Hone keeps the flame burning, but the rest?

DAVE ARMSTRONG
Last updated 10:42 22/10/2012
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Fairfax NZ

FREE SPIRIT: Was arrested during a protest to keep state houses.

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OPINION: Though John Key had a brain fade about the 1981 Springbok Tour, Trish Parata, now Hekia, remembers clearly. She was president of the Waikato Students Union and actively involved in the anti-tour movement.

Also heavily involved was a Ngapuhi radical by the name of Hone Harawira. He'd taken part in a variety of protests over different Maori issues, along with a mate of his - a hot-headed young activist by the name of Shane Jones.

So what happened to them? Today, Education Minister Hekia Parata is in the midst of an annus horribilis, using a combination of management-speak, departmental jargon, and educational psychobabble to defend a school system that many see as increasing the divide between Maori and Pakeha. Shane Jones, disgraced over ministerial spending and under a cloud over his ministerial dealings with a Chinese millionaire, is going nowhere fast. His latest contribution to the national debate was to oppose his own party's policy and speak on behalf of large corporations against a copyright bill that would allow the satire of copyrighted material.

And Hone Harawira? Just recently he was arrested during a protest to keep state houses. No one can accuse Hone - one of our few politicians, along with Winston, whom voters can identify by first name only - of selling out.

But though Mr Harawira has stuck to his principles, his use of the n-word and terms like "white mofos", not to mention admitting he would feel uncomfortable with his children bringing home a Pakeha, has offended many Kiwis.

So just how radical is Hone Harawira? Not very. Sure - compared to former activists Shane Jones and Hekia Parata, Hone Harawira appears far Left, but that's not difficult. The economic policy of his Mana Party could have been written by Jim Anderton in 1987. For those with short memories, Jim Anderton was a mildly conservative politician. During the 1980s and 90s, every newspaper in the country described Mr Anderton as "Albanian- style Stalinist" and "far-Left" because he suggested we tax the rich slightly more and start a state bank. Kiwibank has been such a success that today even the National Party won't touch it.

Like the Green and Labour parties, Mana favours a capital gains tax. However, Mana is the only party opposed to GST, which makes Hone Harawira about as radical as Labour and National during the 1970s. The reason Mana opposes GST is that it is a flat tax, so penalises poor people. Although Mana's proposal to abolish GST is pie-in- the-sky, you can see Hone's point if you look at how the proportion of corporate tax and the tax paid by the wealthiest 20 per cent has plummeted since the 1980s, and indirect taxes such as GST have skyrocketed.

Mana's solution to abolishing GST is to bring in a financial transaction tax - first mooted by a bunch of Social Credit weirdos driving Skodas and now openly advocated by crazies like the president of France. If you want to know how this much-maligned tax, also known as a "Hone Heke tax", would work, go to an automatic banking machine. Every time you make a transaction you pay a small fee. If you travel overseas and change money, you also pay a financial transaction tax, except that foreign exchange dealers call it commission. When a bank taxes you on a transaction it's called responsible financial management. When Hone Harawira suggests that the government do the same, it's crazy Maori radical activism.

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Because his party currently rates at less than 1 per cent, Labour and the Greens don't have to worry too much about Hone Harawira. In 2011, Phil Goff ruled out working with him post- election. So far, David Shearer hasn't mentioned any possible relationship with Mana. But he would be foolish to follow Mr Goff's lead. If Labour does eventually end up in government, one of its first jobs should be to address the dreadful poverty in places like the Far North. It might be a good start if they had the local MP on board. Labour may even find that with a meaningful kaupapa to keep him busy, Hone Harawira could turn out to be quite a reasonable rebel after all.

- The Dominion Post

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