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Maori Party was duped, Goff says

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Phil Goff
Phil Goff

Wellington, April 21 NZPA - Labour is accusing the Government of making a secret deal with the Maori Party which it says is severely stressing National's relationship with its partners.

The row is over the Government's decision to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, announced in New York early yesterday by Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples without any advance notice of his trip.

The declaration sets out the rights of indigenous people, including ownership of land they have always occupied and protection of their language and culture.

It is non-binding and has no legal force, but the previous government refused to support it because it believed the declaration's terms were incompatible with New Zealand's constitution, legal framework and the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Government says it is simply "aspirational" and its support statement carries the caveat that New Zealand's laws will define the bounds of engagement with the declaration.

ACT leader Rodney Hide, who signed a support agreement with National after the last election, used a speech in Parliament to lash out at the Government.

"The ACT Party is shocked and appalled to find itself supporting a government that has covertly signed up to the UN declaration," Mr Hide said.

"ACT, like the rest of the country, has been left completely in the dark by the Government's actions."

Prime Minister John Key played down the significance of the declaration, saying it would have no practical effect, while the Maori Party claimed it as an international success.

Labour leader Phil Goff said the Government was saying one thing to the Maori Party and another to everyone else.

"I think Pita Sharples has been duped," he said.

"He's been told this is something that really does count, at the very time John Key is saying it's meaningless and counts for nothing."

Mr Goff said Mr Hide's attack was a serious matter for the Government.

"What we're seeing is the impossibility of balancing the interests of the ACT Party, the Maori Party and the National Party," he said.

"The National Party doesn't believe this makes any difference...they've done this to buy the support of the Maori Party and they did it in secret."

Winston Peters, who was foreign minister when the previous government refused to support the declaration, accused National and the Maori Party of throwing away New Zealand's sovereignty.

"This will be an unmitigated disaster," he said. "National has sold out to the Maori Party without any public debate...some Maori are already describing themselves as separate `nations' and it will only be a matter of time before some start trying to declare their independence."

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