October 26, 2020
Dr Rawiri Taonui Election 2020 | Labour, the Greens and Kaupapa Maori
Dr Rawiri Taonui: Labour has stormed into government with a 29-seat triumph over National in the third-largest margin by any political party since the Liberals defeated all others with a 36-seat majority in 1905.
The largest victory since the party was founded in 1916, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her team have passed the previous 28-seat record of Michael Joseph Savage in 1938. A crushing landslide, Labour won the party vote in all but four of 72 electorate seats and with 64 seats is the first party able to govern alone under MMP.
Leadership, Teamwork, Trust and Stability
Election 2020 reflected resounding support for Ardern’s leadership having dominated the ‘preferred prime minister’ polls 50% to 65% since late-April. The win endorsed Labour’s management of Covid-19, Labour’s teamwork versus the disarray of the National Party, and trust in Labour to navigate the dark waters of a post-Covid rebuild. With the worst to come and a recession lasting some years, Election 2020 was a vote for stability.
The result carries a concomitant expectation that Labour will deliver on key issues in housing, homelessness, poverty, child welfare, health and education, and infrastructure, and to lift Māori out of the bottom quarter of New Zealand society.
Options with the Greens
Labour has had a ‘conversation with the Greens’ about working together. If so, there are three options, coalition, confidence and supply (confidence in a majority vote, supply guaranteeing the annual budget) or a cooperation agreement.
A coalition is likely to have minister/s inside cabinet. A confidence and supply agreement, likely to have minister/s outside cabinet. A cooperation agreement, spokesperson positions on specific policies. All three can include sub-agreements on policies and legislation.
In 2005, Labour utilised all three to construct a 67-seat government via a coalition with the Progressive Party, two confidence and supply agreements with New Zealand First and United Future, and a cooperation agreement with the Greens. The Progressive Party received a ministerial post inside cabinet, New Zealand First and United Future one ministerial post each outside cabinet, and the Greens spokesperson positions outside cabinet.
Labour does not need a coalition or a confidence and supply agreement. With 64 seats, they can govern alone. They also have a buffer should an MP or two go rogue. Many Labour supporters back working with the Greens. Others, like former National voters, would prefer not. Either way, the clear message is, get on with the job unhindered.
The Greens have ten seats. Green supporters will want to work with Labour. Noting the demise of New Zealand First, the Greens will also be wary of losing their distinctiveness and being swept out of parliament like other minor parties before them.
Labour and the Greens will benefit from working together. The Greens contribute to government, Labour reduces the opposition, together they possess a powerful alliance beyond necessity for numbers. An agreement will emerge.
Ministerial portfolios for leaders James Shaw, who was Minister for Climate Change and Minister of Statistics in the last term, and Marama Davidson are likely. Shaw was outstanding in the Minor Parties Debate, and Davidson superlative in the Powerbrokers and Kōwhiringa debates and on the campaign trail. One or both of Shaw and Davidson might be in cabinet but none beyond that. Labour will prefer Shaw, the Greens Davidson.
Other positions outside cabinet from 2017 probably continue. Julie Ann Genter as Minister for Women and Eugenie Sage Minister of Conservation and Minister for Land Information. The Greens will seek additional associate positions. An agreed list will not be lengthy, additions will be outside cabinet.
A wealth tax will not be on the table. Raising benefits and the minimum wage might be. This would address a disparity in the Covid-19 response, something Labour was unconvincing defending during the election. This would be popular for both partners.
The Māori Caucus
The Greens might seek Deputy Prime Minister and possibly positions around key Māori portfolios. Labour will retain these within their Māori caucus.
Labour needs to mandate its Māori MPs. Improving the position of Māori and fulfilling the ‘By Māori for Māori’ aspirations of Te Ao Māori as expressed by those who work in Whānau Ora contexts and amply articulated by the Māori Party during the election requires Māori providing leadership in and beyond Māori specific portfolios.
Any government can stump up million-dollar Māori-specific initiatives. However, none of that resolves the mountainous failures large mainstream ministries have constructed crushing the social, cultural, and economic wellbeing and aspirations of Māori over multiple generations. The major ministries need less fluffy policy and ineffectual Māori advice and more instructional memos from Māori leaders.
Labour’s Māori MPs have earned the right to carry that broader responsibility. With 15 Māori MPs, they have returned the largest Māori caucus in parliamentary history.
They have also performed. Up against John Tamihere, the most formidable Māori campaigner from all parties in the election, Peeni Henare faced down the ‘By Māori for Māori’ Māori Party mantra which elsewhere had his colleagues palpably on the defensive.
