Dr Lance O’Sullivan wants leadership of Maori Party

Prior to the election in September Northland doctor Lance O’Sullivan announced that he would stand for the Maori Party in 2020.

The Spinoff: Lance O’Sullivan explains why he is running for the Māori Party in 2020

When I profiled Dr Lance O’Sullivan last year he was one of the most eligible political bachelors on the market. Courted by the big dogs on both sides of the spectrum, he eventually endorsed the Māori Party, pissing off basically everyone on all sides including some in his support base.

“I think we, as Māori, also need to realise that compromise is a part of involvement in New Zealand politics,” he said at the time.

Now, a week out from Election 2017, he’s gone a step further than endorsement, announcing on Sunday afternoon his intention to run for parliament in 2020.

Quoting O’Sullivan:

“I believe that in the history of New Zealand politics and government, the 2020 election is an opportunity to enable MMP to work its best for New Zealand.

“What would it look like if we didn’t have red and blue, left and right, Labour and National, but instead we had a coalition of centrist parties that better reflects the multicoloured, multidimensional culture of New Zealand that we live in now? Because quite frankly the ideologies of the left and right are out of date. I think the time is right to disrupt things and the mechanisms are there to allow that to happen.

“From another point of view, I believe a political party with Māori values underpinning it, which has the interest of all New Zealanders at heart, could be a very, very exciting party. I believe that the skeleton and the framework and the scaffolding is there and I think the Māori Party has done really well to demonstrate over the last nine years why MMP could work. The Māori Party has and will almost certainly always be a very well-aligned party for me.”

The election ended badly for the party as they lost their only electorate seat and therefore their place in Parliament.

O’Sullivan responded: Dr Lance O’Sullivan’s prescription for Māori Party revival

Dr Lance O’Sullivan may just be the right man to come up with the correct prescription to get the Māori Party back into Parliament.

Despite Saturday’s result, he’s optimistic about the future of the Party. “I believe they will come out of this in better shape,” he promises.

The party, formed in 2004 on the back of Maori discontent over Labour’s handling of the foreshore and seabed, confounded pundits to hitch its waka to the National whale. With Te Ururoa Flavell losing his Waiariki seat, that party is now sunk from Parliament.

But O’Sullivan has a number of ideas to get the party back on its feet: firstly a focus on youth voters, secondly moving to expand the Māori Party’s appeal beyond its core Māori voter base.

On the second idea, he believes progress is already underway, citing Manakau East candidate Tuilagi Namulauulu Saipele Esera, of Samoan descent, and Botany candidate Wetex Kang, who is of Malay and Chinese descent.

“How do you support the expansion of that, underpinned by Māori values,” O’Sullivan asks.

He says it’s also time to think beyond National and Labour, right and left, and truly utilise the opportunities available under an MMP system. “Why aren’t we aspiring to be the first minority Government? Less left and right, a technicolour coat of Government.”

O’Sullivan says that for the country that first gave women the vote, we should think big.

“Why aren’t we taking another step? The pendulum always swings left and right, so how do parties like the Māori Party say it’s not left and right, it’s wanting to be there all the time.”

Earlier this week Tukoroirangi Morgan resigned as party president and called on the party leaders to resign. O’Sullivan has advanced his political ambitions.

Maori Television: O’Sullivan wants sole Māori Party leadership position

Dr Lance O’Sullivan says he will only take a leadership role within the Māori Party if it is a sole leadership role.

Coming on the heels of the resignation of President Tukoroirangi Morgan, the front runner to be the Maori Party’s next male leader, Dr Lance O’Sullivan, says that co-leadership isn’t the way to go.

“If I had an opportunity to have a leadership role, it would need to be in that sole leadership role.” says the former New Zealander of the Year.

The Māori Party has had co-leaders since its inception 13 years ago.  Many believed Lance O’Sullivan and Marama Fox would be the next co-leader pairing.

But the doctor isn’t wanting to share that responsibility.

“I’m not a fan of co-leadership, says O’Sullivan, “I think you need a single leader and a single message coming through that’s strong and inspiring.”

