National's Henare hits out at own party

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 08:43 09/11/2012

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National backbencher Tau Henare has hit out at his own party over its stance on Maori issues. 

In Parliament on Wednesday he said he was ''torn'' over having to vote against legislation which would have allowed people to swear an oath to honour the Treaty of Waitangi.

Yesterday he said the Government had not done enough to reduce Maori unemployment levels after the Household Labour Force Survey revealed a worse than expected unemployment rate.

''I think anybody would be embarrassed about 15 per cent unemployment." The Government was doing what it could in tough times, he said.

But he said he considered crossing the floor - voting against his party - over a bill honouring the Treaty.

''Unfortunately the whipping system says that I cannot vote for his bill.''

Such actions did not create stable government, he said.

''This House of Representatives had an opportunity to say to the world, yes there are different cultures, yes there are people in our nation and we could have said to the world that if you wanted to, not we're going to make you, but if you wanted to you could have sworn your allegiance on the Treaty of Waitangi.''

The bill should have at least gone to select committee, he said.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said Mr Henare's comments showed the Government was not clear on its stance on the Treaty.

It was ''appalling'' that National had not supported the oath bill. ''The option to take an oath; I cannot believe that anybody in the House would have voted against it.''

Prime Minister John Key said it was up to Mr Henare whether he wanted to vote against the party.

''I can't physically stop people.''

Mr Henare had voiced his views to caucus, Mr Key said.

''He had already said to me that he was opposed to the position that caucus took but respected the caucus view.''

National believed the bill could have implications that would be difficult to uphold.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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