One of the most striking differences between John Key and the last National Party leader, Don Brash, is Key’s relationship with Maori political leaders.
Key could not govern without the support of the Maori Party – a party which was formed supposedly in opposition to Labour’s raupatu (confiscation) of the seabed and foreshore but in reality was born of massive Maori opposition to Don Brash’s inept attempt to play the race card.
In 2005, Te Ati Awa in Marlborough lodged a claim for land rights to the seabed and foreshore of their rohe (tribal area). The Helen Clark government realised that the Crown, in its past plundering of Maori land, had overlooked the coastal fringe of New Zealand and potentially now faced the after effects of 150 years worth of unfinished business. Their response was to put forward a law to unilaterally seize all the seabed and foreshore, thus completing the burglary of Aotearoa that began in 1840.
But of course, Maori are not the only people who care about the coastline. For many working people in this country, access to the bush and the sea provides the breath of fresh air they need to survive the daily grind.
Don Brash seized on the uncertainty created by the seabed foreshore claim to proclaim that New Zealand was a racist society that unfairly benefitted Maori! This sets reality on its head. There are precious few Maori living in the posh suburbs of New Zealand cities – in Fendalton, Remuera, or the ironically named “Maori” Hill. Maori provide a disproportionately large percentage of the NZ working class, and have consistently provided the radical edge to working class resistance in NZ, especially in the turbulent 1970s.
Since Labour won the 1984 elections though, governments of both ‘left’ and right have trumpeted Treaty of Waitangi settlements and political correctness while laying waste to working class living standards – which disproprotionately affected Maori families.
Brash’s ‘Orewa Speech’ won the National Party huge support from redneck farmers and disoriented ‘anti-PC’ workers but also provoked the biggest demonstrations of the last decade – where Maori showed that they would not stand to be used as a scapegoat. The huge demos shut Brash right up.
The “Maori Party” supposedly formed as a result of the foreshore and seabed controversy was more as a defensive reaction of working class Maori against the failed promises of the Treaty of Waitangi and against the threat of Brash’s ‘One Nation’ racism .
Unfortunately, the “Maori Party”, since its founding, has been dominated by tribal elites. In many cases, such as Ngai Tahu, Waikato, and Tuwharetoa – to name just three – the capitalist state has successfully created an elite that is dependent on its favour. The interests of this elite are diametrically opposed to the interests of the majority of Maori.
Nowhere is this more clearly shown than in the support of the Maori Party for privately-run prisons. Like in most colonised countries, Maori are far more likely to be thrown in jail than Pakeha.
The so-called “Maori Party” supports the right of capitalist vultures to make money off this miserable situation.
They are bankrupt. They stand in a long and ignoble tradition of kupapa who for whatever misguided reasons help maintain a racist state.