Patrick Crewdson - student, Auckland

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Clark to hikoi: why you buggin'?

WELLINGTON - A defiant Helen Clark startled political observers Monday by calling hikoi protestors "hataz and wreckaz" and "bitch-ass niggaz".

"Playa hataz just frontin'," the Prime Minister told a press conference, before asking, "Can I get a 'hell yeah'?"

When her requests for a 'hell yeah' and her exhortations for the assembled journalists to throw their hands in the air failed, Clark went on to say she would refuse to meet marchers when they reached Parliament.

"They better chiggidy-check themselves before they wriggedy-wreck themselves."

Adding that meeting with protestors would cause "a great deal more distress to most people who want to see the issue moved on", Clark said, "The Prime Minister ain't about that."

Asked if he intended to "wreck the mic" upon arrival at Parliament, protest organiser Hone Harawira said Clark's comments were deliberately provocative.

Harawira also denied suggestions hikoi marchers were just hating on Clark because she is "top dogg".

On a more serious note, here's a prediction: Tariana Turia's sacking and resignation (despite reports, it wasn't an either/or situation) will re-ignite the 'debate' on scrapping the Maori parliamentary seats. (I write 'debate' rather than the standard, non-quote marked debate, because the discourse on the topic has previously been more like the swiftly automatic rejection of a suggestion than an actual discussion.)

So far, Turia's departure has mostly been discussed in the context of whether Labour will be able to hold Te Tai Hauauru and how the formation of a new Maori party will affect the Government's grip on power. For Labour, it's a 'rock and a hard place' deal: the rock being the 10,000+ hikoi marchers (photos here) and the people they represent, and the hard place being National's Orewa-driven rise in popularity. On one hand, you've got aggrieved Maori, on the other you have people who think Maori are getting too good a deal. In that climate, if Turia had resigned from a general electorate seat, her chances of returning would have been nowhere near as good as they are now. Obviously, the Government is already sweating, but if they manage to keep the confidence of the house (a notion National has struggled with) through the Budget, then surely National will use Turia's departure to highlight Brash's Orewa claim that the Maori seats are an anachronism, out of step with the times and with the feelings of ordinary voters.

Side note: Half a year before the last election, Winston Peters suggested indolence had "become the norm" in the Maori seats.

There's an amusing game I've seen played with NZ First and United Future whereby people have to name as many of their MPs as possible. The point being, of course, that people stuggle to name any of United Future's eight and NZ First's 13 except for Peter Dunne and Winston Peters. At first I thought a similar game might work for the seven Maori electorates, but it turns out that a majority of those MPs have a real profile, which probably means they're not indolent any more. For the record, the full list is Dover Samuels, Parekura Horomia, Mahara Okera, Nanaia Mahuta, John Tamihere, Mita Rurinui and, of course, Tariana Turia. (Here's a real challenge though: name the Maori electorates. Nah, forget it. Too hard.)