John Key was treated like a rock star over in Australia last week by strangers who wished he was their Prime Minister.

He gets back home and his friends in the Maori Party are throwing rocks at him.

After getting back from his Aussie trip he breezed into the Breakfast studio for his regular Monday TV interview and was asked factual questions about the case.

Yes, he was stating fact when he said in answer to a question that the Government could "ignore" the recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal on the water claims.


That was quickly translated as Key saying he ''would" ignore the recommendations.

He repeated the facts yesterday on TV3 but toned them down considerably, saying the Government wasn't legally bound to follow the recommendations but that he would consider them.

The change was lost in the heat of it all.

If Key had ever attended a tribunal hearing or realised the respect, even reverence, in which the tribunal is held by many Maori, he would have chosen his words more carefully.

When Tariana Turia said she found the comments insulting, that is not political posturing.

There may not be widespread respect for the claim but there is respect for the tribunal. Key bound up the claim and the tribunal in the one insult.

The statement issued yesterday by Turia and co-leader Pita Sharples about how disappointed they were in what Key said about the Waitangi Tribunal is stronger than any other they have made in their up and down relationship.

Key should be worried by its tone and content.

"We will not tolerate any suggestion that the mana of the tribunal can be undermined," they said.

"It is of utmost concern in so far as it threatens the very heart of the treaty relationship."

That is the part that should really worry John Key.

The Maori Party doesn't operate like other parties. It is less predictable. If the Maori Party withdrew its support on confidence and supply, Key could still govern with Act's John Banks and United Future's Peter Dunne.

But unless the Maori Party abstained, the Government's majority would then be only one - a heart-beat away from none.