28 May 2024

Christopher Luxon warns striking to join Budget hui would be illegal

4:25 pm on 28 May 2024

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Labour's Chris Hipkins are both warning people not to break the law during planned protests this week - but some in Labour say it's up to the individual.

Activist groups have been calling for strikes this Thursday as part of a second National Māori Action Day.

In an Instagram post published jointly with Te Pāti Māori, organisers called for all Māori and Tangata Tiriti to go on strike on Thursday and protest the government's polices affecting Māori.

Hikoi are planned throughout the country, including at Parliament.

Heading into his weekly caucus meeting on Tuesday, Prime Minister Luxon said striking would not be appropriate.

"No. That would be illegal," he said, pointing out it was "pretty clear what the rules are around strike action".

Christopher Luxon

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

He thought it was "wrong" for Te Pāti Māori to be advising people to take the day off work.

"I think that's entirely wrong, I think - feel free to protest, that's what we have weekends for, but I just say to you: Te Pāti Māori, they're completely free to protest as they want - as long as it's legal and peaceable and lawful.

"But I'm not focused on that, I'm focused on making sure I deliver a Budget for New Zealanders whether they're Māori or non-Māori where they can see they can get ahead."

Māori Development Minister Tama Potaka said he was not concerned about the protests.

National MP Tama Potaka

Tama Potaka Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

"I think Te Pāti Māori and others have a democratic right to lawfully protest and we acknowledge that there are different protesters that come here all the time," he said.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins also said he supported people using their right to free speech, but warned people not to break the law.

"I think in terms of any strikes, they need to be in the confines of the law, so there's pretty clear law around when people can and can't strike, it's in the context of bargaining - so I think people need to follow that."

Chris Hipkins

Chris Hipkins Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

However, Labour's only MP in a Māori seat - Ikaroa-Rāwhiti's Cushla Tangaere-Manuel - said she would personally be attending the protest and if people were choosing to strike it would reflect the strength of their feeling.

"By no means am I a lawyer, but I think if people make that decision that's because of how strongly they feel and how silenced they're feeling," she said.

"We've heard a lot of kōrero in the house about promoting peoples' voice etcetera and yet Māori are feeling silenced."

Labour Party MP Cushla Tangare-Manuel in select committee.

Cushla Tangaere-Manuel Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

She said it was nice of Luxon to give Te Pāti Māori the full credit for the protest, but it was "quite insulting to iwi and hapū in my opinion".

"You can see how organised iwi are becoming, and there's no question they should be concerned by this Budget. We've already seen cuts, we already know there's going to be a reduction in investment in kaupapa Māori compared to the $1 billion they received under Labour so they should be worried."

Labour's Māori-Crown Relations spokesperson Peeni Henare said the choice to strike was "up to each and every individual".

"Let's be honest at what's being lost here, what the challenge is. Māori health authority, backwards views on Māori policies are what causes this kind of hurt for people, so they'll make their own choice whether or not they get out to support it.

Labour list MP and grandson of Sir James Henare, Peeni Henare, addresses the Tribunal.

Peeni Henare at Waitangi this year Photo: RNZ/ Peter de Graaf

"We shouldn't be surprised. Big hui at Tūrangawaewae, big hui in Waitangi, big hui at Rātana and a constant vocal voice from Māori leadership that this government is failing our people so I don't know why anybody would be feeling surprised."

Consequences for those who did choose to strike was "up to the employer and the staff", he said.

"So I don't know. But look, a lot of people came out to support the seabed and foreshore protest when that happened - I never heard of anyone losing their job from that.

He would not be at the protest himself, saying "I'll be in here, fighting the Budget in here".

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi said the national day of action was to stop allowing the government "to assume that they have sovereignty or mana over us".

Rawiri Waititi

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

"It's now time for us to step comfortably in our rangatiratanga and to not give too much to this Pākehā government with their Pākehā budget for their Pākehā economy.

"We're asking for a Māori strike and our people should turn out. Look, if employers want to go down that track then kia kaha ... if you can't come kei te pai, we will be there for you, we will stand for you and we will continue to fight for you."

Fellow co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer defended the call to action saying she did not think it was irresponsible to urge people to strike.

"We've been told how we're allowed to live, we're being told how we're allowed to look after our wellbeing and health, we're being told how we're allowed to converge now. This is an oppressive government."

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

"People have had enough and I don't know where you want to start - whether ending the genocide, the way that the government's been marginalising rainbow communities, our taiao, our tangata, our reo.

"We have the strongest mandate for Māori than any other political people in this place and they have asked us to mobilise them. They have been waiting for months ... it's irresponsible to do nothing."

ACT leader David Seymour did not mince his words in criticising Te Pāti Māori.

"When someone starts organising a protest with pictures of guns and calling it a revolution, it's time to call it out. They do not represent Māori, they represent a small group who are fanatacist about race, who are creating enormous division," he said.

ACT party leader David Seymour

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

"I also just notice that for all the challenges and problems that New Zealand faces, they're not providing one solution except everything has to be about race ... purely identity politics with an undertone of violence.

"If they want to go on an illegal strike then they're very welcome to do that. But I would actually just say that there are consequences from their employer."

Luxon had also criticised the use of firearms on the advertising for the protest.

The imagery was based on a design from a few years ago, which was adapted for Toitū te Tiriti.

The original design was accompanied by an explanation of the symbolism: "The flags represent two people, two worlds - both Māori and Pākehā been put together. The guns represent the battles and blood that has been shed between both our cultures and the joining of these two brings both worlds and people together as one Kotahitanga."

NZ First leader Winston Peters also targeted Te Pāti Māori specifically.

"Te Pāti Māori's been on strike since the day they started. It's all they think about. They're spending all their time getting headlines from you about being victims, they're not of course, they're a disgrace to the former great Māori leadership of this country and nothing's new about their calling for a strike.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said people's willingness to risk their job showed the depth of feeling.

"I'm going to focus on the valid anger that people are feeling about how anti-Māori, anti-Tiriti this govt is, and we encourage whanau to use their voices in the way they see fit.

Co-leader Chloe Swarbrick said "The reason that people are willing to risk everything is because of the fact that this government has a fundamental assault on the things that make us New Zealanders, that bring us together, the things like our environmental protections and obviously Te Tiriti o Waitangi."