NZ First move on from anti-smacking law

NZ First have campaigned strongly on having a referendum on the anti-smacking law, and it was one of their ‘bottom lines’. But new Minister for Children say that it was dropped during negotiations recently and ‘it was time to look at a range of other measures to improve children’s safety’.

NZH: Anti-smacking referendum dropped during coalition negotiations

New Zealand First’s wish to hold a referendum on the anti-smacking law was dropped in coalition negotiations, new Minister for Children Tracey Martin says.

“That was one of the policies that did not survive the negotiations,” Martin told RNZ’s Checkpoint. “So let’s move on.”

The change removed the legal defence of “reasonable force” for parents who were prosecuted for assaulting their children.

Last week Family First reminded NZ First of its 2014 pledge not to enter a coalition without a pledge to have a referendum on the anti-smacking law.

“NZ First campaigned strongly on fixing the anti-smacking law – an issue important to many families. We will continue to ask them to deliver on their pledge,” Family First said in a statement.

Martin said the focus on the smacking law had not worked, and it was time to look at a range of other measures to improve children’s safety – such as prevention.

Good to see common sense prevail.

We have already had a referendum, in 2009, but the question was too vague and loaded, and the result was ignored by politicians.

Tracey Martin on referendums

In an interesting interview during the election campaign Tracey Martin gave an indication as to how she thought referenda should be used.

It gives a good insight into Martin’s and presumably NZ First’s preferences on the use of referendums.

Martin has been a member of the New Zealand First Party since 1993. She was on the party Board of Directors from 2008 until becoming an MP and the party’s deputy leader in 2011. She dropped to party #3 when Ron Mark challenged her and took over as deputy. She is expected to become a Cabinet Minister in the incoming government.

NZ First have promote referenda as a way of allowing the public to decide – from their Social Development policy:

Protect our social fabric and traditional family values from temporarily empowered politicians, by requiring so-called ‘conscience issues’ be put to comprehensive public debate and referenda.

The have proposed a number of referenda. Winston Peters promised a referendum on the Maori seats in the recent election campaign, although it looks like that has been lost in negotiations with Labour.

Family recently publicly reminded NZ First Promised Anti-Smacking Law Referendum:

(In 2014, NZ First said “NZ First policy is to repeal the anti-smacking law passed by the last parliament despite overwhelming public opposition. Accordingly, we will not enter any coalition or confidence and supply agreement with a party that wishes to ignore the public’s clearly stated view in a referendum on that issue.”)

That was for a previous election.

In a speech in March in Northland, leader Winston Peters said;

“We are going to repeal the anti-smacking law which doesn’t work and has in fact seen greater violence towards children.”

He then further clarified his position in an interview on Newstalk ZB saying that this matter should go to a referendum with New Zealand people who are “far more reliable and trustworthy on these matters, rather than a bunch of temporarily empowered parliamentarians.”

This position was backed up by senior MP Tracey Martin.

It would be surprising if Labour or Greens supported this. We may find out today if it’s another casualty of negotiations or not.

During the election campaign Martin explained how she saw referenda being used in an interview at the University of Otago, starting at about 20:15

Question: “One thing we’ve noticed is that New Zealand First seems to call for a lot of referendums on different issues, and you think that it should be the people deciding rather than a group of Parliamentarians. Why is that?”

Martin replied :

First of all there’s some things, they’re quite big social shifts, you know there’s some stuff that makes quite a big difference to society.

Lets take euthanasia as one that’s a biggie at the moment, and also legalising recreational marijuana. Split that off from medicinal marijuana, New Zealand First has already said we support medicinal marijuana through a prescription regime.

As an aside it’s not marijuana, it’s cannabis. It’s unusual to here it referred to as marijuana in New Zealand. The bill currently in Parliament is Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment.

But if you take those two issues, they’re issues that we think New Zealanders have the right to discuss, and my vote shouldn’t be worth any more than your vote…and so you need to have the same information I have, and then the country needs to vote.

“Do you see that I have a vote, and I vote in a Parliament, surely that is my reflection of those people making decisions on my behalf?”

