Key Points:

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia says the party will still talk with National after the election, despite her co-leader Pita Sharples expressing a preference for Labour.

Their comments come as the party yesterday set a high bar for any deal with National - releasing a Treaty policy which included entrenching the Maori seats in the Electoral Act as a bottom line in any post-election talks.

The policy puts it at loggerheads with National, which wants to move to abolish the seats from 2014.

Its leader John Key last week said its policy wasn't a bottom line opening the door for it to be ditched as part of a deal, but National would now have to go further and completely reverse its policy.

Entrenching the seats in the Electoral Act would make them safe unless there was a 75 per cent majority vote in Parliament to abolish them. At present they could be abolished with a simple majority.

Adding to National's potential problems , Dr Sharples told the Dominion Post newspaper the Maori Party would prefer Labour to win the election because that is what its supporters wanted.

"The feeling is still there - Maori are joined at the hip with Labour. There is no doubt about it."

Mrs Turia today said she was surprised by his comments and the door was still open to National.

"We are interested in talking to all the political parties," Mrs Turia said on Radio New Zealand.

"Because we know that its really important for our people's aspirations for us to take MMP seriously.

"It's no good talking and then finding that the political party of your choice may not even be the government and so I think that we it owe it to our people to keep all the doors open."

Mrs Turia also said senior National MP Lockwood Smith's comments that Asians were good vineyard workers because of their small delicate hands and that some Pacific Islanders needed to be taught to use a toilet and a shower would not be a barrier to a deal.

Mrs Turia yesterday lashed Dr Smith, but today she said she accepted his apology.

"All of us have been known to make intemperate comments from time to time. I've moved on."

Mr Key yesterday would not be drawn on what ground National might be prepared to give in post-election talks if it needed the support of the Maori Party to form a government.

On current polling National would be able to govern with the support of ACT, but it would only take a small drop in its popularity for the Maori Party to hold the balance of power.

Labour leader Helen Clark yesterday said Labour was absolutely committed to keeping the seats until Maori themselves decided it was time for them to go, but would not commit to entrenching the seats.

- NZPA