Friday, November 27, 2009

Goff’s Nationhood speech

Rather than do an immediate post on Goff’s Nationhood speech, I thought I’d wait rather than attack Goff for a racist speech that Shane Jones vetted before delivery.

What Goff appeared to want to do is open up a split within the Māori Party at the same time as divide a wedge between the Māori Party and National. He wanted to play the race card, but in a non-racist way. His speech was not racist like Brash’s 2004 Nationhood speech, but Goff pulls on the same strings, articulating a latent belief that Māori were getting special treatment at the expense of other New Zealanders.

Goff may be correct in calling the emissions trading scheme a “shabby “political deal, (twice), but it is a bit rich saying that it will harm New Zealanders for generations to come when he has said that Labour will repeal the ETS when in power, thus minimising that harm.

Goff attacked John Keys leadership, saying it would lead to a country with "one New Zealander turned against another, Maori against Pakeha". Yet Labour has led the way on this. In addition, it has now withdrawn an offer to create enduring consensus over the Foreshore and Seabed legislation.

Perhaps Goff wants to see the Māori Party destroyed - hence the hope of engineering that destruction - as he sees it as the only way Labour can form a government in 2011. Like Helen Clark before him, he could well be willing to reopen wounds in race relations to gain power, and use the race card to expose any rifts between National the Māori Party as they appear, in the hope that NZ First will come back in 2011. And that is a real pity.

Sure, the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process should not be used as a basis for privileged treatment of certain iwi, thus causing disagreement among Māori - but Goff’s speech was not exactly about kotahitanga either. His unsubstantiated implication was that Key’s lack of criticism of Harawira’s mofo comments was because he wanted to get this “shabby political deal” enacted.

Goff’s comments that the Foreshore and Seabed legislation that deprived Māori to go to court was ‘working well’ is contrary to Labour’s submission to the Foreshore and Seabed Ministerial review. It’s a U-turn in Labour policy. Warning that repeal would make ‘wounds fester’ was a politically irresponsible statement to make, given that it was Labour who did the wounding that initiated the formation of the Māori Party.

Labour still sees the Māori Party as the last cab off the rank. Now that the party is bleeding supporters who are looking for another cab; will they go to a party that is happy to exercise wedge politics to open up a boiling pot in race relations, ask questions and demand change in Māori Party leadership, or be politically apathetic.

Goff, in trying to articulate concerns about emerging problems seems unable to offer practical solutions to problems in race relations and unfair treatment.

But that’s what is needed now. Extending a narrative to touch a nerve for short –term exposure is not going to do much. Labour needs a new leader - and quickly.

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