Friday, November 14, 2008


While Tariana Turia is clearly in denial, there is no question that her party's all-but-inevitable deal with National is a risky business. While New Zealand favours very loose coalitions, part and parcel of supporting the government on confidence and supply is that you get to carry the can to some degree for its policies. Even if you didn't actually vote for them yourself, support on confidence is seen as a general approval, and an active enabling of government policy. Which means that when National inevitably enacts policies that hurt Maori, the Maori Party is going to be asked some hard questions about why they are allowing it to happen - if not from their own voters, then from Labour, who will be trying to show that they can do a better job of representing and defending Maori interests. Phil Goff's warning of a backlash then is better seen as a signalling that Labour will be fighting hard for the Maori seats in 2011, and holding the Maori Party to account for the policies it is implicitly lending support to.

You can almost write the press releases now. When National attacks workers' rights, Labour will ask "how is this good for Maori"? When National removes iwi consultation from the RMA, they will ask "where is the benefit to Maori"? And when they enact even harsher sentencing regimes which will see more Maori locked away from their families for longer, they will ask - two-facedly, because Goff is a law and order freak himself - "how is this good for Maori"? Unless they have been able to veto all of those policies in their coalition agreement (and I will be mightily impressed if they do), they'd better start working on the answers to those questions now.

some influence is better than none, and the Maori Party's supporters clearly think that they're getting an acceptable deal given their poor bargaining position. It will be interesting to see if they feel that way in three years time.