“Equal Treatment” call for Referendum on Maori seats ignorant, says Policy lecturer

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A call based on equal treatment for a referendum on the Maori parliamentary seats by National MP Jami-Lee Ross ignores decades of policy development, claims Veronica Tawhai, a policy and politics lecturer at Te Putahi a Toi, School of Maori Studies at Massey University.

For quite some time policies in New Zealand have focused on achieving equal outcomes, which puts in place protective measures for vulnerable or alienated groups, like Maori states Ms Tawhai. The Maori seats are an example of this, protecting the political voice of our indigenous people, often under-represented in mainstream political processes.

Equal treatment on the other hand is an outdated, uncritical approach, and the cause of past exclusion. Mr Ross should know we moved beyond that approach some time ago.

The Royal Commission on the Electoral System suggested the abolishment of the Maori seats in 1986, but on the basis the then four seats were unsatisfactory in providing for Maori representation. The Commission recognised the Maori seats formed for Maori a base for a continuing search for more appropriate constitutional and political forms through which Maori rights (mana Maori in particular) might be given effect.

Until we have constitutional transformation, the Maori seats provide the only guaranteed platform for Maori interests in Parliament. And through the Maori Electoral Option, Maori have the choice as to whether they stay or go. No to a referendum.

Currently there are seven Maori seats, which can increase or decrease according to the number of electors on the Maori Electoral Roll. Ms Tawhai urges Maori and others to participate in the upcoming General Election, and to encourage others to vote also.

Obviously those like Ross have a lot to learn. Informed New Zealanders need to get out and vote this election to ensure a better calibre debate than what we are currently getting a focus on equal outcomes and justice that we can all build our future on concluded Ms Tawhai.

Contact

Veronica Tawhai 027 3054882

7 COMMENTS

  1. the dance between the local and the global – politically it comes down to numbers and we will see to that kaupapa coming elections. globally it will depend on the way of our world – and believe me if we continue to take from papatuanuku numbers and voting wouldn't matter a rats ass – because we would simply have to survive…

  2. hate to be too out there people but im afraid political democracy as we know it will soon be outdated and a thing of the past – i really do think the global catastrophies we have endured lately will see to that i.e. a few more earthquakes and tsunamis' furthermore perhaps in another 5-10 years the population figures will add an interesting dynamic to the political landscape and create another dimension or layer yet again. numbers will be an interesting topic for conversation in the next few years…so what am i saying?? i think veronica tawhai should consider what the global community will look like in a decade from now instead of looking back at what could have been – the world is too unpredictable (crazy) to be sure of anything these days…chill and look from within and you will see some awesome patterns that will help you to connect the dots – just another version to consider…

  3. @ Sandra – bet he couldn't wait to put himself up to it to get a platform to speak on. He is Winston Peters-lite and appears to be a similar ilk to Paula Bennett (as she describes herself the "part Maaaaaaaari"). This shows that ethnicity does not equate to affinity with people and self-interest is a primary motivating factor for people like this.

  4. So agree with Veronica's take. I think Jami-Lee's comments highlight the ways in which liberalism conceals power dynamics and naturalises racial dynamics and exclusion. Difference is denied and discriminated against within liberalism and the primary tenets of liberalism assume equality without acknowledging preexisting resources, and the focus on equal opportunities to participate ignores the issues of equality of outcomes. Jami-Lee seems ignorant about Te Tiriti. Article two of the Treaty guarantees tino rangatiratanga (self-determination), where tribes can exercise authority in respect of their own affairs and Article three guarantees equality and equity between Maori and other New Zealanders. Which part of this is ambiguous?

    • 'Equality' would mean one person, one vote. The Maori Party got 2.7% last election; barely half the threshold for a seat in parliament. As it stands they have 5 seats including a cabinet seat. I'm neither damning nor defending this situation but it is not equality and it is not democracy. And this is a party who, purely by virtue of their brown skin and the fact that they were smart enough to put the word 'Maori' in their name, now claim to represent all Maori. Pita Sharples has even threatened to not support the govt. on confidence votes which would force a snap election and cripple our already fragile economy; this with 2.7%. He could do it too. The Maori seats make, in my opinion, a mockery of MMP, if not democracy itself. I'm not saying they should be ditched because I think that would create a level of resentment that would out-weigh any benefits, but the current situation cannot be called equal. In 1993 the Royal Commission recommended the Single Transferable Vote electoral method. If we adopted this method (rather than MMP) and raised the threshold to 5% for ALL parties, (I'm assuming STV is an option? Not sure.) then our democratic process could be proportionally represented with the Maori Seats there as a guarantee (really necessary in this day and age? Hmm…maybe) of Maori representation (over and above the democratic freedom of any citizen to run for parliament?) It would also mean that voters on the Maori Roll would have the option of placing their vote where they, as individuals, believe it will do the most good. There is a lot more to this idea than I can put in a reply (sorry Ruth! I chose to reply to you because I liked your letter if even if I disagree with you on one point; I'm really not trying to pick a fight). Anyway, those are my thought, such as they are….Put simply; I don't think the Maori seats should just go. As Ms. Tawhai points out; it would be to ignore decades of policy (generations actually) but they are in a danger of being ditched precisely because of the current situation. The way I see it, a 5% threshold 'across the board' and the adoption of STV would solve this issue.

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