Turia: We are in a better position this time around

By Audrey Young

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Any confidence and supply agreement between the Maori Party and National will be a very different document from the last one, if the Maori Party holds the balance of power after Saturday's election.

Co-leader Tariana Turia made that clear yesterday after the Maori Party met in Wellington to discuss post-election strategy.

"This time around, I think we've got a lot more clarity, we understand our role better," she told the Herald.

"We think that if we're in a position where we can negotiate for far more policy gains, we will do that."

The party's priorities were Whanau Ora, jobs, housing, health and education, Mrs Turia said.

"But in many ways we are not looking for more of the same. We do want some transformational change for our people otherwise we're going to be sitting here in three years talking about the same things all over again."

Any gains for Maori were good for the country, Mrs Turia said.

She said the party would negotiate first with the largest party - expected to be National.

But she dismissed a suggestion she could never work with Labour because of the bad blood between them.

She said she had good relationships with the Labour Maori caucus and with many other members of the party caucus.

While yesterday's meeting had not got down to detail of process, she did not think that if a deal was concluded with National the party would also enter negotiations with Labour.

"My preference is to have some integrity in negotiations, that if you sit down and negotiate with one group and reach a particular point, it would feel unethical to then go to another party and then share what it is you've been able to negotiate."

But that was the party's decision.

Prime Minister John Key has already said that even if National does not need the Maori Party to govern, he would like to again hold talks as he did in 2008.

National did not need the Maori Party to govern then, but entered a confidence and supply agreement with it.

It was more a statement of good faith and was light on policy concessions - providing an agreement not to pursue abolition or entrenchment of the Maori seats, a review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act, and a constitutional review.

Mrs Turia said the Maori Party had voted against National most times but the agreement had been geared towards having "a lasting and respectful" relationship.

"In many, many ways, I see it was an expression of what the Treaty expected from us when the Treaty was signed. Our people's great hope was that we could build relationships with those that came here."

She said the party did not have bottom lines as such but was on a particular pathway.

Having self-belief and having control over your life was important, she said, "not seeing that your first port of call is, in fact, the Government or government agency."

"That is an important mind-shift for us to be making with our people, because if we don't, if we are not able to be more self-determining about ourselves and start to look for more economic independence, if we don't do that, we'll be forever beneficiaries of the state."

She said reinstating the training incentive allowance would be a priority. It enabled young mothers to train and study and some had ended up in top jobs, including school principals, lawyers and politicians (Social Development Minister Paula Bennett studied with such assistance when she was a sole parent).

Mrs Turia repeated her pledge to take back any agreement the party reached to be part of the Government to people, party members and people who had supported the party.

"We've never ever shut other people out of those hui."

- NZ Herald

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