Monday, 28 November 2011

The casualties of war

I have often thought that politics is the modern form of warfare. Our taiaha replaced by words, and our new enemy is philosophy. The end point is still the same, control and power.

Two days after the election, the dust has now settled. For me as a player in the war, I feel as if I am standing on a hill looking over the battlefield at our casualties. The casualties of our war. The sad thing is, there are a lot of good people from all parties lying in that heap, and I particularly lament our Maori politicians.

The Maori Party have been reduced by one, losing a fierce and staunch representative in Te Tai Tonga - Rahui Katene. As a perpetual student of politics, I see her as one of the most hard working MP's in parliament, and arguably the best representative that Te Tai Tonga has had in my generation.

We have lost Kelvin Davis, another hard working and committed MP. I recently saw a tweet by Tau Henare that for the first time ever, Te Tai Tokerau has not had a Labour Party representative in Parliament. I often judge our representatives based on their intentions, I have seen that some are committed to the kaupapa of advancing Maori aspirations, and some are committed to advancing their own personal aspirations. Kelvin, from my viewpoint represented the first of these categories - committed to educational achievement, and transformation of the lives of the Maori people in the North. A tragic loss to parliament.

There are other Maori hopefuls who also marched on to the battlefield for the first time, valiant in their endeavors, and true in their intent to uplift Maori aspirations. They too should be admired and remembered for their commitment to the kaupapa, and I hope that they will pick themselves up and carry on to the next battle in three years time. We have many of those in our own Party, but there are also others across the political spectrum in parties such as Labour and Mana.

The losses for Maori are many and there were only three winners in this election - National, NZ First and the Greens. I am happy for only one of the fore-mentioned parties. I think it's fabulous that the Greens will maintain good representation in parliament.

The war was short but sharp, and delivered the left and the centrists a blow. It is only now as we look at the new lay of the land that we can fully appreciate the damage, and start to strategise towards the future.

For Maori we saw a small battle within a battle between the Maori Party and Mana Party. We could have both knocked each other out (at times it felt like this was the aim), but we didn't. We both survive, albeit as a very small minority. We did a very good job of attacking ourselves though, something I had blogged about in an earlier post "The Politics of Distraction" - I do wish we would stop killing ourselves off, and focus on the big picture.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing, and it is moments like this, when all sides have suffered losses that you move into a period of reflection. Where to from here? This will be an interesting thing to keep an eye on. I think what is clear is that our Maori people still have major attachments to Labour, as evidenced in the high proportion of Party votes they got in the Maori seats. Those brave enough to give their Party votes to the Maori political parties equaled 2.35% in total - I'm not sure this is enough to sustain even one Maori political party.

Looking now into the future, we clearly have a major right wing block who will govern the country. The Maori Party are in a difficult position moving forward. We have three choices, walk away completely, enter into a policy based agreement (Memorandum of Understanding - similar to the Greens arrangement), or a confidence and supply agreement.

It will be interesting to see how people steer us. From my perspective, I see the benefits and risks of all of the arguments. A MoU arrangement sounds good, but it leaves our previous gains up in the air, such as the Constitutional Review, Whanau Ora, Whare Oranga Ake, Nga Pu Waea, Kaitoko and Oranga Whanau, and many others. On the other hand, how can we go back when the votes from our people tell us that we are not on the right path?

The Maori Party will hold hui over the next week to get feedback on these options. Engagement by the community will be critical in these hui - and I encourage all of us to keep an ear out for when they are happening to put your korero in.

In a way, we have lost one MP, but we have survived with 3/4 of our caucus. Something no other minor political party has done after entering into a coalition arrangement with a major governing party. I believe that it is because our Maori processes have kept us safe - such as our process of wananga on major decisions, and our upholding of our Maori values above all others. That is why these hui are so critical, we need a steer, and we all need to get on the waka together to keep us moving forward.

The battle is over, but the war continues, I think we need to rally as Maori across the spectrum, and across Aotearoa to come up with a plan on how we move forward from here.

Nga mihi,

Na Kaapua

Friday, 25 November 2011

10 things I want to leave you with....

 I have been thinking hard about what my last message will be before I zip the blogging until after the election. I couldn't think of just one thing to say, so here you have a collection of all of the things I want to leave you with.

1. The Maori Party are seeking both your candidate vote and your Party vote this election.Two ticks can deliver us more representation in parliament.

2. The Maori Party was born out of aspirations, it was born out of thousands of Maori people. It is our Party - and we still have a lot of work to do in terms of protecting Maori interests in government processes.

