Can Pita Sharples afford not to be the co-leader of the Maori Party?

In light of Pita Sharples' reluctance to step aside as leader of the Maori Party and stated desire to retain his Ministerial position even if replaced in that role, I draw the reader's attention to this gem from an interview he gave to Claire Trevett back in February, 2010:

"Actually, I got so used to the increase in salary I told the Prime Minister you'd better be good because if the other guys get in, I'll go sell myself over there to keep my ministerial salary. I just got a new house, man - I can't afford it on a backbencher salary so I'm up for grabs."

That's a somewhat ... unfortunate quote to have floating around in the interweb.

Comments (15)

by Graeme Edgeler on January 24, 2013
Graeme Edgeler

Given that all positions are full-time, is there any real justification for paying ministers more than MPs?

Additional expenses due to the time spent away from home may make sense, but do we really expect that few MPs would want to be ministers if their salaries stayed the same?

by Mamari on January 24, 2013
Mamari

Geez I can even hear his voice as he says it, he was clearly having a laugh.  Not much to hang any political analysis on, now is it? So I wonder what the point of this post is...

by Andrew Geddis on January 24, 2013
Andrew Geddis

Mamari,

I guess if you have to explain a post, it hasn't worked ... but in any case, the points are:

(1) It was a stupid thing to say, even in jest ; and 

(2) Sharples desire to remain co-leader of his Party (and, in any case, Minister) looks more to do with personal gratification than the long-term best interests of that Party and the people it represents ... thus recasting his jest in a different light.

Discuss.

by Mamari on January 24, 2013
Mamari

Okaaaaayyyy....I guess so ....but what is the evidence we have that Pita is in it for his personal interest? (other, of course than the jest, which is evidence of...avuncular silliness and not much else) I would have thought it more likely that, rightly or wrongly, he might be stubbornly reluctant to step down in a situation where he sees the alternative  as being less positive for the party than current situation.  This might be absolutely wrong on his part (and a wrong supposition on mine, of course) but I still don't see it as axiomatic that he wants to keep his job for the perks. Or have I missed a wealth of evidence that Pita is suddenly captured by the baubles? Always possible!

by Andrew Geddis on January 24, 2013
Andrew Geddis

Do you see a long (or even medium)-term future for the Maori Party with Sharples remaining as a co-leader ... especially in a context where the Party's other two MPs are indicating that they think it is time for him to go (and if he doesn't, then neither of them will be around in 2014)? Because I don't, and nor do at least some other commentators. Which may just show that we're all idiots - that's been true before - or may instead show that Sharples is badly misjudging the consequences of preventing generational change from taking place within the Party.

Now, sure, there's a pretty natural human tendency to think "I am essential and things will be worse if I don't keep doing what I'm doing". We constantly tell ourselves stories about how what is best for us also is best for others. But when that tendency and that story is reinforced by the power, prestige and (yes) financial security of a ministerial gig, it becomes that much harder to challenge. So to suggest that Sharples is wrongly putting himself first in the current situation is not to say that Sharples simply is "captured by the baubles" ... rather, it's to say that the story he's telling himself about his role has begun to diverge from the world in which he lives to an unbridgable degree.

Finally, I didn't invent the quote. And no-one tricked Sharples into saying it. So I guess the take home message is that if you don't want people to speculate that you are overly motivated by personal interest, then it's best not to voluntarily say it about yourself (whether as a joke or not). 

by Mamari on January 24, 2013
Mamari

I think it is important to take into account that age is seen more as a benefit than liability in Māori politics to a large degree. I am fairly sure that Pita will not be the only one believing in his own indispensibility; that will be a message he will getting from a lot of people, and the personal standing of the individual, such as that which Pita has earned over many decades, matters. There is a large part of the conservative Māori demos that will balk at Pita being replaced by a younger man ("generational change") when he has barely warmed the seat, in comparison with many of his predecessors. When viewed against the careers of Māori MPs who stuck around long enough to make a difference, Pita's parliamentary career is but a blip in time.  He has only been on the scene as an MP since 2005. By way of comparison: Apirana Ngata: 38 years, Eruera Tirikatene: 35 years, Tau Henare (the Elder!) 24 years, James Carroll (32 years) Koro Wetere 27 years. Of course there are others who stuck around a long time doing very little, but I don't think that is a charge that can be levelled at these people.  I am yet to be convinced Pita's intractability is due to him being on some kind of personal glory hunt. Of course there may be some of that; but he has the weight of unmet collective expectations on him. That is powerful incentive to stick it out, I think. It may be wrongheaded, it may be dangerous to the party, but actually, in context, the alternative is also dangerous.

by Andrew Geddis on January 24, 2013
Andrew Geddis

Point taken - but we need to note, of course, that those earlier terms of service came at a time when the Maori seats were not strongly contested and an MP could legitimately expect to occupy it until they choose to leave (or, Hine-nui-te-pō said otherwise). That is not a luxury the Maori Party, or indeed any party, has anymore. And therein, perhaps, lies the problem.

by Mamari on January 24, 2013
Mamari

true...tho James Carroll spent most of his career as MP for Waiapu/Gisborne, and not in a Māori seat (but did have two terms for eastern maori). Then there is Winston.  But yes terms of less than a decade are more usual now I think in Māori seats...mind you Tariana will make it to twelve years, Parekura came in in 1999 in Ikaroa Rawhiti, as did Nanaia Mahuta in Te Taihauauru (having spent one term as a list MP already).  So a longish career is still possible in the Māori seats, and occasionally in general seats too...so maybe the point still holds...Pita has not really been around that long in the scheme of things..

by Andrew Geddis on January 25, 2013
Andrew Geddis

Pita has not really been around that long in the scheme of things.

