Election 2023: Te Pāti Māori accuses Prime Minister Chris Hipkins of 'oppression' for telling parties to 'be careful' with demands

Te Pāti Māori has accused Prime Minister Chris Hipkins of "oppression" after he warned smaller parties to "be careful" with what bottom lines they present ahead of the general election.

"You don't tell indigenous peoples what our bottom lines are," co-leader Rawiri Waititi. 

Asked what he made of Waititi saying Hipkins' comment is similar to oppression, Hipkins replied: "I don't agree with that, it's democracy."

The Prime Minister was last week asked about policies Te Pāti Māori says it will push for if in a position to do so after the October 14 election. 

They include removing GST from food, a wealth tax and pulling New Zealand out of the Five Eyes intelligence group.

Hipkins dismissed the idea of pulling out of Five Eyes as it wouldn't be in New Zealand's "best interests" and said Labour would outline it's own bottom lines prior to the election.

He said MMP typically requires parties to negotiate following an election, while recognising "the proportionate size of parties as well". 

"Smaller parties I think need to be careful in whatever they issue in terms of bottom lines or they could find themselves simply not able to be part of any governing arrangement at all because, ultimately, the larger parties do need to be able to implement the commitments that they campaign on."

He recognised those larger parties may need to rely on the smaller parties to form government themselves.

Waititi on Tuesday spoke to reporters about the "two Chrises" - Christopher Luxon and Chris Hipkins - one that "doesn't want anything to do with Māori and the other is telling Māori what to do".

The first 'Chris' will be a reference to Luxon, who last week ruled out working with Te Pāti Māori.

"There's a bit of criss-cross happening here, but I tell you what, come October 15, there'll be a bit of a Chris-tapohe on one of those sides."

Asked about Hipkins' comment that smaller parties should "be careful" with their bottom lines, Waititi repeated his point about the "two Chrises".

"They're not in any position to continue to tell us what to do. You don't tell indigenous peoples what our bottom lines are. That is a continued approach to oppression. We won't be taken by that."

Newshub clarified whether he was saying that Hipkins telling smaller parties to be careful with their demands was tantamount to oppression.

"To be told to be careful about what our bottom lines are is oppression to us," Waititi said. "You don't tell us what to do. You don't have the licence to do that anymore. We send that message to anybody. 

"Te Pāti Māori has been clear about our kaupapa. We always have been. If you are not willing to work towards a Te Tiriti-centric Aotearoa which means respecting the indigenous people, which means respecting tangata whenua and our plight to bring ourselves up from out of the ashes and to a place that's more equitable and equal, we will continue to make those statements."

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said a Te Tiriti-centric Aotearoa is a "top line, it's a middle line".

"That's the difference for us is we are the only party that a true Opposition because we're not fighting to become ministers or to get into Government. We're more focused on that longer-term picture of a Te Tiriti-centric Aotearoa."

Newshub asked Greens co-leader James Shaw whether Hipkins' comments would stop the Greens putting forward their own bottom lines or demands before the election.

"I don't think that any party has the right to make unreasonable demands that aren't based on facts. You see parties large and small in Parliament who are saying things for the sake of election, that they know they can't back up after election day.

"We will certainly be doing, as we always do, going into this election with a strong set of policies that have been thoroughly thought through and do add up.

Shaw said Hipkins' suggestion to be careful with demands should be applied to larger parties as well.

This week's Newshub-Reid Research poll showed Te Pāti Māori holding the balance of power.