There are few parties in Parliament more chalk and cheese than New Zealand First and the Maori Party.
One's a group of unitary nationalists who've provided some of the most trenchant opposition to a hell(a)-bent neoliberal government in recent times, and put "one law for all" into our political lexicon. The other, an ethnically-constituted government lapdog who can be described as "nationalists" only in terms of their steadfast if not slavering support for the Government which is their meal-ticket. We refuse to campaign in the Maori Seats ... they're only able to poll above the margin of error when running in same.
We castigate and criticize Budget after Budget which delivers little for the great majority of New Zealanders - and assets and asset sales revenue to the fiscally and politically privileged few.
The Maori Party, by contrast, takes great pride in getting up and supporting the Government and its economic measures every year when they're presented for a vote.
And yet there are some similarities, too.
To their credit, the Maori Party joined with New Zealand First and others in opposing the #TPPA. They also voted for Fletcher Tabuteau's excellent Fighting Foreign Corporate Control bill in order to help us to try and protect New Zealand from the pernicious implementation of Investor-State Dispute Settlements designed to undermine our nation's economic sovereignty.
And perhaps somewhat surprisingly, given this Government's woeful stance on child poverty throughout most of its history, the Maori Party also agrees with New Zealand First about the pressing need for free healthcare for under-13s.
Ordinarily, this would be cause for celebration. The more parties we have advocating for the same positive change, the better ... right?
Except yesterday in the House, Maori Party Co-Leader Te Ururoa Flavell got up and tried to claim sole credit for the policy. More than that, he outright stated that New Zealand First had been "pinching [their] ideas". He said we should feel "shame" about this.
This is thoroughly out of order - and not just because Flavell appears to have been attempting to claim that finding common cause with other parties in pursuit of a demonstrably positive end is something to be "shamed" over.
Here are the facts:
New Zealand First spent a good chunk of the mid-1990s campaigning for free healthcare for under-13s. To be fair, we were never *quite* able to implement it. In 1996, when we entered into that abominable and apology-worthy relationship with National, we attempted to - but were only able to negotiate them to rolling out free healthcare for under-6s. Which is, at least, almost half-way.
Subsequent to this, we continued to push for the policy. In 2005, for instance, we'd elevated the policy to the status of a "key negotiating plank in post-election talks". We also campaigned on it in 2014.
So it's a bit rich for Flavell to turn up in 2015 and try to claim exclusive credit for the policy ... still, much less, to state another Party who first put it firmly on the political agenda almost a decade before the Maori Party was founded ought to feel "shame" for such advocacy.
It goes on:
In his speech in support of this year's Budget, Flavell claimed of the Opposition (of which New Zealand First is a proud member) "They get nothing. They have delivered nothing to this country. Why? Because they are in Opposition, and here we are at the table getting gains for our people. Today, the Maori Party can, and will, take every bit of credit that comes its way."
Clearly, that remark by Flavell is a statement of general Maori Party policy - namely, that they're so incredibly desperate for something to point to as evidence to justify their sorry existence ... that they're quite prepared to lie outrageously about another Party in order to make political ends rhetorically meet, and ensure those "bits of credit" "come their way".
So let me put it this way.
On Wednesday, when Flavell got up to make that speech in Parliament which this blog is responding to, he embarrassed himself. And not simply due to his idiotic bobble-tinsel antenna.
Parliament should be above this sort of shysterous and inaccurate political point-scoring. We're all there for - at least nominally - the same reason: making peoples' lives better. There's no "shame" in that.
But where there *is* "shame", is in having so little to show from seven long years supporting a corrupt and iniquitous Government that you have to try to shout down and rhetorically de-legitimate the contributions of others in order to try and grasp some sorry shred of relevance for yourselves.
In his speech - by his tone, tenor and mannerisms - Flavell revealed himself to be a frightened, desperate man.
He knows that his party's time is ending.
It's a pity he can't take a leaf out of that other political footnote of a minnow David Seymour's book and embrace (political) death with dignity.
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