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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Monday, November 10, 2008

Maori influence to continue

Maori are expected to exert high continuing influence in parliament.

While the Maori party does not hold the balance of power as many predicted, its influence in the next Parliament will be considerable.

One of the first calls made by National Party leader John Key was to Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia, and meeting Maori Party leaders today will be a top priority for the new Prime Minister and his advisors.

This is a clear indication of National’s intention to be inclusive and build middle ground political support in the MMP environment. It can also be seen as a sign that Mr Key does not want to be in a position where coalition partner ACT can hold it captive to retain power.

While the Maori Party may not be as strongly positioned as if it was holding the balance of power, National’s overture could see it being offered a meaningful role in the next government, possibly including ministerial roles either inside or outside cabinet.

This will mean the Maori Party and its followers who it will be consulting needing to decide how closely they hitch their wagon to National with issues such as welfare reform and breaking down welfare dependency lightly to be key considerations.

The Maori Party concerns during the campaign on both these issues provide an opportunity for finding common ground while their leaders will be aware that despite their efforts to capture the party vote, Maori remain essentially left leaning.

Another area Maori will be watching closely is a potential big by list MP Shane Jones for leadership in Labour following Helen Clark’s retirement.

While Mr Jones is predictably playing his cards close to his chest, he has a distinguished career managing Maori assets and since his entry into politics has been seen in many quarters as a potential leader.

Mr Jones can be seen as middle ground if likely contenders Phil Goff from the right of the party or Maryan Street or Ruth Dyson from left find themselves battling it out.

It would also give Labour the appearance of broad spectrum appeal, much as black President-elect Barack Obama was able to claim for the Democrats in the US.

Both Tau Henare and Georgine te Heuheu can expect to be prominent in National’s cabinet, and Hekia Parata’s performance in Mana shows that while she may not be immediately be rushed into Cabinet, she may be a force in the future.

Samoan Sam Lotu-Liiga’s surprise success in Maungakiekie provides the opportunity for National to embrace a broad spectrum in the Polynesian success.

It is significant that he was able to trounce a trade union-backed Labour candidate, while National Maori woman Paula Bennett was able to pull off a similar upset in the west Auckland seat of Waitakere.

MORE WOMEN NEEDED AT TRUST TABLES

Federation of Maori Authorities members have been called on Maori businesses to seat more women around their board tables.

Women's Affairs Ministry Kaihautu Sonya Rimene told FOMA's annual general meeting at the weekend that Maori women have a huge skill base to contribute to senior management and governance of business.

“We haven't dug around a bit to see who is actually sitting around the table and I think that’s something for FOMA to consider at their board table abnd at their senior management tables, to capitalise on the potential skill and talents of our wahine Maori,” Ms Rimene says.

She presented international evidence on the value of diversified governance representation to the FOMA conference in her korero.

NOTHING TO FEAR FROM NATIONAL SAYS TE HEUHEU

Long serving National MP Georgina Te Huehue says Maori have nothing to fear from the election of a National government.

And she says the Maori party which is meeting with Prime Minister John Key and his advisors today should realise that its values align more closely with National's than Labour's.

“If you look closely at their kaupapa and you look at the principles of the National Party, there is a better alignment in my view than if you lined up with the principles of the Labour Party and the kaupapa of the Maori Party. In terms of establishing a long term relationship with the Maori Party, I am very optimistic about that,” Mrs Te Heuheu says.

She says National recognises that a momentum has been established in things like treaty settlements and has been clear during campaigning that this momentum will be continued by the new government.

DON’T STAND TOO CLOSE WARNING FROM HOROMIA

However former Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia says while it is over to the Maori party to decide where it goes it should be careful about getting too close to a National government.

Parekura Horomia says clearly the Maori party has been talking to National for some time but they need to be particularly aware of what they are potentially getting into at today's meeting with new Prime Minister John Key and his advisors.

“I think it’s pretty important when you look at that front bench and the return of Roger Douglas and the feel of some of the team managing the National Party, I think they should pick their choices and journey carefully, but certainly as a party it’s their choice,” Mr Horomia says.

While he is delighted to have won his electorate of Ikaroa Rawhiti he is very saddened that the people have chosen a change of government and he is particularly saddened that Helen Clark has chosen to stand down.

TIME FOR JONES TO STEP UP TOP PLATE

Former long time Labour MP Dover Samuels says its time for a change right across the Labour party and he's calling for a new broom for leader in fellow Northland Maori MP Shane Jones.

Dover Samuels says the old brigade on the front bench have had their day and they should step aside and hand over the reins to MPs such as Shane Jones who came into parliament in the last intake.

“He is a graduate of Harvard. He is very proficient and capable in terms of leadership. He has shown in his track record on the Maori fisheries commission that he can transcend and he can build bridges right across the diversity of the New Zealand electorate and I think it’s people like him that can can advance the advance the cause and vision of people who support the labour movement and the Labour philosophy,” Mr Samuels says.

He says Shane Jones could become New Zealand's Barack Obama uniting people in a movement for change.

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