Sandra Lee, from Mana Motuhake, the Maori movement for self-determination, was elected deputy co-leader of the NZ Alliance at its inaugural Conference. She spoke to Green left Weekly's Kath Gelber.
How would you describe the aims of Mana Motuhake?
In particular, to see Maoris be given the right to determine their own destiny; to be full participants in the democratic processes that occur in this country; to see young Maori women and men elected to positions at all levels of government, to become true participants in that. This is a very reasonable aspiration. That is what we've wanted for 150 years since colonisation, that is what the Treaty of Waitangi guaranteed.
During the conference there has been a lot of Maori participation. Why is Mana Motuhake participating in the Alliance?
Mana Motuahake's leader, Matiu Rata, was a Labour cabinet minister (minister of land and Maori affairs) and he walked out of Parliament over a decade ago because he was dissatisfied with the two-party political system at that time and its lack of ability to serve the best interests of Maori. He formed our political party, Mana Motuhake.
Mana Motuhake is also a political philosophy that predates our party. It's a concept of Maoris participating fully in the democratic processes of our country and the Maori right to determine their own destiny.
Over the last eight years in New Zealand we have seen people from all walks of life become increasingly dissatisfied with the free market dogma which has been adopted by the Labour Party and followed on even more ruthlessly by the National Party.
We've reached the point where New Zealanders feel an absolute abhorrence of the democratic process itself, because those elected to positions in Parliament refused to listen to what the people were saying. They also completely departed from the stated manifestoes of those parties before they were elected.
It has now reached a stage where our major assets have been flogged off to the highest bidder, immigration policy seems to be based entirely on how much somebody's got in their back pocket, hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders have been made unemployed and so on.
What's happened with the five parties coming together has been that genuine cooperative politics has become a necessity.
From the outset, when you're dealing with five parties, with different political constitutions, the only way you can hold an alliance of those parties together is by being prepared to listen to each other, and to work on a consensus basis. We've accepted that we've got a wide range of viewpoints and ideas.
If the Alliance is able to win government, where do you think the process will go from there? In a sense that will be just the first step.
Yes, that will be just the first step. Particularly for Maori, we see a whole new window of opportunity being opened up for us.
As serious as all the statistics for unemployment and health and education are, they are even worse for Maori. We've been at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale for so long that over the last eight years, as we've seen the recession grow, we've been clearly the most disadvantaged and the worst affected. So we are optimistic that we will see change for the better.
I feel we have an opportunity to provide an example to the rest of the world.
The concept of user pays, the power of the individual over the interests of the whole, the concept of the free market, with non-intervention and deregulation, has been an international trend. New Zealand has the opportunity to show that this process is not inevitable. New Zealand has led the way in the past, we had an international impact with our nuclear free stance. We have the potential to build on that in terms of global peace, and certainly we need to.
Probably one of the greatest opportunities that confronts us is in relation to the environment. We have a very strong environmental stance within the Alliance. There are a lot of issues facing us at present, the preservation of what remains of our rainforest, the preservation of endangered species, habitat preservation, restoration of the environment, the maintenance of fishing resources, wise resource management. n