3. We can work with anyone, and all the major parties have indicated they can work with us. We are not National's 'trojan horse' - we are an independent voice for Maori - prepared to work with whoever gets the job done for Maori. Dont buy into major parties scaremongering.

4. Maori Party social policies do have a natural alignment with other political parties such as the Greens, Labour, Mana - so why not back a Maori vehicle for taking that forward?

5. Maori are a minority in this country. Holding a balance of power at the end of an election is one of the most crucial moments for negotiating policies that advance our Maori aspirations. It is one of the rare times we get to flex our muscle and demand some changes for our Maori people. Back us so that we can back you.

6. When you vote you get two ticks. Give your candidate vote - to the candidate who will represent your interests best. Give your party vote to the party whose kaupapa you like best. Your party vote is a vote for the kaupapa.

7. You will also be given a purple referendum paper to fill out this year. Tick MMP and then just back away from the form. MMP is our current electoral system and has given us more diversity in parliament, more Maori in Parliament, and also worked towards making major political parties more accountable.

8. Are you torn between Mana and Maori? Well, your vote is your vote - kei a koe te tikanga. I personally believe in inclusive kaupapa, not kaupapa that divide - which is why I support the Maori Party. While I have a lot of personal respect for Hone Harawira and Annette Sykes - I dont like the politics I have seen. Deliberately misleading, deliberately inciting anger and division, and deliberately nasty.

9. Looking at the polls National could govern alone. Do you want this to happen? Or do you want to put your vote in a Party that is prepared to work with anyone to protect our interests and advance the social needs of our communities? The Maori Party can do it - but it is up to our constitutents to vote for us, and then attend a post-election hui to tell us what you want us to do.

10. Last one - what does it mean to be Maori? It means that you have whakapapa that binds you to this land. It means that we have tikanga, reo, and matauranga. We have a responsibility to protect our ways, our whenua, and our people. Beyond that shared goal we are diverse - so lets increase the diversity of the Maori Party by voting more Maori Party people in (by Party voting Maori Party).

That's it from me - as I cant blog until after the election. My last message is this:

CANDIDATE Vote MAORI

PARTY Vote MAORI

REFERENDUM Vote MMP (and then resist the desire to tick anything else!)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The 'constructive one' on Child Poverty

Ok, after taking some time to cuddle my babies I am probably in a better space to be able to talk about solutions to child poverty.

The documentary that aired last night "Inside NZ: Inside Child Poverty" was shockingly sad. It was also cleverly shaped with a political agenda in mind.

I am glad that they highlighted the need for healthy homes for our babies. I think it uncovered a great shame of the State that we have not included housing and environmental factors in thinking about how to care for a whanau's overall wellbeing.

We need more state houses, we need our houses to be insulated, and in my view, we need to develop a minimum standard of health and fitness for all rental properties in Aotearoa. Ultimately, I also think that Housing needs to be moved into the Whanau Ora space - as housing does not only impact on health, but access to whanau support, key services, schools etc.

Another aspect of the issue of child poverty is of course income, and jobs. Don't you just wish you lived in Sweden? As I am sure you know, the Maori Party want $16 minimum wage, the first $25K income earned to be tax free, and GST off food. This is a good start, but it does not take away from the fact that we need jobs.

We need a plan to establish more jobs, and the Maori Party is proposing that we start wrapping our support around the Maori economy. More than just Iwi Business, the bulk of the $36Billion asset base is actually driven by small to medium sized businesses. We need to support Maori business, so that Maori business can support our communities by creating jobs.

While we need a Government focused on stimulating development opportunities, we also need a government that focuses on our basic human rights. I personally believe that a rights based framework is critical to informing Government spending and policy.

After watching the documentary there was a lot of korero about 'feeding the kids' and establishing a Ministry for Children. I am more inclined to think we need a Ministry of Families. I only say this because I believe that our current government agencies that focus on one member of the whanau, often make decisions in isolation that only take in short term gain, and also ignore other factors which go into informing the wellbeing of that individual - just look at CYF's as an example.

I also believe in 'balance' - and I think we need Government departments who can take in the whole picture and context, rather than tick their box while ignoring a number of other boxes that need to be addressed. This is the reason we have established Kaitoko Whanau and Oranga Whanau - so that there is someone dedicated to looking at the bigger picture about the needs of individuals within a whanau - in order to address their collective well-being.

Other factors of course come down to parenting, making good decisions for your children, education, and support. These are big issues, and need to be addressed with targeted support programmes, as well as through whanau and community role modeling.

Ultimately, what I took away from the doco last night, was that we need to think with our hearts (EQ) as well as with our brains (IQ). I think we need to work together on solutions, and my cudos goes to Rahui Katene (Maori Party) and Metiria Turei (Greens) for leading the Inquiry into the status of Maori and Pacific children. 