Kelvin Davis in Te Tai Tokerau, Nanaia Māhuta in Hauraki-Waikato, Meka Whaitiri in Ikaroa-Rāwhiti and Rino Tirikātene in Te Tai Tonga were dominant. Calm, composed, and articulate on facts and policy, Adrian Rurawhe was a revelation in Te Tai Hauāuru. Davis, Whaitiri, Rurawhe and Tirikātene returned increased majorities. Tamati Coffey fought hard for a result to be decided by special votes in Waiāriki.
Labour’s Māori general electorate candidates produced their best ever result. Paul Eagle retained Rongotai with a 15257 majority, the third-largest in the election. Kiritapu Allan was brilliant in wresting East Coast from National converting a 4807 defeat in 2017 into a shattering 4646 triumph. Jo Luxton reversed a 6331 loss in 2017 into an equally if not more stunning 3484 majority in Rangitata.
Swapping one Māori for another, Shanan Halbert snatched Northcote from National’s Dan Bidois switching a 6210-loss in 2017 into a reasonable 1358 advantage. Arena Williams held Louisa Wall’s Manurewa seat adding over 3300 into her 11696 majority. And although she did not win, Willow Jean-Prime was unflinching in out-debating National’s Northland incumbent Matt King and New Zealand First’s master orator Shane Jones.
Willie Jackson ran a powerful Māori electoral campaign combating a resurgent Māori Party; his networks, integral to Henare winning Tāmaki Makaurau.
Deputy Prime Minister
We are within a decade of seeing our first Māori Prime Minister. That person is already in parliament. To set that stage, someone in the Māori caucus needs to step up and become Deputy Prime Minister.
Current Labour Deputy Leader, Davis is the front runner. Questions have been raised about his ability to fulfil the role. Davis is sometimes blunt. He is also hardworking, smart and the most capable person in Labour on Māori-specific policy. His Whānau Ora centred Muka Te Paiheretia policy and Hōkai Rangi programme are the best we have seen in corrections. The Ka Hikitia â€“ Māori Education Policy, to the extent that it recognises racism is a problem in our institutions, also the best edition of this policy. With support, Davis can succeed.
If not Davis, then Māhuta as the longest-serving Māori MP. If not Māori, then Chris Hipkins, Grant Robinson or Andrew Little. The appointment of one of these three very impressive Pākehā will disappoint Te Ao Māori.
Jackson and Henare have earned promotion into the full Cabinet. A return for Whaitiri would be timely.
Henare has called for the health portfolio. Having already managed Civil Defence, Whānau Ora, and Youth, he is ready. A $20 billion-plus Ministry of Health that does not employ a single Māori doctor requires instructional direction from a Māori Minister of Health. Henare should also be the Minister of Te Reo Māori.
Whaitiri could pick up Whānau Ora and/or Oranga Tamariki. Jackson has been Minister for Employment. With Shane Jones gone, he is ideal as the best communicator in Labour outside Ardern and Hipkins to lead the Provincial Growth Fund.
Louisa Wall, Rurawhe, Allan, and Jean-Prime are ready for a mix of Māori-specific and mainstream associate roles.
The Historical legacy
Māori have been loyal to Labour since the 1928 agreement with Wiremu Pōtiki Rātana. Historically, Labour has taken the Māori electorates and the Māori caucus for granted.
David Lange’s fourth Labour government extended the mandate of the Waitangi Tribunal to investigate historical breaches of the Treaty and made te reo Māori an official language. They also minimised Māori Treaty claims. Rogernomics smashed Māori communities economically with lasting effect well into the 2000s.
Fearing a backlash from white voters, Helen Clark’s fifth Labour government backed away from ‘Closing the Gaps’. While the position of Māori improved the gap to Pākehā widened. In the wake, of National Party Leader Don Brash’s infamous January 2004 Orewa Speech lambasting a so-called Māori privilege, Clark, struck a pre-emptive blow in the Foreshore and Seabed Act alienating Māori rights English common law recognised they had held since time immemorial.
Labour is tasked with reversing that legacy. There has been recent progress. For the first time in an election, all the Māori electorate MPs were in the top 40 on the party list. In this election, the Māori MPs proved they are the equal of their peers.
A Shadow on the Horizon
If Labour does not act thus, a reinvigorated Māori Party looms as a shadow on the horizons of 2023 and 2026. The Māori Party secured Waiāriki through a ‘By Māori for Māori’ campaign against ‘incrementalism’ via a subjugated minority Māori caucus within a majority Pākehā government.
Had it not been for the racist Māori electoral option preventing a return to the Māori roll of those who had left after the Māori Party lost in 2017, and a split vote between Tamihere and Davidson, then the outcomes in Tāmaki Makaurau and Te Tau Hauāuru might have been very different.
The second-largest majority in New Zealand electoral history came when National bundled Labour from office with a 38-seat win in 1990 because in its second term managing massive economic change Labour hesitated then fell apart.
This second term, Labour needs to provide stability and bold change. The time is now.
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