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I'm not surprised that Te Pati Māori have chosen the first day of Parliament for the new Government to protest their plans to repeal the many policies that affect Māori. Te Pati Māori has always advocated strongly for their constituents, that's their purpose that's their job, and they take on activism with vigour.
And I understand the concerns Māori have. A lot of positive work has been done over the last 40 years to provide equity and equality for Māori and so you would expect the rollback on policies designed to improve Māori health outcomes, the use of Te Reo on public services, and Oranga Tamariki processes to be a huge concern to Māori.
But have they gone too early? Should we have let democracy and debate take place first before taking to the streets? Every change of government is an awkward time as we go through a period of ideological change, but as we know, not every promise is realised throughout the term, and there are many compromises on the way.
That said, we all have the right to lawful protest - it's part of our make-up. Over decades, we've seen protests by unions, women, LGBTQI+, farmers. We've protested apartheid, wars, nuclear weapons and vaccines, and it would be fair to say peaceful or not, they all created some kind of discomfort and disruption for the country. That's what protests do. And of course, depending on how they affect you, may depend on how much sympathy you have for the cause.
Of course, the aim of this protest is to get the government to reflect on their policy announcements and encourage your positive conversation about how the country can enhance the relationship between Māori and non-Māori. Political commentator Dr. Grant Duncan on Early Edition this morning said the protests will test the Prime Minister's leadership:
“These protests, generally in the long run, could come to define his leadership, in fact, because he really has to carry through now with the policies that he's agreed to with New Zealand First and the ACT party. But the question really is, will he just continue fighting his corner or will he reach out and try and create some kind of rapprochement with the Māori party and others?”
“Personally, I would like to see the Prime Minister be a little bit statesman like here, and at least do some listening, try to do some reconciliation because I think that these protests are not going to go away. I would guess this is just the beginning.”
Luxon says he does not believe protests will continue throughout the term, as he believes his Government will earn the support of Māori. So, it feels like Te Pati Māori is beginning this new parliamentary term as they mean to continue, to be honest with you, the swiftness of this protest signals a determination to make themselves heard.
We have the right to protest. It was inevitable they would protest. I'm not sure launching into it until the parliamentary year is actually underway and debate begins is really going to be effective.
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