The frustrating thing about political processes is that it takes time for decisions to filter through the system into actual practice on the ground.

We as communities also have a role to play in this. We need to take responsibility to awhi where we can, to share, to tautoko. It's called manaakitanga. It is something that we should do without expecting a return, although I suspect the universe will return it to you in some way in the future. We are all in this together.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Child Poverty: He taonga te tamaiti

My baby
Tonight I intended to write something political, but I just canʻt go past the Inside NZ: Child Poverty documentary.

It was so sad to see little babies sick, and in hospital for preventable diseases. As a mother, it makes me think about my own boys and how I would feel if I had to see them go through that  - it would be heartbreaking.

I could write about what our Partyʻs policies on addressing child poverty, but to be honest I donʻt particularly feel like politicking right now. I just feel like being sad.
My big boy

Our babies deserve a better start to life than living in mouldy houses that make them sick.

I will say that political point scoring and finger pointing are not going down well with me tonight. If political parties had such wonderful policies, they were needed about 10 years ago. Itʻs not about votes, its about prioritising our babies.

We need to honour the rights of children.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Find Your Voice

What future will they see?

This coming Saturday is your chance to have a say about who governs the country. It's been an interesting election period because of the short one month timeframe which has meant that political parties have not had the same amount of time (as they have in previous years) to convince you of why to vote for them.

I just wanted to take the opportunity to let you know that your vote is important, not just for you, but for your communities. Please take the time to go to the polls and vote for a better future for Aotearoa and your whanau.

I also thought I would give you a quick summary of what I see as 'the lay of the land' for consideration when casting your vote.

First of all, this election has really irritated me because of the games played by the major political parties. Labour and National are both guilty of trying to submerge the voices and the issues of the minor parties. I feel the public have been short changed, because the two major parties have not been held to account by the minor parties for issues where they both agree. There has been no opportunity to show Aotearoa how similar these two parties actually are, and that is an outrage in the age of MMP.

Secondly, I think for Maori this election has been marred by our 'in-fighting'. The fact of it is, that the aspirations of both the Maori Party and the Mana Party are the same. Our values are the same as well. What is different is our approach to how we each believe we should journey to our destination.

I am hoha of this storm in a teacup approach. I support the Maori Party because I believe that our approach is the best in terms of delivering outcomes. In my view, the journey is just as important as the destination - and if you are dividing people, hurting people, and misleading people in the process - you do not have the best interests of the people at heart.

I am also very concerned that we as Maori are allowing these Western processes to define us. Tell me why we should mirror ourselves on the behavior of non-Maori politicians? Tell me which tikanga or kaupapa misleading the people fits into? Tell me how turning our own people against their each other serves our interests in the long term? And tell me why we should be 'loyal' to Labour? Why?

We need to remember that we are Maori. We need to preserve our ways, our tikanga, and our means of participating. By allowing an election to divide whanau, we are buying into another round of colonisation and that is not on.

My challenge to you is this - think about who can deliver the change that need to move forward on our journey. Think about the strategy - if National win the election (which looks likely), would you rather sit back and let them hurt our communities, or would you want an advocate/soldier to get in there and stop them? If Labour (by some miracle) win the election do you think they have the best interests of Maori at heart?

Think about what the most important thing is to  you in this election? Is it the environment? Or is it the whanau? Or is it money? - Now think about who represents those interests, as well as the interests of the greater Maori community.

Think about your values. Think about our tikanga, our whakapapa, our matauranga and our struggle. Who has the skills to unite us again? Who has the skills to deliver the outcomes while preserving the mana of our ways and our people.

These are the questions I hope that you will ask yourself this week when you vote. Your vote is not your only chance to have a say, but it is the start of establishing the framework within which your aspirations can be achieved. Find your voice, find your courage - and look to the hearts and minds of the people that you are going to vote in.

Choose the person and the Party not based on what you want, but on what is best for our future generations, and what will preserve the legacy that our tipuna left behind.

Partial sale of SOE's

Just a reminder that this is our actual Maori Party policy on sale of State Owned Assets:

"We do not support asset sales.  

If privatisation of state owned assets occurs it must be managed in a manner that is consistent with Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  The Maori Party will support iwi who wish to invest into state owned assets as a means of retaining New Zealand ownership".

While we are on this kaupapa, we are also absolutely against the sale of our land and strategic assets to foreign owners.

We would advocate for the inclusion of a Treaty clause in to the Overseas Investment Act to ensure that tangata whenua have first right of refusal on any land or strategic assets up for sale.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

What's the plan whanau?