So we have a representative democracy, and I would say that if every single bill that went through that House was a conscience vote then you might be right.

Euthanasia was not a topic that was campaigned on at the last election, so how would you have been able to vote on the political party, if you had strong beliefs on that particular topic, how would you have been able to vote for a particular party on that issue, which is a big issue for a nation.

It’s not the tweaking of a, it’s not Uber. It’s a large piece of legislation that is going to make quite a substantial change to country.

NZ First proposals to radically change our economic system is far more substantial – should any policies changing our economic system go to a referendum?

“If parties were campaigning on it this election and setting out their values on the issue which I think a lot of parties have been, it is coming into the discussion a bit more and I chose to volte on that issue, would it then be a rule for Parliament to make that decision rather than putting it back to the people again who have just voted?”

Well I think again it would be fine if it was a representative democracy.

That’s what we have.

…that’s just what New Zealand First believe, there are particular issues that should be laid in front of the New Zealand people, and the New Zealand people as a whole should be able to have a discussion about them out in the open in a transparent way, and then a vote on it.

“Is this a call for more direct democracy in New Zealand?”

Well basically yes, that’s what, I think that’s principle number 15 of New Zealand First, is about direct democracy.

If we haven’t campaigned on it, if we haven’t had a position on it, on a big item, then it’s something we think we need to go back to the constituency which is the public.

15. The People’s Policies

All policies not contained in the party manifesto, where no national emergency clearly exists, will first be referred to the electorate for a mandate.

This is an oddly NZ First-centric principle. Why should it only apply to things NZ First has no policy or campaign position on? Why shouldn’t things of public importance that are NZ First policies not go to referenda?

My also hope is that it might actually make feel connected too.

Here’s a very interesting and important point.

So if I put a bill in front, and I don’t think a referendum should just be a question. I think that’s a really easy way to manipulate direct democracy is to have a single question that is worded in a way that well how could you say no to it, or how could you say less to it.

I believe that you have the same intelligence that anybody sitting in that House has, and so you should see the piece of legislation, you should get the regulatory impact statement, you should get the full Parliamentary blurb that we get, and then after twelve months you should vote on it.

I think that in principle this is a good idea. I have suggested this sort of process for legalising or decriminalising cannabis – a bill should be passed through the normal parliamentary processes, and then go to the public for ratification or rejection via a referendum.

There are some potential down sides, especially if one referendum is held to put a number of issues to the public. There could be a lot of material to distribute and to digest.

Instead of handing out the full legislation plus regulatory statement and any other blurb perhaps a fair summary should be written and distributed. Those who have the time or inclination could obtain all the material online or request it all to be posted out.

I don’t think giving everyone a big pile of legislation will encourage participation, it is more likely to deter engagement.

But generally I think that this is a promising approach to contentious issues of public importance, write the legislation and if it passes through Parliament put it too the people for ratification or rejection.

This would encourage our Parliamentarians to write and pass legislation that made sense to the public and addressed public concerns.

I think this would work well for both euthanasia and for recreational cannabis use.

I don’t think it would be a good way to decide on the Maori seats. That would enable a large majority to make a decision that really just affects a relatively small minority.

I also don’t think it would suit the smacking issue.

The use of referendums could be a significant issue in itself this term.

Last term the flag referendums were a democratic disaster, with political game playing and deliberate disruption making a mess of the process. Somehow that has to be avoided in the future.

I’m encouraged by what Martin said in this interview, albeit with a concern about their principle of only applying referendums to things NZ First hasn’t written policy on or campaigned on. They aren’t the only party in Parliament or soon to be in Government.

Something Peters campaigned on was ‘a change in the way this country is run both economically and socially’.

That suggests major change to me. Should any major change to the way we run the country economically or socially be ratified by the public via referenda?

Peters has been quite vague about what changes he wants. Once he clarifies and suggests specific changes should we the people get to decide on whether it should happen or not?

Cannabis referendum could disappoint

One of the policy wins for the Greens is a referendum on personal use of cannabis.

A referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis by 2020. Funding for drug and alcohol addiction services will be increased.

The ‘referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis by 2020’ is both good and bad news.

