Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples says his party receives signals “privately” that the National Party is not too committed on its position of abolishing the Maori electorate seats.
The comments were made during an interview for Alt TV's Let's Be Frank programme, which will screen tonight.
The Maori Party is increasingly seen as potential support partners for a possible National government. However, one possible flashpoint on policy is National’s intention to abolish the Maori seats, which provide the Maori Party its Parliamentary representation.
Its policy announced on Sunday is to “begin a constitutional process to abolish the Maori seats once all historic Treaty claims have been settled, which we anticipate will be in 2014.”
Host Martyn Bradbury put to Dr Sharples right wing commentator Matthew Hooton's view that "the desire to dump the Maori seats was simply window dressing for the more meat-eating National fringe than genuine policy," and asked whether the announced policy suggested National were more serious about abolishing the seats.
Mr Sharples replied: “No, I think Mr Hooton is pretty close. That’s the same message we’ve been getting privately, that in fact it’s well off.”
Asked if National leader John Key had consulted the Maori Party over the policy announced on Sunday, Dr Sharples said “He’s told us that is his policy, yes.”
Mr Sharples says the declared policy of abolishing the Maori seats after Treaty claims are settled doesn’t make sense, because the two issues are not related, and are “two different kaupapa.”
Mr Sharples says abolishing Maori seats is a “deep structure” issue.
“We’d fight that to death. But the reality is that’s not going to happen in the next three years and we need to fight for the things to benefit Maori and New Zealand today over the next three years – I’m talking about education, I’m talking about health, I’m talking about family strength, I’m talking about community development.”
The interview is scheduled to screen on Alt TV’s Let’s Be Frank at 8.30 pm tonight.
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