National is lining up what it believes may be a defining political battle with Labour this week over the TPP.
Labour is hoping it will be able to pick and choose which sections of the TPP legislation it supports because it believes the bill will have to be split into components during the Parliamentary process.
But POLITIK understands the Government may have advice that it will not be necessary to split the bill.
In that case, Labour will have to vote against all stages of the legislation.
National is planning to use that vote to portray Labour as insular and out of touch with what the Prime Minister yesterday called the “outward looking” New Zealand that National supports.
“What I very strongly believe in and what you believe in is an outward looking engaged country,” he said.
That meant we welcomed foreign students and welcomed tourists.
“And it welcomes people who want to come here, make a living and work hard and adopt the values and principles of New Zealand but retain pride in the country they were born in.
“It’s a country that recognises that foreign capital is important and it’s a country that believes in free trade and we actually back companies with a level playing field to succeed on the world stage.
“The other option is Fortress New Zealand.
“That’s a New Zealand which does all of the opposites of what I just said.
“It’s a closed New Zealand.”
Mr Key made his comments at the party’s Northern Regional Conference in Auckland which attracted an unprecedentedly high number of ethnic minority delegates.
As evidence of that, one of the weekend breakfasts was put on by the Filipino section of the party which just a fortnight ago held a party fundraiser in Auckland, which was attended by over 500 members of the Filipino community.
But within the conference, there were rows of turban wearing members of the Indian community and Chinese and Korean delegates sprinkled throughout the audience. There were even a noticeable number of Pacific Islanders, traditional Labour voters, at the event.
The party’s Northern Regional; chair, Andrew Hunt says that this is simply the face of New Zealand today
“If we want to represent New Zealand, then we have to represent New Zealand,” he told POLITIK.
Mr Hunt believes that many of the immigrant ethnic groups’ values resonate with National’s values; the emphasis on seizing opportunities, working hard and getting ahead, in particular.
Party President Peter Goodfellow echoes Mr Hunt’s ideas.
He said that the party had been working on ethnic diversity within its membership for a decade because “it is a part of who we are.”
The party has established groups for Indians, Asians, Koreans and now Filipinos.
“All of those communities have become more important to New Zealand and the Auckland region,” said Mr Goodfellow.
“They want to be engaged with us.
“They share our values and aspirations.”
Alfred Ngaro’s family come from the Cook Islands and he is now a National list MP and one of its rising stars.
He says that National’s values also resonate with Pacific Islanders.
“I think what’s most important are words like aspiration,” he said.
“A lot of our people came here from the islands with the aspiration for a better future, better lives for the children through educational and employment opportunities.”
But he admits that breaking down the strong Pacific Island Labour voting tradition which had its origins in the unions and was fostered in many of the churches poses its challenges.
He says that at meetings younger people will come up to him and say they voted for him.
But they whisper.
“And I say why are we whispering and they because my parents are still in the hall.
“And so you have got another generation who are conscious of their parents and their loyalty to their views and their ways.
“But now they are saying, now that we are more educated, more articulate, more mobile, some of our ideas are quite different to our parents.
“We want to give our support to leadership and values that are aspirational.”
That tension between tradition and the present is also evident in the Korean community.
Melissa Lee is the first Korean-born woman to become an MP.
As a former TV producer, Ms Lee moves easily in the political and media worlds.
Again, like Mr Ngaro, she sees National’s values as aligning with those of an immigrant community.
“We are raised to believe that hard work pays off and that only through hard work can you achieve your goals and those values align with National.”
But she admits that not all Koreans think this way.
She says there are Labour supporters in the Korean community because they prefer Labour’s emphasis on social policies.
There is also still a reluctance to vote on the part of many Asians in Auckland and she says that is partly because they don’t realise that as permanent residents they can vote.
She tells them that they should be active in deciding who should govern the country because it is now their country too and it’s also about the future of their children.
Paulo Garcia is a Philippi no lawyer in Auckland and the force behind what has been a surge of Filipinos from right across New Zealand becoming active in National.
A fortnight ago, over 500 Filipinos gathered in Auckland for a National Party fund raising function and at the weekend conference one of the two conference breakfast was organised by the Filipino community.
Mr Garcia joined the party then told his Filipino friends about it and “they became enthused about the National Party”.
“It has grown to the point where we are saying we want to give something back to New Zealand and this looks like one of the ways,” he said.
He concedes that one of the original attractions of National was that it was the Government. He puts that down to the Filipino migration influx into New Zealand that began recently, really only from 2006.
Though he says that the community would like to be represented in Parliament, he says the first steps they are taking are motivated by their desire to give back.
And as a highly articulated lawyer and the country’s Honorary Consul in Auckland, he would be an obvious choice to stand as an MP.
“If those steps took it further and there was an opportunity for me then I would be interested,” he said.
“But at this stage, I am enjoying myself so much getting it together.”
There were, however, some missing faces at Nationals conference. There were few Maori delegates.
Peter Goodfellow defends this saying that the party has a strong Maori caucus with 12 MPs who identify as Maori (Kiwiblogger, David Farrar, who compiles statistics on Parliament’s demographics says there are only 8) but regardless there is now no organised Maori grouping within the National party whereas once the party used to have a Maori Vice President.
There are also tensions within the party over Maori and the Treaty of Waitangi.
Both at Hamilton and again in Auckland there have been remits dealing with the proposal to give iwi participation in both resource management and water allocation proposals.
Media were barred from the debate on the Auckland remit but party sources said the debate was surprisingly low key.
There was a hint of the extent of the concern when Northland delegate, Ken Rintoul, raised questions about water allocation during a question and answer session about regional development with Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce.
One senior party source was mildly critical of the party’s caution about allowing any public debate on the issue.
He thought it might be better if the public could see there was some tension between the Maori Party and National over the issue.
But Ministers at the conference were not so keen on that idea.
They are clearly driven by a desire to avoid a “foreshore and seabed” situation where disgruntled Maori take the Government to court over water allocation and very possibly end up with more powers than the Government might be prepared to agree to in a political settlement.
But it’s all part of the party which was once defined by its middle-aged blue rinsed Pakeha members changing as New Zealand changes.
And it’s John Key who reminds delegates at his conference speeches that the party is the National Party which he says means it represents everyone in New Zealand.