Opinion by Political Editor Duncan Garner
The Government's six hui with iwi over the asset sales and 'shares plus' idea is nothing more than a waste of time.
That's how Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia describes the process. It's hard to disagree with her. It's hard to find a better description really.
It's as simple as this: the Waitangi Tribunal demanded the Government slow down its asset sales programme and consult.
It's doing that. It's delayed the sales. It's now consulting. But the consultation is a sham. Let's all be honest about that.
The Government is consulting on the narrow idea put forward by the Tribunal of 'shares plus' - where Maori might get more rights than other shareholders in the partially sold companies.
Prime Minister John Key says it's unacceptable. So let's talk about it. Seriously, these iwi leaders didn't come down in the last shower.
Why bother at all?
Well, there is a method to this insulting madness.
The Government is merely ticking the consultation box required by law.
It will also be required by the courts next year - if the Government finds itself facing an injunction before it sells Mighty River Power in March.
Showing it has 'consulted' will be a legal requirement.
That's why it's 'consulting'.
It's not genuine and the Government isn't interested in hearing what iwi have to say - not in the slightest.
It wants to do deals with iwi - iwi by iwi. River by river. Bit by bit.
And it wants to sell the assets in the meantime.
Key's Government believes it got a mandate at the last election - and it did.
They got elected.
That's a mandate.
Asset sales have strangely become crucial to the Government's programme.
If it fails to sell them - what does it stand for?
It's struggling to get into surplus like promised, and it's struggling to rebuild Christchurch in a hurry.
But it's seriously in trouble on asset sales.
And there are more hurdles to come - a possible court case and a referendum.
But let's drop the pretence in the meantime that the Government is truly consulting.
It's a sham. It's disingenuous. It's based on a lie.