Since last year’s election there has been a lot of talk about the tenability of the relationship between the MÄori Party and National.
On the one hand National’s hard right policies will hurt many MÄori voters; how much damage can the MÄori Party let their electorate sustain from their parliamentary partners? What concessions can the MP gain that will outweigh the effects of National’s privatisation and their transfer of wealth from the poorest to the richest?
On the other hand the MÄori Party is dominated by, to quote John Tamihere, the “relatively wealthy,Â educatedÂ elite” just as the National Party is the party of the Pakeha wealthy educated elite. Like peas in a pod, perhaps these two parties of the elites are made for each other. Interesting analysis on this possibility is available all over the media (e.g.Â The Herald)Â and blogs (e.g.Â Against the current).Â The analysis, good though it is, has tended to overlook the fact that while the MÄori and Pakeha elites have many things in common, their cultural differences are significant too.
One of the areas often discussed as common ground between the parties is provision of social services: both want to transfer service provision (and the funding for it) from the state to “the community”. It looks like an agreement, but what do they mean by “the community”?
National’s view of community social service provision is to pay a small number of large corporates or NGOs to provide bulk social services, just like the big companies they’ve worked for in the private sector. The MÄori Party, quite differently, imagine many small iwi, runanga and hapu based providers, with perhaps some provision by Urban MÄori Authorities. To the MÄori Party the key to community provision is local targeted care by traditional MÄori structures.
This cultural gulf recurs throughout the apparent policy agreements between National and the MÄori Party. Another example, National wants to privatise health care provision by offering it to large privately owned hospital providers like those Michael Woodhouse lobbied for in his years in theÂ NZ Private Surgical Hospitals Association and the NZ Private Hospitals Association. The MÄori Party wants to strengthen and develop the many Hauora built by iwi and hapu throughout the country, just like the one Hone Harawira helped set up in the Far North.
That may be the final ideological divide: the difference between a “community” consisting of corporates and their shareholders, and a “community” of iwi and hapu.