Cannabis laws and enforcement of them are hopeless, and long overdue for being radically reformed, so it is good to see tangible progress on this.

But I’m really quite disappointed by this.

Why do we need a referendum apart from appeasing NZ First? Polls have consistently shown public support for cannabis law reform.

A referendum in 2020 is likely to mean that legislation wouldn’t go through Parliament until 2021 at the earliest, and if National get back in they are unlikely to put any priority on it. This means any change could be four or five years away.

A simple referendum could be hobbled or watered down by actual legislation if it’s not specific enough.

Perhaps legislation could be done in advance of the referendum so we know what we are voting on. Then the referendum could be to approve of or reject the legislation. But that still means at least a 3 year wait.

I won’t get too annoyed yet, before details are available, but I have some concerns.


Note that this addresses personal use of cannabis as opposed to medicinal use – in Labour’s Taking action in our first 100 days:

  • Introduce legislation to make medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain

Ardern has not been specific but has said that most of their ‘first 100 days’ pledges remain intact.


UPDATE – there could be even more disappointment

James Shaw just said in an interview on The Nation that it hasn’t been decided yet whether the referendum will be binding or not.

So it could be in 3 years, and toothless.

 

This can’t be right on Māori seats referendum

With nothing much else to do Lloyd burr has been trawling through NZ First and green policies and has come up with a sort of interesting 16 policies NZ First and the Greens disagree on

With some much spare time on his hands he should be expected to get things right, but  this one can’t be right.

2. Māori Seats

Greens – Entrench Māori Seats and oppose any referendum to remove them.

NZ First – Abolish Māori seats via a binding referendum.

I don’t know how you can have a policy to abolish something via a binding referendum. A referendum is usually intended to leave the decision to voters.

NZ First policy: Maori Affairs

MĀORI SEATS REFERENDUM

  • Māori don’t need the Māori seats. They don’t need tokenism. That is why we commit to a referendum of all electors to retain or abolish the Māori seats.

NZ First make it clear they don’t want the Maori seats, but have committed to a referendum of all electors to give them that choice.

It is arrogant for a 7% party to claim that Māori don’t need the Māori seats.

It can be argued (I do strongly) that it is questionable to allow a majority of every voter to make a decision that impacts on a relatively small minority

But NZ First don’t guarantee abolition, they commit to allowing the voters to decide.

Should major reforms go to referendum?

Labour were slammed for campaigning on potentially major tax changes that would be determined by a ‘panel of experts’ after the election and could be implemented without a mandate.

Winston Peters wants to negotiate major economic and social reforms. If he succeeds, should these reforms be decided by the people via a binding referendum?

NZ First policy is to let people decide via referendums.

Or should any major changes wait until after the next election to see if there is a mandate for them?

It would be highly ironic if NZ First succeed in reversing ‘the neo-liberal experiment’ started in 1984 with major reforms without a mandate. One of the biggest criticisms of David Lange’s Labour government was in making major changes that most people hadn’t voted for.

Peters has already promised referendums on some relatively minor things like smacking, number of MPs and Maori seats.

To be consistent any major economic or social policies negotiated to form a new government should go to the people to decide on whether they support them.

7.2% of the vote is nowhere near sufficient to force through major changes without getting popular support.

Ardern on the Māori seats

Jacinda Ardern and Kelvin Davis were questioned on The Nation about Labour’s position on the Māori seats.

Lisa Owen: OK, well, while we’re talking about the Maori seats, Winston Peters– This is another one of Winston’s bottom lines is to have a referendum on the Maori seats. Would you pay that price? Would you be prepared to pay that price to get into government?

Kelvin Davis: We’re not going to have a referendum on Maori seats. It’s off the table.

Lisa Owen: I see a head shake. A referendum is asking the people. You know, you would find out whether you have to get rid of them or not from the people. Definite no? Even at the price of government?

Kelvin Davis: No, Hone Harawira tried to sell the Tai Tokerau for $3.5 million last election to Kim Dotcom, and here’s Winston trying to give away all seven for nothing.

Lisa Owen: OK. So, Ms Ardern, definite no on a referendum, even if it’s the price of a deal with Winston Peters?