“The results of this election mean that the Māori Party in entering a new stage of its evolution really, and that requires a review of the structure. Is it currently fit for purpose?  Is it as nimble and agile as it could be and should be? My answer to that is probably not.”

Rebuilding the party is a big challenge. No party without an MP or ex-MP has succeeded in getting into Parliament under MMP.

O’Sullivan awards include:

  • 2013 Supreme Maori of the Year
  • 2014 New Zealander of the Year
  • 2014 Second most trusted New Zealander (Readers Digest)
  • 2015 Communicator of the Year

New Zealander of the Year supports pre-school childcare

One of the controversial measures announced in last week’s budget was:

Beneficiaries used to be forced to return to work when their child turned five, but the Government announced in the Budget that’s changing to three.

Last year’s New Zealander of the Year Northland GP Lance O’Sullivan applauded this.

I have an interesting feeling that the encouraging parents back to work at age 3, I feel that’s a good initiative. I like the initiative around increasing access to early childhood education, especially for vulnerable children.

When you’re talking there when you say about other people who can influence the lives of vulnerable children, you talk about that it’s a good thing that children as young as 3 will be in childcare. Why do you say that? Why?

Oh, look, I’m absolutely a believer. Well, look, the communities I serve, you know, the children I’m serving and looking after are typically coming from very chaotic backgrounds, okay, so if they’re on welfare, they’re more likely to be exposed to social dysfunction.

Now, that could be alcohol-drug abuse, that could be violence, that could be mental health problems, that could be problems with incarceration of any number of the families, housing problems, so, you know, if we could get an opportunity to get these children out of those environments, and these are 3-year-old-plus or even earlier, perhaps, for six hours a day, five days a week, I think we should.

I think we should be able to expose them to positive environments, keep them warm, safe and dry and give them a learning opportunity that will prepare them for school, because I don’t believe we should wait till age 5.

I mean, the chief scientific advisor, who used to be my dean at the medical school, Peter Gluckman, believes in this. I certainly tautuku his expertise in that area.

Labour’s Grant Robertson, who said that Labour would look at increasing the age back to five, should find O’Sullivan’s thoughts on this interesting.

Giving more money to dysfunctional families won’t remove the children from the dysfunction.

Pressing parents into working or training in preparation for work might mean children are put into (Government funded) childcare. This could certainly help them from a younger age.

Interview transcript: Lisa Owen interviews Northland GP Lance O’Sullivan

Lisa Owen: We’ve heard a lot this week about what politicians and commentators think about the Budget, but what about those on the front line in the struggle against poverty? Well, Lance O’Sullivan is a Kaitaia GP, public health champion and last year’s New Zealander of the Year. He’s come into the studio today. Good morning. Thanks for joining us.

Lance O’Sullivan: Kia ora, Lisa.

You wanted to see a greater focus on health and social needs of children. Does this Budget deliver? Does it go far enough?

Yeah, I think it’s been a bit of a surprise. We certainly—the lead-up to the Budget announcement in terms of media commentary was that there wasn’t going to be a lot in that area. I think, yeah, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. As a doctor that works in a high-needs community with vulnerable children, I think this will make a difference to my job on Monday, at least when the initiatives start coming into play.

In what way?

Well, look, you know, certainly $25 a week extra in households in my community can be a significant percentage income for their disposable income, and so that’s useful. Though $25 a week is probably not, you know, the end game, I think this is a step in the right direction, but it’s not going to be the magic bullet. I— I have an interesting feeling that the encouraging parents back to work at age 3, I feel that’s a good initiative. I like the initiative around increasing access to early childhood education, especially for vulnerable children. So, yeah, I think those are two or three really good initiatives that have come out of this Budget.

Well, Bill English says that kids who are living in families on a benefit need to get a decent upbringing. You said 25 bucks is a step in the right direction, but can they get a decent upbringing for that? Would you like to see it go higher?