Whanau Christmas at Kimihia Marae, Kauangaroa

Martin Luther King is 'the man'. Every time I feel angry or deflated - I read his quotes to get my thinking back on track.  Tonight I've decided to start with one of my favorites....

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." Martin Luther King

I  have found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with what is happening in the world. We had the riots in London a few months ago, we have the occupy wall street protests currently going on, and we seem to be seeing an endless number of protest marches and movements.

I think protest is necessary, but I find myself asking more and more "what is the plan here?"

Take for example Occupy Wall Street - I absolutely agree that we need a global system overhaul, we need to be looking at alternative models of development that move us away from being driven by money, to something which supports sustainable communities, something based on balancing our total wellbeing.

But what is the strategy? Who needs to make the change? How do they make the change? and how can we help them change?

What is the point of occupying without a plan for how you are going to change what you are unhappy with?

I raise this point only because I am becoming increasingly concerned with what is happening here in Aotearoa. We protest, we hikoi, we occupy - but how do you take an idea and turn it into reality? You need a vision, a solution, a plan and people to carry it off.

When we marched in the hikoi in 2004 - we had a shared goal, a plan, and the people who would get us there:

1) Set up our own political party - The Maori Party (tick!)
2) Get our party into the government to make the change that was needed (tick!)
3) Repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act (tick!)
4) Get our right to go back to Court back (tick!)
5) Keep our strong unified Maori voice in parliament (hmmmm?????)

Obviously the new Marine and Coastal Area Act is far from perfect - but the big part of the job is over, and now its time to dig in and continue to chip away and progress it. We have done this before in the form of the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 which established the Waitangi Tribunal and the claims process, but it was not until 1985 that the Tribunal was granted powers to look at retrospective grievances. That's 10 years to get something almost right. It takes time to get what we want out of the government.

The point is, we have a vision as Maori (to lift our people up out of oppression, to be able to achieve rangatiratanga and equality), now we need a strategy or a plan.

There is so much discontent amongst our people - that I feel as if we are loosing our way. We are turning on each other because we have lost faith in ourselves. We are like lambs for the slaughter when we are in this state (divide and conquer etc etc) and we ALL need to take responsibility to start turning that around.

So I thought I would give you my view on what we need (collectively) to make a change and start turning things around:

First we need our agenda setters - we as Maori are excellent at doing this. We know how to highlighting the issues that need to be addressed for our people. In my mind this is where our protesters and activists come in.

Secondly, we need our strategy - we need our Maori researchers, philosophers and thinkers (community/academic/people who understand the frameworks) to draw us a map of where we want to go and how we are going to get there. We need solutions to our issues.

Thirdly, we need our soldiers - no matter who or where you are, you fit into this box. Politicians fit into this box too. No matter what the big picture is, every person can play a small part in moving us closer to our goals. It might be mama starting in our home with our babies; or it might be Hemi in the health centre; or Kara in the supermarket; Toni in the public sector; or Rahui in parliament....it is everyone playing their little bit  just getting on with the business of picking yourself up, your whanau and your community around you.

Fourth, we need allies - remember we are only a minority group in Aotearoa, to make a change we need support from elsewhere, and in a range of different ways.

Fifth, we need our leaders - to remind us of our goal, to keep us on track, and show us the plan and how we all fit into it. They give us our vision, they tell us what needs to be done, and how to go away and do it.

Finally, we need hope, we need courage and we need faith.
'Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.' Martin Luther King
We also need to trust our leaders, and trust ourselves. We need to commit to a pathway and stick to it.

In terms of the Maori Party I think we all need to remember where this kaupapa came from. It came from me, it came from you, it came from all of us as Maori. If you think three years in government can suddenly take away a lifetime of loyalty to Maori - you are wrong.

To represent Maori is difficult because our people are diverse. We are not one homogeneous group, but if we continue to change the game plan because we have lost faith in the course, then we start to move our development backwards.

What I can tell you, is that Maori people who have grown up in Maori communities are the best people to take our kaupapa forward in parliament.  They understand where we are coming from and what our 'realities' are, but also they are accountable back to their whanau, their communities and our people.

We also need people who are solutions focused, and who have a strategy for how they are going to get us to the finish line.

The way to increase representation in parliament for our diverse realities - is to vote in a diverse range of Maori people. I think the Maori Party have that in spades over other parties and their lists. We also have solutions. At least you know, behind our figureheads, that all of us on the list have come from Maori communities. I would encourage you all to have a look at the Party lists for the parties you are thinking about voting for next Saturday to see if they have the same commitment to Maori representation and issues.

Maori Party List
Green Party List
NZ First Party List
Mana Party List
Labour Party List
National Party List