Labour's Willie Jackson reveals why he didn't speak at Budget protests, gives verdict on Māori Parliament

  • 16/06/2024

Willie Jackson, the co-chair of Labour's Māori caucus, says he "wanted to" speak at the Budget Day protests last month but "couldn't". 

Jackson told TVNZ Q+A host Jack Tame on Sunday morning that he was asked to speak by Te Pati Māori president John Tamihere, and Green Party co-leader Marama Davison was also meant to speak, but that Te Pati Māori "wanted us to commit to a Māori parliament and I couldn't and nor could the Greens". 

Thousands of people gathered at events around Aotearoa on Budget Day, May 30, to demonstrate against the Government's policies towards Māori. 

Jackson previously described the Government's Budget as "the mother of all anti-Māori budgets", also describing its Treaty Principles Bill as the most divisive bill in a generation.  

On Sunday, he told Q+A "it would have been good to speak" at the protests but that it was Te Pati Maori's decision "to just speak on their own because they had organised it". 

Jackson also said he understood the party's position on a Māori parliament but called it "a distraction". 

"It's a huge frustration for Māori at the moment - Māori kaupapa initiatives, policies under attack every time - it's a natural course where they're going. I think it's a distraction, it's not something that we would support in Labour because we've got immediate problems in front of us." 

He named housing and health as examples of immediate problems, especially criticising the National-led Government's failure to deliver on a promise to fund 13 new cancer drugs

"We've got to fight within the system and I think it's a distraction - how are you going to fund it? How are you going to support it? Here's the problem with the Māori parliament, in 1890 it was first mooted or it first came about, we had four Māori seats then, four Māori seats, now we've got seven Māori seats but 26 Māori."  

Instead, Jackson said a congress to bring together iwi and NGOs would work better. 

"We've got to fight within the system and I think we're doing a good job at the moment."