and likely to grow now he has the media oxygen of parliament and the putea of parliamentary leader.

In Waiariki for example Annette Sykes is lined up to go head-to-head with Te Ururoa Flavell and Louis whats-his-name from Labour will be stuck in distant third. The Maori Party are trying to re-establish their branches after the mass dessertions following the re-confiscation but they are drained of members, smarts and money and are struggling.

I've been past two scheduled hui attempting to reform the local Maori Party branch - with very few locals (perthaps less than ten) attending each - the numbers boosted by the out-of-towners as evident from the convoy of flagged cars parked outside both times. To little avail. Following the last meeting they sent a delegation out to a Marae to find the (ex)chairman of the branch to beg him to come back. Na-ah, that wasn't happening. They are in collapse with blind loyalty the only adhesive that keeps them going.

Compare that situation with Hone's hui he had in town on Thursday - with almost no notice - and about fifty turn up! Unfortunately the notice was too short for me to make it, but I understand Sue Bradford and John Minto may contest Auckland electorates for Mana. Sykes - as we know - will go against Flavell. Nothing yet about the other seats or who will take on Parekura's East Coast Tairawhiti seat if he doesn't stand again (and it appears he won't). If he doesn't stand it could be all on as there isn't a clear leader in that pack. If Mana backs a big name there Labour could be in trouble (remembering Derek Fox challenged for the Maori Party and turned it marginal in 2005).



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