Yeah, I think the question is, you know, what is it? Is it just putting more money into people’s pockets that are living on welfare and in vulnerable situations, or is it having, you know, a whole package of greater care and services around these people?

So which is it, do you think?

It’s probably a combination of both, actually. I think, you know— I do think that there needs to be some prescriptive measures around the increased income that could be made available to families with vulnerable children.

What do you mean by that?

Well, I would really want to see that $25 being put to the best use, okay, so I would like to see that being used for— you know, if it could be used to have children be put into early childhood centres, that would be fantastic. You know, things—

So ring-fencing the increase? So if you want to see more money go to them, ring-fencing it so you have to spend this money on food or you have to spend it on early childcare?

Well, I think, you know, that would be a possible consideration, yeah.

Okay, well, the Children’s Commissioner has said that this is a one-off increase; it’s not a plan. Do you think we need something – a bigger picture, a plan, a comprehensive plan with targets and a clear strategy?

Yeah, well, I’m a simple GP working, doing a simple job, although it seems pretty complex at times, but I would say, yeah, again this is a step in the right direction. I guess it requires, I believe, you know, if we’re talking about child poverty, a comprehensive plan that goes across sectors, obviously driven by our finance— our Treasury department, but, you know, looking at more than just increasing dollars in people’s hands but actually, you know, greater connectedness between all of the sectors that work with vulnerable communities, okay, so whether it be MSD, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Justice, all of these players that actually can influence positive outcomes for these communities, in particular vulnerable children.

When you’re talking there when you say about other people who can influence the lives of vulnerable children, you talk about that it’s a good thing that children as young as 3 will be in childcare. Why do you say that? Why?

Oh, look, I’m absolutely a believer. Well, look, the communities I serve, you know, the children I’m serving and looking after are typically coming from very chaotic backgrounds, okay, so if they’re on welfare, they’re more likely to be exposed to social dysfunction. Now, that could be alcohol-drug abuse, that could be violence, that could be mental health problems, that could be problems with incarceration of any number of the families, housing problems, so, you know, if we could get an opportunity to get these children out of those environments, and these are 3-year-old-plus or even earlier, perhaps, for six hours a day, five days a week, I think we should. I think we should be able to expose them to positive environments, keep them warm, safe and dry and give them a learning opportunity that will prepare them for school, because I don’t believe we should wait till age 5. I mean, the chief scientific advisor, who used to be my dean at the medical school, Peter Gluckman, believes in this. I certainly tautuku his expertise in that area.

All right. Well, the Government has talked a lot about targeted help, so is it right that all kids under the age of 13 get free doctor’s visits? Because that means a millionaire could take her kids along to the doctor for free. Would that money be better spent elsewhere?

Yeah, look, I have for a long time felt we needed to be more targeted with our, you know, what we have. We have a limited resource and we have a scattered distribution in need, so the need at the lowest end, the investment there is going to pay significant more dividends than investment at the higher end. And, you know, that requires some people viewing they’re giving up something. My guess the aversion to targeted funding is that the political popularity of that, you know, it’s great to that all of our children in New Zealand are going to get free access to care, despite the fact that probably only about 25% really need that because of their vulnerability.

We’re talking about people giving something up there. We’ve just been having a discussion about superannuation. Do you think it’s right that someone can collect a super while still earning a full wage? Would you like that money to go somewhere else?

Yeah, well, look. Yeah, well, just looking at the Budget overview today, the biggest spend in the Government cost is social security and welfare – $25 billion in this budget. And then it’s 15 billion for health and 13 billion for education. I’d really love to see that flipped on its head and see education and health being the top spenders in a budget. So how are we going to cut down the welfare costs? Well, there is a really big section of the country who are beneficiaries that we forget to talk about, and that’s superannuates who have contributed a marvellous—made a marvellous contribution to New Zealand society and the nation building, and we can’t forget that. How do we support them through into their retirement? But the question is, where—at what end of the age spectrum are we having the greatest challenges, and how can we get the biggest dividend, I guess, for our investment? And I would be saying there, looking at how we rejig the superannuation as a smart move, yeah.