The electorate office for the Maori Party’s most controversial MP is a hive of activity. Political staff tend to desperate constituents, party policy is debated, dress rehearsals are underway for the opening night of Hone Harawira: The Musical and the dancers and singers bustle around crates of live ammunition and dozens of guerilla fighters: preparations for Hawaria’s coup to overthrow the government next month are well underway. Combine this with the chaos of a busy electorate office and a booming hog-farm and the perpetual media circus that surrounds the man in the middle of it all and you have a recipe for anarchy, yet somehow the MP for Te Tai Tokerau is an island of calm in the midst of the storm.
Hawaria’s aide – a tall, smiling heavily armed man with no tongue, ears or eyelids – leads me through the maze of acrobats, plastique explosives and squealing piglets to a dimly lit room at the back of the building. The door closes and locks behind me. A fire flickers in the darkness, water drips through a hole in the roof. Harawira himself is an indistinct voice in the shadows.
‘Are you an assassin?’
‘I’m a blogger,’ I say. ‘Like David Farrar and Cameron Slater.’
He nods in recognition and turns to his aide. ‘Feed him to the hogs.’
‘Wait!’ I cry. ‘Let me explain. This is your chance to let your story be told. You don’t understand the awesome power of the blogosphere. I’ll publish anything you say! With no fact-checking or editorial oversight!’
‘No fact checking eh?’ Harawira nods to his aide, who stops pouring sulphuric acid onto my feet. ‘Very well,’ he says, leaning forward. I stop struggling against the tightly bound ropes and rest the side of my face on the cool dirt floor. The interview begins.
DP: Let’s start with the recent budget. You opposed the tax cuts for the rich and the rise in GST but under the confidence and supply arrangement you were obliged to vote for them anyway. How did that feel?
HH: Terrible. When I cast my vote I felt a great sadness fall upon me.
DP: Due to the impact the tax broadening would have upon your people?
HH: Yes. Although Parliament’s Standing Orders require all Maori to be heavily sedated before entering the House. Maybe that also had some effect on my mood.
DP: What about the downstream political consequences of the budget? You aren’t worried about resentment from low-income Maori becoming a liability in the next election?
HH: I don’t think Labour will run a strong campaign here next time; we have a lot of support and a great organisation and photographs of Phil Goff without his wig.
DP: So you’re confident you’ll be back in Wellington after the next election?
HH: Very much so. It’s not as bad down there as people say – there are even some nice beaches if you head up the Kapiti coast.
DP: Which ones do you recommend?
HH: The coalition arrangement explicitly prohibits me from endorsing any beach resorts or ski-fields.
DP: There’s been some confusion about the Maori Party’s flagship Whanau Ora initiative. Can you give a brief overview of the policy?
HH: At its core it’s very simple. Billions of years from now . . . [At this point a door opens in the building; due to noise from the nearby rehearsal Mr Harawira’s voice is not audible – drowned out by ‘Oh No You Won’t’, a charming duet between Helen Clark and Mr Harawira’s Mother Titewhai. The gap lasts for nine minutes.]
HH: . . . W and Z bosons and the kaitiaki of the rangitira over all elementary particles we estimate Whanau Ora will allow New Zealand to overtake Australia in GDP by as soon as 2018.
DP: That’s just breathtaking.
HH: But the real key is communication. Without a clear understanding of the policy in the minds of the nuinga we are doomed to fail.
DP: And this policy has buy-in from the National Party cabinet and John Key?
HH: Actually there is no such thing as John Key. He’s a pakeha myth perpetuated by the racist media – like speed limits and Dunedin. But we have support from the Ministers with the relevent portfolios.
DP: I’d like to ask you about the extra funding received by Te Puni Kokiri in the budget. Extra funding for Maori tourism and export operators on top of continuity for existing programs such as Ngā Kaihanga Hou . . .
HH: All excellent programs that deliver great returns for all taxpayers . . .
DP: So what is your response to the recent leaked Cabinet report concluding that the only function Te Puni Kokiri serves is to make up fake Maori sounding words and try and trick gullible white people into using them?
HH: Simply not true and this is another area where National and the Maori Party have agreed to disagree and abide by the Maori principle of tirangawhai.
DP: So the finding is not a deal-breaker for your party?
DP: That seems to be a constant theme with your relationship with the government – National snubs the Maori Party and you declare that you are offended but then do nothing.
HH: I totally disagree – that’s not an accurate description at all.
DP: You don’t see it that way? That’s certainly how it looks.
DP: I guess we’ll have to accept we’ve reached tirangawhai on that issue.
HH: Very well put.
At this point two men enter the room – the Chief of Staff for the Maori Party and the Commander of Harawira’s amphibious assault force, both of whom have budget problems. Harawira signals to me that the interview is over. I wish him luck with his upcoming musical and coup. We shake hands and as I’m dragged away he leans in close. ‘I’m ready to tell you what the best Kapiti beach is,’ he says. He puts his mouth next to my ear. ‘Te Horo,’ he whispers. ‘Te Horo.’