It is easy for me on the small government end of the spectrum to dismiss this party as Marxist racists, but there is something more to it - have no bones about it, I don't like parties based on race, and many in the Maori party have Marxist roots, but is it all bad?
Well the NZ Herald report on the launch indicated that the party is committed to the Treaty being part of a constitution. Tariana Turia said "Certainly we would like to see in future a constitution that is underpinned by the Treaty and we don't think you can have a constitution for this land without the Treaty being a significant part of it" which raises more importantly the issue about what it really means. However, the party realistically sees republican status a long time away so isn't focusing on it.
Of greater importance is overturning the Foreshore and Seabed Act - which from a libertarian point of view is about applying private property rights to those areas. That's another debate, and I am unsure if the Maori Party really understands private property rights, but that doesn't mean that it isn't open.
However then it wants to entrench the Maori seats - pure self interest, and pure democratic separatism. The Maori Party knows it may struggle to get 5% of the party vote if the Maori seats disappear after all.
It's worth noting how the Maori Party condemned the Ruatoki raids, given the evidence the Police held at the time, and I have noted before its support for Cuban communist agents. Both suggesting a radical leftwing side that is far from supportive of individual freedom. Note also that for a while it refused to judge the
It previously supported court action wanting more money for welfare recipients.
It previously treated US action in Iraq as equivalent to Islamist action.
The NZ Herald published a Q & A with Tariana Turia. Her big drive is clearly Maori, she couldn't care that much about everyone else with statements like "my vision is that our people are restored to being strong and independent people so that they can contribute to their own well-being" as quite objectivist as that is on first appearance - it's still "our people".
However, it is very clear that Turia knows that welfare does a lot of harm
"I don't like the word welfare and I think what we want to do is encourage our people to be independent of welfare. We don't want welfarism to be their goal in life. We want them to be independent people, not having to rely on state agencies, but restoring that same courage that our tupuna had to stand on their own two feet and make their way in life. That's what we want for our people. Our main focus is on whanau ora - the well being of family and what it takes to make them well, healthy, independent, standing on their own two feet."
That in itself is encouraging - of course Working for Families is all about that, but is Maori Party policy consistent with this?
She further says "One of the things we want to do is unbundle all of the money that's being spent on Maori people and we want to know how it's being spent and what the outcomes have been." That is a start too. It should reveal how appallingly wasteful state monopolies are.
Yet this same woman once said that it was impossible for Maori to be racist.
She said that all Maori deserved an apology, presumably because they are all victims.
The same party says that banning gang patches (which i approve) is like how Jews were singled out in Nazi Germany.
So what a mismash. A bizarre collection of a desire for Maori to be successful individuals, but also clearly separatist. A view of the world which suggests that Africans can't be condemned as much as non-Africans, that Nazism was just another period of oppression and that Cuba is just another form of self determination.
There is some recognition that welfare doesn't work, that violence in Maori communities is damnable and that education and self esteem are answers, but it is too much rooted in the power of the state. Perhaps most sad is how much the Maori Party is rooted in its own nationalism. It isn't explicitly racism in that it denigrates others, but it lifts Maori as a priority above all others - which, of course, is what the Maori seats do.
Maori voters clearly see something in the Maori Party, more as a clear alternative to Labour - one not addicted to the arrogance of power, but actually interested in making a difference, but it is a difference rooted in the left, state power and nationalism - itself a rather banal concept. Identity politics is tribal, and it is what sadly causes far too much conflict - the idea that your ethnic identity is paramount when you consider how to treat others.
It seems most of all to be pragmatic, not guided by ideology at times, except when it is anti-American, sceptical about Western values and avowedly nationalistic about being preferential towards Maori. For that it wont ever be a party that can grow beyond the Maori seats. For now, as long as the Maori seats remain - as long as the National Party thinks it needs the Maori Party, to weaken Labour - this will remain an unfortunate part of New Zealand politics.
For quite simply, Maori are more political diverse than that represented by one political party - it should never be "I am Maori, therefore I vote Maori Party". Yet is that not what the Maori Party is advocating?