Dr Rawiri Taonui Election 2020 | Missed Opportunity in Meaningful Labour and Greens Agreement
|01 Nov 2020 19:30 PM|
|Author: Dr Rawiri Taonui|
|Photo images supplied / Dr Rawiri Taonui|
Dr Rawiri Taonui Election 2020 | Meaningful Labour and Greens Agreement
Co-Leader Marama Davidson is the big winner picking up a new role as Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence, formalising the under-secretary role Jan Logie held during the last term, and is an Associate Minister of Housing with a focus on homelessness.
Davidson’s role includes leading a whole of government response on family and sexual violence. Davidson also joins a ministerial working group on child and youth wellbeing. The across government dimension of her roles presents an opportunity for meaningful change.
A standout during the election, and especially impressive in the Powerbrokers and Te Kōwhiringa debates, Davidson is the Māori politician best suited for such a role. A mother of six she has the strongest mana wahine following of any politician since former Māori Party Co-Leader Tariana Turia. Davidson has steel, sound judgement and over the last year has emerged as a leader with significant ability.
What Labour Gains
Labour now has a solely Labour-only cabinet able to exercise the mandate of its massive majority to the full. Labour gains expertise from the Greens on sustainability, the environment, domestic and sexual abuse, and homelessness. With a majority of 64 seats and buffer against an MP going rogue or sleeping with the staff, Labour never required a formal coalition or confidence and supply arrangement but secures the latter anyway.
If there is a tension, it will be how Davidson’s overarching role on family violence and homelessness, which differentially impact Māori, connects with the Labour’s Māori Caucus who should pick up Māori-Crown Relations, Māori Development, Oranga Tamariki, Whānau Ora and other portfolios. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will need the wisdom of Athena in appointing Māori caucus members to cabinet.
The agreement includes working with the Greens in three key areas. Firstly, to achieve goals under the Zero Carbon Act, decarbonising public transport and the public sector, increasing the uptake of zero-emission vehicles, introducing clean car standards, and supporting the use of renewable energy for industry.
Secondly, giving effect to Te Mana o te Taiao - Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2020, by protecting the environment and biodiversity, strengthening pest management, and minimising waste and plastics.
Thirdly, improving child wellbeing and marginalised communities through action on homelessness, warmer homes, and child and youth mental health.
What the Greens did not receive
The Greens did not get their wealth tax. Ardern ruled that out during the election. They also did not get the Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters secured in 2017. Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis’ presence at the negotiation table signals the next Deputy Prime Minister.
Shaw is no longer Minister of Statistics. Julie Ann Genter’s roles as Minister of Women, Associate Minister of Transport and Associate Minister of Health, and Eugenie Sage as Minister of Conservation and Minister for Land Information also go. On balance, the numbers do not matter; the new deal carries more substance.
Protecting the Greens
That Shaw and Davidson are outside cabinet and bound by collective responsibility only concerning their portfolios, will go some way to appeasing the concern that the Greens risked becoming a party of insiders disconnected from their activism that disappears in the next election. It may not mollify the anxiety of the 15% of delegates who preferring never to govern, opposed the agreement, a significant increase over 2017 when just three delegates opposed.
Those reservations are largely without foundation. After the 2017 agreement to work with Labour, the Greens improved their position from 6.3% of the party vote and eight MPs to 7.6% of the party vote and ten seats this election. Similar occurred a decade ago when after a 2005 cooperation agreement with Labour, the Greens improved from 5.3% and six MPs to 6.7% and 9 MPs in 2008, and in the face of a significant swing to National.
Comparison with 2008
It is useful to compare the Labour-Greens agreement with the 2008 relationship between the Māori Party and National government. With confidence and supply agreements in place with Act and United Future, National did not require the support of the Māori Party. Nevertheless, Prime Minister John Key chose to work with them, which apart from the chasm-like left-right gap, is not dissimilar to the position Ardern has chosen.
On paper, the Māori Party got more, Pita Sharples was appointed Minister of Maori Affairs, and Associate Minister of Education and Corrections. Tariana Turia was appointed Minister for the Community and the Voluntary Sector, and Associate Minister of Health, Social Development and Employment. At their request, the positions were outside cabinet.
The agreement had lasting influence with the establishing of Whānau Ora, the signing of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Labour had opposed, greater acceptance of Kaupapa Māori views, a growing acceptance that the Māori electorates should stay, and more Māori in political parties.
With the emphasis on the environment, sustainability, and the welfare of families, in substance, the National-Māori Party and Labour-Greens agreements are on par.
Labour and the Greens have missed an opportunity to use their 74-seat supermajority to address racism, hate speech and promote and protect super-diversity.
Their combined caucuses mirror the new face of a super-diverse Aotearoa New Zealand, including 19 Māori and 11 Pacific MPs, MPs of Chinese and Indian heritage, and the first MPs of Sri Lankan, Middle Eastern, African and Latin American heritage.
Comprising 47% of their caucuses combined, the super-diverse representation of 35 MPs is the same size as the entire National caucus, an equation that may widen after special votes are counted with Soraya Peke-Mason and Lotu Fuli next on Labour’s list.
The significant racism that has already been expressed online against Ibrahim Omer and Ricardo Menendez March demonstrates that it is one thing to elect diversity and another to address racism against diversity. That this is absent from the accord makes it a very white agreement. One expected more.
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