Jacinda Ardern: What we said on Tuesday is that we don’t want to spend the entire election campaign talking about other parties’ policies. So I’m happy to share with you Labour’s policy in that area.

Lisa Owen: Well, this is about how you would form a government. This is about how you would form a government. And voters want to know that, and that’s why I’m asking you. And you were shaking your head, so no referendum on the Maori seats?

Jacinda Ardern: The makeup of government will be determined by voters. So voters deserve to know what each political party’s position on those issues are. Labour’s position on that issue is that the Maori seats are for Maori to decide. Labour will allow only Maori to make the decision about those seats. That is our position.

Lisa Owen: All right. So, is Labour’s position, Labour’s policy, no referendum on Maori seats?

Jacinda Ardern: Only Maori should have the decision around whether or not those seats remain. We’ll stay firm on that.

Lisa Owen: That sounds like you could have a referendum where only Maori on the electoral roll could vote.

Jacinda Ardern: I believe that’s what Shane Jones might have– See, there’s not even clarity within New Zealand First on this position.

Lisa Owen: That’s why I’m wanting clarity around your policy. You’re saying Maori should decide, so Maori on the electoral roll, they could be polled whether they think that the seats should stay.

Jacinda Ardern: Well, that’s a question for Winston because he’s the one coming up with–

Lisa Owen: No, I’m asking you your policy. I’m asking your policy.

Jacinda Ardern: And I’m being very clear – only Maori will decide whether those Maori seats remain. We have no reason right now– I have not heard from–

Lisa Owen: That leaves the door open for a referendum of people on the Maori roll.

Jacinda Ardern: No, it does not. Maori have not raised the need for those seats to go, so why would we ask the question?

Kelvin Davis: Those seats were foisted upon Maori back in the 1860s just to really control our voting power, and we’ve become quite fond of them, to be honest, so we really don’t want them to go.

Jacinda Ardern: It’s not on the agenda.

I think there would be hell to pay in Labour and amongst Maori if Labour agreed to an all-voter referendum on the Māori seats. It has to be a non-negotiable for in any coalition wrangling with NZ First.

Māori get to choose every five years whether they want Maori seats or not.

ABOUT THE MĀORI ELECTORAL OPTION

The Option only happens once every five years or so, just after the New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings.

What you decide during the Māori Electoral Option is an important choice, as it determines who will represent you in Parliament.

If you’re on the General Electoral Roll, you will vote for an MP in a General Electorate at the next General Election. If you’re on the Māori Electoral Roll, you will vote for an MP in a Māori Electorate at the next General Election. Every voter, regardless of which electoral roll they are on or where they live in the country, has the same list of political parties to choose from when using their Party Vote.

The results of the Māori Electoral Option together with the Census data are used to determine the number of Māori and General Electorates in Parliament and to revise the electorate boundaries.

How does the Māori Electoral Option affect the number of Māori electorates?

There are currently seven Māori electorates. If more Māori enrol on the Māori roll, it could mean more Māori electorate seats in parliament. The number of General Electorate seats could also change.

Visit Calculating Future Māori and General Electorates for more detail.

 

 

Peters wavers over Maori seat referendum

In his speech to the NZ First congress on Sunday Winston Peters said:

I am therefore announcing today that the next government we belong to will offer a binding referendum mid-term to do two things:

Retain or Abolish the Maori seats.

And there will be second referendum on the same day and that will be to Maintain or Reduce the size of Parliament to 100 MPs.

RNZ pointed out: Peters, Jones differ on Māori seats

On the issue of Māori seats (Shane Jones) told The Hui programme he’d keep them but forgot to tell his boss Mr Peters who was put on the spot earlier today.

“That was a long time ago he wasn’t a candidate then.

Morning Report’s Kim Hill pressed Mr Peters again but he held the line and said “No, it wasn’t this month”.

But Mr Jones was officially a New Zealand First candidate when he made the comments just 15 days ago.

“The Māori seats will subsist for as long as people of Māori extraction remain on them or want them to continue, but it’s a kaupapa for the people to decide,” Mr Jones said.