But the question "has Sharples been around for too long as an MP" and "is Sharples the best person to re-energise and refocus the Maori Party in a post FSA era" aren't necessarily the same thing. Because even if he personally could hold his seat for at least the next election (no certain thing, I note ... his majority in Tāmaki Makaurau went from 7,540 in 2008 to just 961 in 2011), it's not his status as an MP that is being challenged. Rather, it's a call for him to move from the front-line leadership to take a supporting role as a respected elder-statesman figure - which may then be perceived as an insult to his mana (because if he is a respected elder-statesman, then doesn't that mean he should lead?).

So perhaps we are seeing an interesting clash of expectations - from the media/political chatterer's perspective, there's a perceived need for renewal to take the form of new faces and personalities. (I note that this isn't just a "Pakeha" view of things - Morgan Godfrey is running much the same line.) But if, as you say, "age is seen more as a benefit than liability in Māori politics to a large degree", then that is going to run counter to what the media/political chatterer's expect to happen. Just another one of the problems that the Maori Party faces in trying to adapt Maoritanga to a parliamentary political environment that runs under different norms and "rules"?

by Tim Watkin on January 25, 2013
Tim Watkin

Those men also started their careers younger. Sharples came late, so his was never going to be a generation-long career; his (significant) service has been elsewhere in the system.

The polling reality is that the Maori Party are not delivering, Sharples advanced years aren't winning him support and this messy display only opens the door for Labour to recapture some of the Maori vote. So the call for change isn't stemming from thought that 'Sharples is past it', but rather 'Sharples, for whatever reason, isn't winning over Maori'. Will he even keep his seat in 2014? Of the two Flavell is safer.

As for the quote and the point about money, I think it's a fair one and certainly one I've discussed. Most of us are motivated by money in our careers and many decide when to retire when they can afford it - why should we think an MP would act any differently. Now Sharples has had years as an academic, so has been relatively well paid at times in his career (more so than, say, Harawira). I don't question his commitment to principles and his desire to lead change, but I do wonder if money is part of the motivation as well.

 

 

by Bruce Thorpe on January 25, 2013
Bruce Thorpe

The success of a joke is decided by the audience response.

Personally I thought "... I can smell the utranium from here!" was pretty weak, but the public judged otherwise.

Sharples has to make very explicit what projects depend on his input.

As for the different traditions of Maoritanga, it can be argued that the advancement of Maori in general has been hindered by the reluctance to adapt to modern political processes.

Cultural conservatism has its intergenerational costs.

by Andrew Geddis on January 25, 2013
Andrew Geddis

"Now Sharples has had years as an academic, so has been relatively well paid at times in his career ... "

I think you mean over-paid.

by Mamari on January 25, 2013
Mamari

Wow..."reluctance to adapt to modern political processes"? Really? looking back over the sweep of colonial/ "post"- colonial history and Māori are so busy adapting to modern processes, political and otherwise, it hurts my head. I've just been reading  today (well OK, I'm writing a chapter on some of it, so not reading for pleasure exactly!) about the thousands of written petitions Māori submitted to the Native Affairs Committee between 1872 and 1962, and the creation by Māori of Kōtahitanga Parliaments, the Kingitanga, Māori rūnanga, the creation of Māori incorporations, trusts, the modern post settlement governance entities, kohanga reo, crikey.  The last coupla hundred years involve some pretty compelling stories about Māori adapting, taking up every opportunity, exploiting every chance, pushing every boundary to try and make political, social and economic headway, not always successfully, of course.  Cultural conservatism can exist alongside innovation and adaptation..it is possible. makes for interesting political dynamics. But sitting around in grass skirts waiting for modernity is not something I think many in Maoridom can be accused of.

by Andrew Geddis on January 25, 2013
Andrew Geddis

Yeah, Bruce ... I think I'm with Mamari on this one. If Maori really were/are so "reluctan[t] to adapt to modern political processes", I don't think we'd see some 17% of MPs being of Maori descent. To say nothing of having four parties in Parliament lead by Maori!

by Bruce Thorpe on January 27, 2013
Bruce Thorpe

I did not mean to suggest there had been no attempts to adapt, or there had been no energy put into a wide range of political structures.

However the positions of power have stayed pretty firmly within the traditional lines of authority i.e. is senior members of chiefly families.

In general I am thinking of my experience with Maori political activity on the interface with general community, local school, local government politics. Some great work done by young, middle aged men and women, but so often there has at critical points a takeover by the mana munching older generation.

These things are improving but I was referring to the realities overthelast 50 years.

Matt Rata is the only example that comes to mind of a young man getting his hands on the levers of power. His contribution was enormous in my opinion. 

 

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