Maori Leader Brands Tony Abbott A 'Racist Bastard' Over Remote Closure Plans


The leader of one of New Zealand’s two Maori political parties has savaged Prime Minister Tony Abbott as a “racist bastard” for his support for the closure of up to 150 remote Aboriginal communities, stating that the plans fit the international definition of genocide.

Mana Movement leader Hone Harawira, who lost his Maori electorate seat last year, infamously called former Prime Minister John Howard a “racist bastard” for sending the military into NT Aboriginal communities under the NT intervention.

The comments, and his subsequent trip to the Northern Territory as a sitting Maori Party MP, were controversial in New Zealand, but were widely praised across Aboriginal Australia.

This week Harawira renewed his criticism, with Mr Abbott in the firing line for his support of WA Premier Colin Barnett’s plans to close up to 150 remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia. 

Yesterday, Mr Abbott was in New Zealand to unveil an Australian War Memorial in Wellington, leading up to the centenary of Gallipoli on Saturday.

His visit was condemned by the Maori Party (which supports the Key National government) who issued an open letter urging Mr Abbott to reinstate Commonwealth funding for municipal and essential services in remote WA communities.

Last year, the WA Premier Colin Barnett announced his government would be closing up to 150 remote communities in response to the Commonwealth withdrawing its responsibility, and placing it back on the states.

The plans have been condemned across Australia, particularly after Mr Abbott expressed his support for it, saying that Australian taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to fund the “lifestyle choices” of Aboriginal people who live on their homelands.

Maori Party co-leaders Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox yesterday protested Mr Abbott’s visit to Aotearoa with an open letter urging him to reinstate federal funding.

“Mr Abbott, your government’s actions constitute a return to the flawed policies of the past and will result in the loss of basic human rights such as access to clean water and the right to choose where to live,” the letter said.

“These actions violate Australia’s obligations to the (UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples). The cutting of federal funding for municipal services in remote communities is our government disregarding its responsibility to Australia’s First Peoples.

“We ask you to reinstate federal funding for these remote Aboriginal communities and commit to basic human rights and values.”

Earlier this month, Ms Fox was denied leave in the NZ House of Representatives to vote on a motion condemning the WA government’s closure of remote communities. Ms Fox instead tweeted the text of the motion.

Mr Harawira, who left the Maori Party in 2011 to start the Mana Party, now called the Mana Movement, is currently in Canberra for the centenary of Gallipoli and said Mr Abbott was concealing his government’s ‘genocidal’ policies.

“Today, as he unveils a memorial to the mindless destruction of a century ago, Tony Abbott is quietly drawing a veil across the genocide being committed by his own government in Western Australia through the enforced closure of remote Aboriginal communities,” Mr Harawira said.

He said that the plans to close 150 remote communities fit with international definitions of genocide under the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide.

“The forced closure of Aboriginal communities is genocide – plain and simple –  something that colonialists have been trying to do ever since their arrival, originally through the gun barrels of white settlers and now through the legislation of overwhelmingly white governments.

“Although the United Nations recognises the overwhelming authority of the Indigenous people to the land of Australia, it seems that Australian governments simply refuse to accept the reality of their continued racism.”

Mr Harawira said that his characterisation of Mr Howard in 2007 as a “racist bastard” was fitting for Mr Abbott.

“Tony Abbott’s backing of Western Australia’s Closure of Remote Communities in 2015 is exactly the same (as the NT intervention), and deserves exactly the same response.

“Tony Abbott is a racist bastard imposing racist policies on a people who are not in a position to fight back.”

Mr Harawira said the ANZAC spirit should live on “ in the defence of our own Indigenous communities in 2015”.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.