During a debate between New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern and Leader of the National Party Judith Collins on the Māori Health Authority and the He Puapua document, Māori Party Co-Leader Rawiri Waititi raised a point of order, calling the National Party’s rhetoric a “constant barrage of insults to tangata te whenua”. Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard asked Waititi to sit down, while he performed a ceremonial dance called “haka” and was subsequently ejected from the parliament.
After the ruling, Waititi condemned the House for allowing racist rhetoric to continue. According to an article in Scoop Independent News, he said, “Yesterday’s ruling still permits racist rhetoric to continue in the House and asserts that we can call a policy or a view racist but not a person. When we know racist policies are written by racist people,”.
In response to Collins inciting racial disharmony and the Speaker’s ruling, Green Party MP Teanau Tuiono walked out of parliament alongside Māori Party Co-Leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer in a stand against racism in the parliament.
Using Māori as political football
As Green Party’s first member with Cook Islands and Māori heritage, Teanau Tuiono left the parliament during question time, demanding inclusion of Māori voices during debates about Māori principles and ideas (kaupapa Māori). In a statement at NZ Greens Website, he called on Judith Collins and the National Party to “see the racism inside laws and policies they support that hold us back as an indigenous people.” and to stop using Māori “as a political football.”
In an interview with Global Green News, Tuiono commented on the racist narrative of the National Party about the Māori Health Authority.
Question: As a response to the latest event at the Parliament, you’ve commented that “Judith Collins and the National Party refuse to see the racism inside laws and policies they support that hold us back as an indigenous people.” Can you elaborate on the laws and policies supported by National about the Māori Health Authority?
Answer : “I think the real question should be about which of these policies would actually benefit indigenous peoples, which of these policies will benefit Māori people. Māori Health Authority is about ensuring that the Māori run their own health services. We know that when you have health services given to you from your cultural worldview, then you’re more likely to be comfortable in terms of accessing the services. To ensure that those things can happen is really important for the case of the Māori Health Authority for positive health outcomes promoted.”
“The National Party has a long history of using the indigenous minority Māori people, people like myself, as a political football. Their approach has been about what will get the most headlines, what will create the most division, and therefore, give them the possibility to carve out a constituency for themselves. They’ve done that before in the past, and they’ve been successful with that in terms of creating discontent over a group of New Zealand people who are largely uninformed, and then they use the misinformation to create a backlash against indigenous peoples.”
Green Party standing in solidarity
As Green Party MP Teanau Tuiono left the parliament to stand in solidarity, Green Party Co-Leader Marama Davidson picked up the challenge about National Party’s racist rhetoric and called the Speaker to review the rules for not allowing racist narratives to prevail on the debate floor.
On May 12th, Marama Davidson thanked Tuiono on Twitter for supporting Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer while she challenged “Judith Collin’s unacceptable dog whistling”
Lastly, Global Green News asked Teanau Tuiono about the tone and reaction of the Green Party and about the recent event at the parliament and Māori rights in general. He stated, “The Green Party has got a long history of standing with Māori people as allies. For those of us who happen to be indigenous, in the Greens, and being able to stand on both sides of the solidarity, I see ourselves walking in the footsteps of past Green Party MPs like Catherine Delahunty. We spend a lot of time and a lot of effort working with non-indigenous people within the Green Movement to help them to understand why it is important to work with Indigenous peoples. By working with Indigenous peoples we are stronger because we are at the intersection of the environmental movement and in a way that it connects with the Indigenous People’s movements.”