So much of Labour and the economic left’s criticism of the mÄori party and its conduct in government with National is little more than the howling of self-interested PÄkehÄ angry that the natives aren’t comporting themselves in the approved fashion. But in this case, criticism of the mÄori party’s support for National’s amended ETS is entirely justified — not because it goes against the principles of the labour and environmentalist movements, but because it goes against the mÄori party’s own stated principles and demonstrated political strategy. Idiot/Savant has a thorough fisking of the differences.
Whereas previous criticisms have mostly been leveled at the mÄori party for trading away tactical gains against strategic gains (going into government with National; refusing to quit any time National capitalised on its majority; etc), this decision sacrifices the strategic for the tactical, swapping a few relatively token benefits to some industry sectors in which MÄori have strong interests and to low-income people among whom MÄori are strongly represented, against a huge intergenerational moral hazard by which the general populace will subsidise emitters, robbing the general tax fund of revenue which could otherwise have been channeled into targeted poverty relief and social services, of which MÄori are among the most significant consumers. The upshot must surely be the Foreshore and Seabed; but this seems to me a very heavy price to pay for a concession which seemed likely to go ahead in any case.
While the mÄori party is not — and MÄori are not — ‘environmentalists’ in the western conservation-for-conservation’s-own-sake sense, a core plank of their political and cultural identity is rooted in their own kind of environmentalism, and by acceding to an ETS which does not enforce carbon limitations on industry and society, they have put this role in jeopardy and severely weakened their brand and alliances.
There is a silver lining in this for Labour and the Greens, however. The mÄori party’s deal has prevented Labour from succumbing to a similarly tempting compromise on the ETS, and it can retain its relatively high moral ground. Labour and the Greens now have a clear path on which they can campaign for the 2011 and future elections, a definite identity around which to orient their policies, and the real possibility of significant strengthening of the ETS in the future. Where this leaves the mÄori party I’m not sure; no doubt those who shout ‘kupapa!’ will be keen to consign them to the annals of history, but I don’t think redemption is impossible — especially if the mÄori party shepherds the FSA review through to its desired conclusion, it will remain a political force too significant to be ignored.