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GRAHAM ADAMS: Rawiri Waititi’s gift to the coalition

The government is always going to win a showdown between order and anarchy.

Not every government is lucky enough to be gifted a parliamentary opponent who effortlessly makes its leaders look sagacious and principled. Someone who immediately makes them look competent and sane in comparison, and very much the adults in the room.

With his inflammatory slogans, theatrics and intimidating posturing, Rawiri Waititi ably and enthusiastically fulfils that role in New Zealand’s 54th Parliament (albeit with stiff competition from others in Te Pāti Māori, including his co-leader, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer).

As the co-leader of the only party in Parliament premised specifically on ethnic criteria — and owing its place entirely to the anachronistic Māori seats — Waititi is a boon to the government, even if that fact is not entirely appreciated or understood amid the widespread anger flooding social media after his repeated calls last week for a constitutional revolution, including a separate Māori Parliament.

Not least, it looks as if he may become a thorn in the side of Labour and the Greens, who are on notice for their refusal to call out his overt racism. And he presents a problem too for the legacy media and their friends in the “disinformation” industry over their reluctance to condemn his language as “racist hate speech” in the way they regularly do to others — particularly those characterised as “far-right”. Apparently the “far-left” is automatically exempt from such criticism.

Those inconvenient facts were on display on Newshub’s AM last week when Lloyd Burr interviewed Greens co-leader Marama Davidson and Act’s David Seymour. It was the morning of the Budget debate and the day of national action called by Te Pāti Māori, which was provocatively publicised with an image of crossed pistols against a fiery background.

Burr screened a brief clip of Waititi filming Cabinet ministers visible in a room across from his parliamentary office at night. Waititi claimed Tama Potaka, Matt Doocey and Paul Goldsmith were putting together a “white Budget for their white economy”.

Asked by Burr whether Waititi’s references to a “white government, white Budget, and white economy” sat well with her, Davidson wouldn’t answer directly, saying only that the government was “one of the most anti-Māori and anti-Tiriti governments we’ve ever seen”.

Asked again, Davidson was similarly evasive, leading David Seymour to ask her testily: “How hard is it to call out racism?”

He also pointed out the preposterous nature of Waititi’s claims, given that eight of the 20 Cabinet members (ie 40 per cent) are Māori. And while complimenting Burr for raising the topic, Seymour challenged the rest of the legacy media to end their double standard of avoiding criticising Te Pāti Māori’s racist speech.

Davidson’s defensiveness and evasiveness in the interview indicated she is fully aware that Waititi’s radical rhetoric poses a problem for the Greens inasmuch as both parties have policies in common and are easily lumped together and disparaged as the “loony left”. She may as well have plaintively asked: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Davidson understands the cost of inflammatory pronouncements, not least her infamous claim in March 2023 that “I know what causes violence in this world and it’s white cis men.” It was a statement so detached from reality she felt compelled to walk it back soon afterwards.

Waititi, in contrast, is not given to retreating; doubling down is more his style. In Parliament on Budget Day he warned: “We continuously allow this House to assume that it has sovereignty — and absolute superiority — over Māori”, as if that sovereignty might exist through his grace and favour.

Having issued a Declaration of Political Independence, he announced: “Today, we made a declaration in the name of our mokopuna that we would no longer allow the assumption of this Parliament to have superiority or sovereignty over te Iwi Māori.”

Listening to Waititi, who would guess that only one in six enrolled Māori gave Te Pāti Māori their party vote at October’s election (or that it gained only 3.08 per cent of the national vote)? His assumption that he can speak on behalf of Māori generally is risible.

In the same speech, he optimistically held out a begging bowl, proposing that Māori, as 20 per cent of the nation’s population, should be able to control 20 per cent of the government’s total tax take.

That proposition was met with a tsunami of scorn on social media — amplified by allegations of illegal practices made over the weekend that a Te Pāti Māori MP and the South Auckland marae she once ran used private information collected during the Census for political campaigning as well as rewarding voters with food and vouchers. The idea that any government would hand over a fifth of its tax take to Māori never seemed so fantastical.

The previous day in Parliament, Winston Peters had accused Te Pāti Māori and its acolytes of wanting “racial division… not unity”.

“They don’t want democracy,” the Deputy Prime Minister said. “They want anarchy.”

Waititi, of course, talks freely about revolution outside Parliament as well as within it, and his wife, Kiri, added to the volatile mix last week with an expletive-laden rant on TikTok alleging the government was determined to “get rid” of Māori and boasting that a unified Māori movement would have the ability to “overthrow any government”.

They are, of course, playing to the gallery but they are also playing straight into the hands of Peters, Seymour and Luxon. You don’t have to be an experienced political analyst to know just how attractive an ordered democracy is to voters presented with the spectre of anarchy.

Unfortunately for Chris Hipkins and Labour, the party’s views about democracy and Māori nationalism have not been dissimilar to those of Te Pāti Māori. During Labour’s six-year rule between 2017 and 2023, senior ministers — including Willie Jackson and Grant Robertson — endorsed the radical idea that “democracy has changed”, while promoting co-governance with iwi across a range of policies from Three Waters and the Māori Health Authority to the RMA reforms and the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Act.

