...Tamihere's agenda is particularly hypocritical. This guy supported the free market policies that wreaked such devastation among working class communities, Maori included. Today we are seeing the consequences of those policies yet Tamihere isn't being held to account. Instead he gets away with blaming Maori themselves for their economic situation - a plight brought about by the very same economic policies he supports. In other words, he's putting the boot in twice. With friends like John Tamihere, who needs enemies? - Against the Current, 15 November, 2008

I repeat. With friends like John Tamihere who needs enemies? While he and the Waipareira Trust will benefit from the privatisation of Maori welfare it will mean more misery for Maori beneficiaries - the people Tamihere claims he is 'helping'.

John Tamihere has been a consistent and strident supporter of the neoliberal economic policies that have wreaked havoc in working class communities, Maori and Pakeha alike.

According to Tamihere - and the Maori neo-tribal elite of which he is a part - its not neoliberalism that has damaged Maori but a culture of 'welfarism'.

While the likes of the wealthy Tamihere have done well out of neoliberalism (and his own personal history makes for interesting reading), the Maori working class have been tossed the crumbs from the table that Tamihere and the iwi corporate elite have been dining at for quite some time.

I'm not going to repeat the figures here but ordinary Maori remain just as economically disadvantaged as ever - the money has gone straight into the pockets of the iwi elite.

Tamihere has no problem with this - his 'solution' is to attack so-called 'welfarism'' and the Waipareira Trust - of which he is CEO - is set to make lots of dosh via the privatisation of Maori welfare. This trust runs a number of job programmes and services in West Auckland and has been frequently criticised for paying low wages and its stridently anti-union views.

Rather than helping ordinary Maori, Tamihere wants to take Maori from the so-called 'obliging' Work and Income (Winz) and administer some highly moralistic medicine via organisations like the Waipareira Trust where Maori can be 'sorted out'.

Tamihere's anti-working class views were evident as far back as 2003 and they haven't deviated since - indeed he has often praised the Act Party's anti-welfare policies.

In 2003, while Minister of Youth Affairs in the Labour Government, he said that the government's welfare programmes 'were killing Maori with kindness'.

He went on to say: 'Welfare in New Zealand is delivered in a charitable and benevolent way and that charity and benevolence actually crushes you because it teaches you to put your hand out.'

The implication is obvious. Maori are without jobs and in poverty not because they have been at the sharp end of both Labour and National'neoliberal economic policies- the policies that Tamihere supports - but because they have been allowed to bludge off a tolerant welfare system. He's actually blaming the victims of capitalism for being poor and without jobs.

Tamihere's answer? He wants to make the lives of Maori beneficiaries even more miserable.

In 2003 he said that the Department of Work and Income (Winz) should assess beneficiaries’ entitlements and then pay the money over to private trusts like the Waipareira Trust. The trust would create a 'budget 'for each beneficiary and pay the basic bills,including rent, power and groceries. Beneficiaries would be denied access to their money and only the money left over would be handed over for 'discretionary' spending.

This is fundamental attack on the rights of beneficiaries but we need to remember that Tamihere has a low opinion of working class Maori. In 2003 he caricatured a typical Maori beneficiary like this:

'All I need to do... is to beat my case-load worker at Winz, pull my $160 unemployment benefit, get on the p**s over there and grow a bit of dope over here. That’s a wonderful lifestyle but what values does that teach the children in the house?'

John Tamihere, while he might pretend otherwise, is no friend of working class Maori. It is extremely alarming that Tamihere and the neo-tribal elite may now get to financially benefit from administering a separate Maori welfare system.


  1. This is hilarious. Can you imagine the uproar from the Right if Labour had pulled this sort of stunt. Forking out millions to their mates to provide services the government ought to be providing.
    I am in favour of Maori focused services - provided by Maori but I'll be interested to see if Tamihere's trust has to jump mthrough the same hoops as the rest of us in terms of accountability.


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