This brief report from Radio Waatea brings into crispish focus a few issues regarding the mÄori party’s support for the new Marine & Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill, and perceived collaboration with the National-led government against its constituents’ own interests:
Sharples upset at Maori Media Ingratitude
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples says he’s disappointed at the heat coming on him from the Maori media over the Marine and Coastal Area Bill.
Criticism of the bill by iwi such as Ngai Tahu and Ngati Kahungunu and from Taitokerau MP Hone Harawira has been extensively reported.
But Dr Sharples says it’s better than the existing Foreshore and Seabed Act, and the Maori media should reflect that.
â€œThey forget weâ€™re there on their side to do stuff for them. Instead of sort of helping us knock down the barriers, they try to knock us down as the barrier. And yet without as it were the initiation of us in there, there would be no efforts at all and in the context of past Maoris in government, we have really achieved outstanding results,â€ he says.
Dr Sharples says the Maori Party hasn’t got enough credit the whanau ora welfare delivery model and for his rehabilitation units in prisons, which will open next year.
Sharples is right in several important respects. The role the mÄori party party has played in getting take MÄori and tino rangatiratanga on the government agenda has been crucial. The mÄori party really does have a unique claim to an “authentic” kaupapa MÄori politics, and this should make MÄori media such as Waatea, MÄori Television and TVNZ’s MÄori programming division (which produces Te Karere and Marae) should be strongly sympathetic towards their policy programmes. Should, I say, if the end policy result was seen to be consistent with those kaupapa.
But these agencies do not owe the mÄori party any favours. As media outlets their job is not to shill for a party line but to present a considered view of current events in context, and by reporting the deep dissatisfaction within MÄoridom regarding the MCA bill they are doing just that. MÄori media have generally shown a strong commitment to independence and impartiality — which is a particularly tricky thing to do given their cultural focus — and their coverage of the mÄori party’s policy platform is simply an extension of that commitment. Long may it continue, and would that it were more broadly shared.
What this episode really illustrates is the extent to which the mÄori party is isolated from its support structures with regard to its position on the MCA bill. Just as the party has failed to persuade its own constituency, and indeed its own caucus, that the MCA bill is worth supporting, it has failed to persuade the only media establishment which might be sympathetic to its cause as to the merits of that cause. All this illustrates one of two things: either the party is way off base; the strategy of supporting the bill is bad for MÄori and MÄori know it; or that the strategy of supporting the bill is actually a great deal better than anyone knows, but the party has largely failed to articulate this.
I know which I’m tending toward, and I invite readers to argue their case. But no matter which you believe, I think it’s clear that attacking the media is neither a mature nor a useful response. Successful actors in modern democracy lead the media, like they lead their electors — in the knowledge that both must follow willingly, by consent (however grudging), or not at all. If, as a politician, you ever find yourself running a sustained campaign of trying to shove either the media or your constituents in a certain direction against their will, berating or harassing or whipping them for their stupidity or intransigence or for simply failing to follow instructions — then you have very probably already failed.