Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on how Tariana Turia is facing a Katie Holmes moment

July 12th, 2012

The Maori Party’s relationship with National is looking more and more like that of a battered spouse, a pitiable creature who will swallow any indignity in return for the few crumbs of what the relationships once promised to offer. Of course, the Maori Party will say that it’s staying in this dysfunctional coalition for the sake of the children. Which, in the context of this analogy, is the Whanau Ora programme. No matter how sickly and malnourished it may be, Whanau Ora is still Tariana Turia’s baby.

It is a train wreck. Yet come their meeting on Monday, you can bet that the Maori Party and National will have patched things up again. No doubt, they’ll utter token words of mutual respect that will enable them to stumble on until it happens all over again. On Monday, there will even be – through gritted teeth on John Key’s part – a few humbled words of respect for those meddling aunts and uncles at the Waitangi Tribunal. The political strategy is already clicking into place:

(a) Delay things until Monday to take the heat out of the issue

(b) Downplay the offence by redefining it. Come Monday, expect something along these lines from Key: “What I did was merely to state the obvious, that Parliament is sovereign. And within that Parliament, the Maori Party is a capable and valued partner in this government. They’re capable; I value and respect their advice, etc etc.” Respect. Got it?

(c) Praise the Tribunal, honour the Treaty partner, slag the critics as opportunists. Key again, come Monday: “I think we should all take a deep breath, and await the findings of the Tribunal. When we have those findings I will be giving them the level of consideration they deserve. I don’t think we should rush to judgment and frankly I’m disappointed – but not surprised – that the opposition has chosen to play politics with this issue. It’s far too important for that etc etc…” End of story. Pita Sharples climbs into his ministerial limousine and drives off.

The basic problem will remain: that John Key has other suitors to please. To the prospective investors in the state assets being put on the auction block, Key has to appear in command, as if there are no undue impediments or uncertainties when it comes to the process of profit taking from those investments. The ownership status of water is a crucial factor in the functioning of these assets – we’re talking about hydro power, right? How hard was it to see this problem coming down the tracks? (Peter Dunne could see the potential for trouble, pre-election last year.) Over at The Standard website, James Henderson has a good example of how tricky some of the related decisions can be, even for non-Maori:

Taupo Council wants Mighty River’s consent for raising the level of Lake Taupo to be reduced or mitigated because its eroding the lakeshore – but an extra metre of lake level is, by my calculation, half a billion extra kilowatt/hours of gravitational potential energy sitting there, worth over $50 million dollars to Mighty River, and it’s ready to be sent down the dams for even greater profits when the spot price spikes. If that gets curtailed, there goes a big chunk of Mighty River’s profits.

When it come to the asset sales, National clearly thought it could flannel its way through any of the potential Treaty problems to do with water rights, which says a lot about how captive it feels the Maori Party is to the coalition, and to whatever National chooses to do. That’s the tactical mistake Turia has made by putting all of the Maori Party’s eggs in the Whanau Ora basket. She’s a captive now of John Key – much more visibly now, than she ever was to Helen Clark. (Second marriages do tend to break down for the same old reasons.)

Rignt now, independence looks politically more rewarding for the Maori Party than staying on in this undignified position. The break has to come sooner or later, because – surely – the Maori Party cannot be planning to go into the next election side by side with National. If things seem bad now, wait until the full fallout is registering among the Maori Party’s constituents from asset sales, and from welfare reform. As Katie Holmes has shown, it all comes down to picking the right moment and the right excuse to leave. That’s what makes all the difference between escape and desertion. (They were going to make my baby into a Scientologist!)

Right now, the government is making it clear just what kind of conclusions it wants to get from the Waitangi Tribunal – or else. As a consequence, Turia is facing her Katie Moment – does she accept whatever her boyishly grinning partner is forcing on her and totally surrender to the alien sect with which she’s got somehow got herself entangled? Or does she pick up what’s dearest to her, and head for the exit? A dignified separation now is going to look much better than a rat-leaving-ship moment later in this parliamentary term.

Why…in the course of time, Whanau Ora could even grow up in a healthier household, within a centre left government.


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    1. 10 Responses to “Gordon Campbell on how Tariana Turia is facing a Katie Holmes moment”

    2. By Rose on Jul 12, 2012 | Reply

      Great commentary.
      My opinion is that this dysfuncional relationship will continue at all costs, as long as Pita Sharples remains.
      Although they took a hammering last election for it (no learning there), next time around there support will only reduce slightly.

    3. By Elyse on Jul 12, 2012 | Reply

      (Second marriages do tend to break down for the same old reasons.)

      Brilliant, Gordon.

    4. By Kat on Jul 12, 2012 | Reply

      “rat-leaving-ship moment” thats well put. The ship they are on is doomed and bound to sink, so it will just come down to the timing of the leaving.

      Must be pretty smelly at the moment in that tent though!

    5. By Linda lawrence on Jul 12, 2012 | Reply

      Thank you, Gordon. I agree entirely.

    6. By Ian Morine on Jul 12, 2012 | Reply

      Brilliant commentary Gordon, the best I have read to date on this subject.

      Just one point to add, this “relationship” was doomed from day one really, just like Katie Holmes marriage. Very strange bedfellows, the Nats and the Maori Party. Term one was always going to be a n easy ride, now the rubber is hitting the road.

    7. By Adrian on Jul 12, 2012 | Reply

      But would they go into coalition with Labour?

    8. By Joe Blow on Jul 12, 2012 | Reply

      Yeah, I think this could be the end of the Maori Party coalition with National. Not even whanau ora can keep them together over this issue. It’s at least as big as, if not bigger than, the foreshore and seabed issue. Still the one difference this time around is that Maori’s goal of delaying the partial asset sales is in line with what most New Zealander’s want. The problem is that a portion of the shares given to iwi in the form of a settlement could turn this thing around for Key. However, I’m not sure that Key could politically afford to look like he’s pandering to Maori when the rest of New Zealanders get their assets sold down the mighty river… somethings got to give… I’m betting it’s the end of the coalition. Otherwise the Maori Party’s toast!

    9. By simon on Jul 12, 2012 | Reply

      Well put, Gordon.

      Only one wee quibble. On Monday Key won’t be saying “take a deep breath”. It will be “take a step back.”

      We know this because he only ever says two things. The other one is (of course) “kick the tyres”.

      Or maybe now it’s “kick the Turias”.

    10. By richarquis on Jul 13, 2012 | Reply

      As a regular reader of your columns for the last few years, I always look forward to them. This one, though, really took the biscuit. Funny, and still right on the mark. As a Kiwi living a long way from home, it’s good to have quality news to read.

    11. By Alana Bowman on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

      I’d ask that you give your analogy to a “battered spouse” a re-think as it is insulting to women in or formerly in violent relationships, and demonstrates a a superficial understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence. Women remain in violent relationships for a wide variety of reasons, not the least of them a true and accurate threat of death if she leaves. The “pitiable creature” label is outrageous.

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