Willie Jackson claimed “We’re in a consensus-type democracy now. This is not a majority democracy.” Jacinda Ardern herself would not defend a democracy of “one person, one vote of equal value” even when asked directly.

When the existence of He Puapua was revealed in March 2021 with its extensive recommendations to establish separate Māori institutions, Ardern quickly shut down criticism by saying the document was not official government policy.

In April, Seymour asked the then Prime Minister in the House if her government would rule out a “Treaty-based constitution” — and specifically whether it would “rule out establishing a Māori Parliament [by 2040], as called for by the report He Puapua?”

In response, Ardern used the classic non-committal line beloved of politicians: “Obviously, we have no intention of making such a constitutional change…”, before adding, “However, we do commit ourselves to making sure that we are upholding our obligations as Treaty partners…”

Sooner or later, Labour is going to have to either publicly repudiate Te Pāti Māori’s push to turbo-charge Māori separatism or endorse it. If the party doesn’t publicly distance itself from that agenda, it will be unelectable in 2026, and beyond.

Whichever way Chris Hipkins decides to handle the issue, however, it’s a safe bet he won’t be nearly as direct as Winston Peters, who described the calls to form a separate Māori Parliament as evidence Te Pāti Māori was “off its trolley”.

Māori leaders outside the party are already stepping away from Waititi’s revolutionary push. Asked at the national hui held at Hastings on Friday what he thought about the proposal for a Māori Parliament, Kiingi Tūheitia said: “Actually, it frightens me.”

The proposal, and any other similarly radical ideas Waititi espouses, will just as surely alarm most voters in the run-up to the next election. Chris Hipkins — or whoever is leading his party by then — is going to have a very tough job convincing a majority of New Zealanders that a coalition between Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori will be an appealing and stable alliance that has the best interests of all New Zealanders at its heart.

Graham Adams is a freelance editor, journalist and columnist. He lives on Auckland’s North Shore.

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144 Kommentare

Jim Dowsett
Jim Dowsett
08. Juni

Well said!

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Well Graham, this must surely be the best news since tax cuts during a period of economic adversity? If your appraisal is correct, MP Waititi will be the author of his own demise? Matched against the unassailable sage and diplomacy of his parliamentary contemporaries he will simply self destruct... no need for the abolition of the Maori electorate after all then?

The thing is, Maori Party support had been steadily declining within the Waiariki constituency before Waititi won the seat. From languishing at around 17% in 2020, it increased to over 37% by 2023 and his winning margin by over 15,000 votes. While the relatively timid and deferential manner of his predecessor, Tamati Coffey, may well have been favoured by…

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Seems we agree on how heavily the mood of the electorate is swayed by circumstance, but differ on its trajectory?

Electoral integrity is paramount in every democratic society. Allegations of interference/coercion are dire and concerning. If proven, they constitute corruption and those convicted can expect lengthy jail sentences. I understand seperate lines of enquiry are in train by Privacy Commission, Dept. of Statistics, Electoral Commission and Police. No doubt their investigations will be meticulous and rigorous and heavier scrutiny through Auditor General and SFO has not been ruled out by our PM.

Until their findings are known, your speculations and predictions amount to little better than conjecture.

Since you've raised the PM's salary, he probably earns less than as CEO,…

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END THIS DIVISION INTO HOSTILE RACIST TRIBES. Talking about it is easy but doing what is necessary requires courage and integrity. The influential members and funders of the main political parties would not promote IDENTITY POLITICS if the had courage and integrity. Identity Politics is a proven political strategy of dividing "the masses" into hostile groups so that they can be conquered and ruled.. The political elites appeal to members of these hostile tribes by promising them more privileges, opportunities, advantages and public funds than "their enemies". The division and hostility between people with some maori ancestry and those with no maori ancestry has been and continues to be promoted and perpetuated by politically ambitious and influential individuals FOR THEIR OWN BENEFIT. The acceptance of this…

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Maori are NOT INDIGENOUS..... ! Get it?

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I would urge everyone on this thread to read the comment above from ‘aisr ‘. My god excellent research and bloody frightening! This post mightily adds to the utter corruption of the UN on the back of the latest adoptions of the IHR, placing NZ fairly and squarely into the hands of the WHO Pandemic Treaty. Seems to me we have 1 option only to save this country. Exit the UN and the WHO and do it fast!!!!

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Yes and few really do understand the cost to NZ of the UN alignment - at least until it hits them at the front door, because MSM elects to sit quietly when the UN contacts NZ Government to initiate an oversight as to how it should be functioning with respect to UNDRIP inclusion into NZ. If MSM does, then its a small sidebar editorial without any analysis of the consequences.

Maybe today this will wake some up as to how the UN seeks and thinks it can invoke controls -

Hence, I expect that once MP Waititi and his team get some traction with the HRC, they will be off to the UN to seek support and intervention to…

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A lot of good sense there, thanks Graham - and helps to put into perspective how much real influence any ‘firebrand’ can really have.

Nicely summarised by this point:

Chris Hipkins — or whoever is leading his party by then — is going to have a very tough job convincing a majority of New Zealanders that a coalition between Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori will be an appealing and stable alliance”


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