Who said the disparate parts of the new National-led coalition wouldn't get along? If the current frenzy over law and order is anything to go by, it's going to be a love-in.
No sooner had the Government announced its intention to introduce legislation backing Act's draconian "three strikes and you're out" sentencing policy, Maori Party leaders were on their hind legs proposing Maori should run the jails.
This would be possible because the coalition partners are at one with privatising the prison service. Looking at the figures you can see why. As a business opportunity, the incarceration industry stands out as the only ray of hope in these recessionary times.
According to Kim Workman, director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment, sentencing offenders to 25 years behind bars after a third violent offence "would cost between $3.5 billion and $4.5 billion". He said there would be annual operational costs of $56 million to $75 million.
He calculates this on Corrections Department figures showing there are about 15,000 offenders with three or more convictions for violence, half of whom are not in prison. "Over a very short space of time we would end up with between 7000 and 10,000 more offenders serving a prison sentence."
His costs are based on National's election promise to build one more jail for 572 prisoners at a cost of $314 million, plus annual operating costs of $43 million.
Queuing to get a piece of the action is Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia who says "Maori individuals, groups and iwi are likely to see great opportunities in running private prisons" and she "wouldn't be surprised to see some groups or iwi tendering to run or provide services in privately run prisons".
She said "Many Maori have considerable experience in prison work" and that like in health and social services, "where Maori are successfully contracting to deliver services, it might also be time for a fresh look at prisons, and I would encourage that".
She singled out the recently completed Northland prison at Ngawha and said she was sure if that were to be privatised, "Ngati Hine and Ngati Rangi would be extremely interested".
Which just shows you that some people don't give up.
Ten years ago, when Ngawha Prison was still just a dream, Ngati Hine, with the enthusiastic lobbying of then local MP and Maori Affairs Minister Tau Henare, wanted to build and run a private prison in the area.
The concept appalled me then and still does. First grow the raw material, then put it in a can and look after it, I said. It was investing money in the belief that there was an endless supply of losers out there waiting to be processed. It was a depressing vision of the future, one with half the tribe and their mates in prison while the other half was being paid by the state to run it. Indeed the prosperity of the tribe would depend on a continuing - and hopefully expanding - supply of the raw material.
Of all the places Maori could invest their Treaty settlement and other money, this would have to be the most inappropriate. Ethical investment it is not.
The Corrections Department website has a chilling account of the disproportionate number of Maori in the prison population. "Maori are over-represented at every stage of the criminal justice process. Though forming just 12.5 per cent of the general population aged 15 and over, 42 per cent of all criminal apprehensions involve a person identifying as Maori, as do 50 per cent of all persons in prison. For Maori women the picture is even more acute; they comprise around 60 per cent of the female prison population."
The rate of imprisonment for non-Maori is around 100 per 100,000. The Maori rate is six times that. Because much crime happens within families, Maori are also over-represented as victims of crime.
"This state of affairs," says the department, "represents a catastrophe both for Maori as a people and, given the position of Maori as tangata whenua, for New Zealand as a whole." It's bad for them and "the effects on racial harmony are also pernicious". It leads to extremist conclusions, some accusing "the criminal justice system of being brutally racist", others dismissing "the entire Maori race as constitutionally 'criminally inclined'."
The report notes that "even moderate success in addressing the issue of Maori over-representation could ... reduce the size of the prison estate by over 30 per cent, or 2000-plus beds".
If such a reduction in numbers were achieved, it would be great news for everyone. Everyone except those making their money building and operating the prisons. The commercial success for Ngati Hine and other Maori entrepreneurs Mrs Turia is encouraging to get a piece of the action as prison operators, is dependent on what the department calls "this catastrophe" continuing. What an awful business plan to have to live with.