When she was in parliament, Marama Fox often went toe-to-toe with the Labour Māori MPs. With emotions running high after Labour swept the seven Māori seats on election night 2017 pushing the Māori Party out of parliament, Fox said Māori were “like a beaten wife returning to their abuser.” Even as recently as this week, Fox was vocal in her dismay at the Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill, something she still feels very strongly about. But what a difference 48 hours makes.
After this year’s budget delivered almost a billion dollars in Māori money, even one of Labour’s harshest critics said she was proud of what the Māori MPs had achieved.
“I’m a little bit proud of the boys,” says Fox, referencing the male Labour Māori MPs who have often been on the sharp end of her criticism.
When speaking of the Māori female MPs in Labour, Fox says, “I’ve always thought they’ve worked hard for Māori.”
But in this budget, it was the boys in particular that impressed her. “This budget they have proven me wrong. The Māori spend in this budget is great, the trade training they’re doing, free apprenticeships.
"The thing that sold it for me was the $200m for Kōhanga Reo. Credit when credit is due, I like the budget for Māori.”
She also praised the $136 million received for Whānau Ora in the budget.
In Labour’s first budget as government in 2018, there were not any extra funds for Whānau Ora, and the money for Vote Māori was less than half of what was secured the year before for Māori under a National government. There was heavy criticism of the Labour Māori MP’s after that budget. However, Whānau Ora has received a huge boost in the last two budgets, with $80m last budget to go with the $136m this year.
Fox made it clear throughout her interview with Te Ao that her approval of the Māori share of the budget did not mean she now wholeheartedly backed the Labour Party, the Labour Māori MPs, or the overall budget.
She says there are elements in the budget that she does not like. “Nevermind the slush fund for the racing industry” was one example she used, alluding to the extra money secured for racing under Racing Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.
But her praise of the large slice of the budget-pie secured for Māori is a continuation of the largely positive feedback from Māori around this budget.