8 Feb 2011

Maori Party being swallowed by National - Harawira

10:01 pm on 8 February 2011

Hone Harawira renewed his attack on the Maori Party on Tuesday, saying it has become the meek and accommodating coalition partner of the National Government.

The MP for Te Tai Tokerau was suspended from his party's caucus on Monday after co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples said they can no longer trust him.

At a news conference at Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Harawira said the Maori Party needs to speak out more about the effect of government policies on Maori people.

"We have been swallowed up by the National juggernaut. We are seen as merely the Maori face of a government that is hurting Maori people. And we are no longer being seen as the active defenders of the faith."

Mr Harawira faces a disciplinary committee on Wednesday night over comments made in a newspaper article criticising his party over its close relationship with National. The complaint was laid by party whip Te Ururoa Flavell.

Events at Waitangi to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi at the weekend have also increased tensions, with Mr Harawira giving a 'state of the nation' speech an hour before Dr Sharples was due to deliver his.

At the traditional Treaty forum on Saturday night, Mr Harawira said leaders who lost the courage and vigour to fight for the founding kaupapa (principles) of the Maori Party should be replaced.

Mr Harawira acknowledged on Tuesday he knows he has been wrong in some of the things he has said, and that he struggles with authority.

However, the MP says he still intends to stand for the Maori Party at this year's election and hopes matters can be resolved on the marae.

In Parliament on Tuesday, Mrs Turia defended the Maori Party's relationship with National, saying they thought long and hard before taking on the challenge of government.

She told MPs the Maori Party has not been a docile partner for National and has fought to set a better foundation for the tamariki and mokopuna (children and grandchildren).

Mrs Turia says the Labour Party is not in a position to exploit the Maori Party's position for political gain, as there is not a party in the House that has not experienced internal conflict.

Door still open, says Sharples

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples says the door remains open to Mr Harawira to return to the caucus - but he would have to change his behaviour.

Dr Sharples says Mr Harawira would have demonstrate that he accepted the leadership and consensus decisions on legislation. He says it is unlikely Mr Harawira will change his behaviour, but there is always hope.

Dr Sharples told Morning Report the suspension means Mr Harawira is not allowed to speak in Parliament unless he is called upon by the Speaker.

He says the Maori Party wanted to make sure the speeches given in the opening general debate on Tuesday are those of the caucus - not what Mr Harawira "might like to dream up".

Electorate support continues

Te Tai Tokerau electorate chair Lisa McNab says there is anger and disappointment at Mr Harawira's suspension. She says she was not told of it before it was announced publicly on Monday.

Ms McNab says no matter what happens, Te Tai Tokerau will keep supporting Mr Harawira.

However, Ngapuhi elder Hone Sadler told Morning Report that support for Mr Harawira may be fading after his latest outburst on social networking site Facebook where he abused party colleagues.

Mr Sadler, who is a leader of the Ngapuhi sovereignty claim, says the party has been too conciliatory in its approach to Mr Harawira and people are growing tired of his behaviour.

He says he also believes the MP has been scaremongering about the proposed new foreshore and seabed law and not fully reporting the facts to his electorate.