Labour leader Phil Goff will today give a major speech on the theme of nationhood, accusing National and the Maori Party of "shabby" political deals which threaten to re-open racial wounds which until now had been healing satisfactorily.
He is expected to lambast PM John Key for failing to provide leadership and instead leaving the country at a crossroads where it either celebrated its rich heritage and moved forward or ended up with society being divided for generations to come.
His speech to a Grey Power-organised public meeting in Palmerston North is the latest of positioning statements from the Leader of the Opposition. They are designed to flag the direction Mr Goff is taking Labour, while putting some clear markers in the ground to differentiate himself from Mr Key and lift his own profile. Mr Goff has previously castigated the horse-trading over the emissions trading scheme and remarks made by outcast Maori Party MP Hone Harawira, as well as renouncing the longstanding bipartisan approach to monetary policy in order to make things easier for exporters.
With Labour MPs yesterday accusing the Maori Party of selling out in backing of the Government's emissions trading legislation, Mr Goff's speech is also likely to canvas the similar tensions that will inevitably arise between National and its support partner over resolving questions surrounding customary rights and ownership of the foreshore and seabed.
Mr Goff is expected to stress New Zealanders' widespread unease that the Harawira controversy has taken race relations backwards. He will also emphasise that the integrity of Treaty settlement process risks being severely damaged by the haggling between National and the Maori Party.
However, his main target is Mr Key, whom Mr Goff will accuse of cynicism in choosing not to condemn the language that landed Mr Harawira in so much trouble with his own party.
Mr Goff will say that New Zealanders look to their leaders to articulate their hurts and fears - and Mr Key is failing to provide that kind of leadership.By John Armstrong