9 Nov 2009

Maori Party plans another meeting with Harawira

1:57 pm on 9 November 2009

Leaders of the Maori Party are to meet with Hone Harawira and members of his electorate on Thursday to discuss the MP's latest controversy.

Mr Harawira has been under fire for skipping a day of a taxpayer-funded trip in Europe to go sightseeing in Paris, and has also used swear words in an email exchange about the trip with former Waitangi Tribunal director Buddy Mikaere.

The Te Tai Tokerau MP was leading a parliamentary delegation to the European Parliament in Brussels in October and missed a day of the meeting to take his wife sightseeing in the French capital, which he paid for.

In the email with Mr Mikaere, Mr Harawira refers to concern about the trip as "white man bulls***".

Mr Harawira went on to say white people have been "raping our lands and ripping us off for centuries and all of a sudden you want me to play along with their puritanical bulls***".

Mr Mikaere replies that Mr Harawira is no better than MPs and others he complains about.

Maori Party president Professor Whatarangi Winiata says the party has agreed to a hui in Te Tai Tokerau electorate on Thursday afternoon.

He says the purpose of the meeting is to discuss the controversy following Mr Harawira's return from Europe.

The party says it has already asked Mr Harawira to consider actions which it hopes will address offence he may have caused.

Professor Winiata says it is hoped Thursday's hui will allow the issues to be closed by the end of the week.

It is the second time Mr Harawira has embarrassed the Maori Party by skipping an official taxpayer-funded meeting overseas.

The first occasion was in 2007 when he missed select committee business in Australia to go on a trip to the Northern Territory.

Professor Winiata earlier said Mr Harawira has accepted that he needs to be disciplined for embarrassing his party.

Commissioner monitoring Maori Party action

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres says MP Hone Harawira's email comments are racially abusive, but it is now up to the Maori Party to address the issue.

The Human Rights Commission has received more than 20 complaints about Mr Harawira's email, while other complaints have been sent directly to Mr de Bres.

Mr de Bres has said the comments do not breach the Human Rights Act because Mr Harawira is entitled to freedom of expression.

However, he told Morning Report, the email was racially offensive and he is monitoring what the Maori Party does about it.

"I think its utterly important that the Maori Party takes action. I am at this stage confident that they will."

Mr de Bres says if there's no outcome from the Maori Party he will continue to engage on the issue.

Professor Winiata believes the comments in Mr Harawira's email were demeaning to New Zealanders and merit examination by Mr de Bres.

Apology would be hypocrisy - Samuels

Former Labour Minister of Maori Affairs, Dover Samuels, said any apology from Hone Harawira would be "absolute hypocrisy."

"He's advocating what he really believes in, he's done that for many, many years before going into Parliament," Mr Samuels told Morning Report.

"Why should he apologise, because any apology that he will make will be artificial, superficial and he actually doesn't believe it."

He says Hone Harawira should be elected leader of the Maori Party which could then "fly its true colours".

Harawira unrepentant

Mr Harawira is unrepentant about his actions in Europe and on Thursday said only "boring" people would deny someone an opportunity to see Paris.

Though he did not return calls from media on Friday, he told Television New Zealand's One News at his home that he understands his language in the email to Mr Mikaere was inappropriate, but does not revile from the sentiments he expressed.

Prime Minister John Key says Mr Harawira's comments to Mr Mikaere are inappropriate and will be deeply offensive to many New Zealanders.

Mr Key says Mr Harawira has a history of making intemperate and outrageous comments. He says the email also needs to be seen in the context of being a response to an email that was also very provocative.

The Prime Minister believes Mr Harawira must pay back some of the expenses of the trip.

Breach of trust, says Turia

Maori co-leader Tariana Turia says Mr Harawira has brought the credibility of the Maori Party into question over the trip.

She believes Mr Harawira has breached the trust of his party and the New Zealand public and says it is unlikely he will be sent overseas again.

Mrs Turia says the MP was not straight with her at the time, telling her he was sick while on the official trip, when in fact he wanted to get away to Paris.

The worry now, she says, is that the Maori Party will be questioned about whether it can guarantee that this could never happen again - and it cannot.

Mrs Turia says all Maori Party MPs must be conscious of the perception they create about how they use public funds.

Party co-leader Pita Sharples says Mr Harawira is known as an entrepreneur who breaks the odd rule here or there. He says it will be up to the Maori Party to work out as a team how to deal with the issue.