Paula Bennett hits out at Jacinda Ardern's 'vacuous promises' in 2018 Waitangi speech following Christopher Luxon's backlash

  • 07/02/2024

Paula Bennett has called out ex-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for "vacuous promises" in her 2018 Waitangi Day Speech.

The former National MP and ex-deputy-Prime Minister comments come in light of backlash towards Prime Minister Christopher Luxon's speech for not addressing fears from Māori that Te Tiriti o Waitangi The Treaty of Waitangi and te reo Māori are under threat.

Instead, he chose to talk about his vision for New Zealand for 2040, specifically talking about crime, education and health.

The Prime Minister was also critiqued for copying parts of his Waitangi speech from the year before, to which he said this was deliberate as the message is the same.

Appearing on AM's panel alongside Bennett, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, who stood for Te Pāti Māori in last year's election, said Luxon's speech was a missed opportunity.

"I think he missed an opportunity… to actually show that he knows what he's talking about, that all New Zealanders should understand where New Zealand is heading," Raukawa-Tait said.

"He should have clearly articulated the role of Māori in that, the role of the Treaty, the role of Crown and he just missed it altogether.

However, Bennett disagreed with the criticism, pointing to Ardern's old speech in defence.

"Shall we remember the speech of six years ago when we saw then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stood up there and say 'hold me to account, I will improve things for Māori' and then we are seeing fewer Māori kids attending regular school, poorer health outcomes – all of those sorts of things that really do matter," Bennett said.

"So, you know, you can have kind of vacuous promises or stand up, and I think he stood up for what he believes in. I felt good about it and not just him, I felt good about the day. I felt good that we actually can have differences and voice them, and come out feeling united and like we love our country."

Delivering her first Waitangi address in 2018, Ardern stood on the mahau of Te Whare Rūnanga on the upper Treaty grounds and asked to be held to account.

"When we return, in one year, in three years, I ask you to ask of us what we have done. Ask us how we have given dignity back to your whānau, ask us what we have done to improve poverty for tamariki, ask us what we have done to give rangatahi opportunities and jobs. Ask us, hold us to account. Because one day I want to be able to tell my child that I earned the right to stand here and only you can tell me when I have done that."

Māori regular school learner attendance fell from 57% in 2015 to just 27% in 2022, before rebounding to 44.9 percent in 2023 which was still well below pre-pandemic rates.

Newshub has sought clarification from Bennett on her claim Māori had poorer health outcomes under Ardern.

Watch the full panel above.