This will only come as a suprise to people who think Austria is the home of the Wallabies.
It has been obvious for months if not years that the abolish the Maori Seats policy after 2014 would be up for negotiation should the outcome of an MMP election mean National and Maori Party need to negotiate. National has never ever ever even hinted its policy is a bottom line that is non negotiable – in MMP you can have very few bottom lines.
Smart observers of the body politic would have noted that Pita Sharples some weeks ago said that John Key had told him in advance what National’s policy on the Maori Seats would be. I remarked at the time to a number of people that there was probably a conversation like this:
JK: So that is what we will be announcing this week
PS: Okay, and you understand we do not like that
JK: Yes, we understand how important this is for you, and that you will want to discuss this after the election should we be negotiating
PS: Yes, so you are saying you will agree to negotiate on this policy
JK: Of course – that would be a matter for after the election, but we understand you do not want this to happen.
PS: Our position is the seats can go, but only when Maori agree to that
JK: Yes, we understand that is what you would like
I am amazed anyone at all is surpised such a conversation is held. Now Pita Sharples and his Chief of Staff seem to have not appreciated the difference (which is important) between agreeing a policy will be negotiated post-election and agreeing the outcome of that negotiation. I don’t believe the outcome could or would have been agreed because it would be madness for National to do so – a negotiation is about concessions on both sides and the overall package – why give away a trump card for free?
From what has been said it seems Sharples suggested a possible outcome, and Key agreed that was a possible outcome and that has been taken as a more firm indication than was intended. People will paint all sorts of conspiracy theories around this, but I doubt few people can sincerely say they think National would actually agree to something without getting something in return. Why would you?
For those who don’t like the fact that parties have policies that they negotiate away, well that is called MMP.