Peters now seems to be rethinking the NZ First position on the referendum.

NZ Herald: NZ First leader Winston Peters hints at re-think on Maori seats referendum

NZ First leader Winston Peters has dismissed suggestions of a revolt in his ranks over the Maori seats, but said he will reveal soon whether his proposed referendum on the future of the seats would be for all voters or for Maori.

Peters announced plans to hold a binding referendum on the future of the seats at his party’s annual conference – a shift from the 2014 position which favoured abolishing the seats but leaving it to Maori themselves to decide when.

That was assumed to be a referendum of all voters – but Peters is now hinting that may not be the case.

Asked about recent comments by both candidate Shane Jones and NZ First MP Pita Paraone about leaving the fate of the seats to Maori voters, Peters said he believed it should be up to Maori.

“Of course it should be up to Maori to decide if the seats go, but I’m making a speech about it very shortly and I will tell you the full parameters of that.

“I’ve heard what has been said by people who have interviewed Pita and maybe others, and the question is whether it is full conscription and I’ll have that answer in a speech I’m giving shortly.”

Perhaps Peters has had a reality check with Maori candidate and Maori voter views.

He may be having a problem with trying to scratch the itch of different voter demographics. Both he and Jones are standing in Northland where there are a lot of Maori voters.

Peters was also incorrect in claiming most Maori weren’t on the Maori roll.

Peters said Maori voters were leaving the Maori seats in their droves and the majority of Maori were on the general roll rather than Maori roll.

However, Electoral Commission statistics show 55 per cent are on the Maori roll and 45 per cent on the general roll.

NZ Herald:

After the last electoral option in 2013, there were 228,718 Maori on the Maori roll and 184,630 on the general roll.

Jones and Paraone are both on the Maori roll.

Peters seems to have announced the referendum ‘bottom line’ without consulting with his Maori candidates.

Peters rejected any suggestion Jones had broken the party line by saying it should be left to Maori, saying Jones made his comments based on the party’s 2014 policy without knowing it was about to change.

“Nothing he said was in conflict with that and he made the point he was going with what he understood the manifesto position to be and he was 100 per cent right. He is not guilty of any sin at all on this score.”

Paraone said he had advocated for a referendum of Maori on the Maori roll only, but accepted the decision caucus made.

“I’d like to see that it’s left to the Maori voters to make that decision, but the announcement has been made.”

Jones said he would leave it to Paraone to comment on the issue as NZ First’s Maori Affairs spokesman. “I abide by the caucus policy.”

Before he abides by caucus policy it sounds like that will have to be determined, as opposed to what Peters said in his speech on Sunday.

 

With the higher than usual likelihood that NZ First will hold the balance of power with potentially a sizeable bloc of the vote more attention is being given to NZ First policy.

And attention is not just on Peters any more, media are also paying a lot of attention to Jones. It is an unfamiliar situation for Peters, sharing the limelight. Differences will attract attention.

Peters has got away with a lot of policy making on the hoof in the past. This campaign that will be more difficult for him.

@jo_moir

Peters saying he’s considering just Maori voting on referendum to abolish seats proves my point about him making policy on the hoof.

On Sunday he was very specific it would be one referendum, two questions, one on Māori seats and one on reducing total MPs.

You can’t have one referendum if you’re having general roll answer one question and Māori roll another. Seems awfully messy!

Jones and Paraone have left him no choice but to throw this out there as an option but it was certainly never the plan. Completely reactive.

Peters has tried to push populist buttons on a new scale, but it may get harder for him to get away with saying contradictory things to different audiences now.

This wavering over the Maori seat referendum also highlights the flexibility of Winston’s implied bottom lines.

If Peters caves on this one it would suggest that any of his campaign demands are negotiable come coalition time.

Winston’s referendums “daft” and “dangerous”

Winston Peters has said that having binding referendums on the Maori seats in Parliament and the number of MPs in Parliament is non-negotiable. Sort of. Winston-speak means anything can change if it suits him.

RNZ:  Peter’s referendum call would sideline Māori – Fox

At his party’s annual convention in Auckland, Mr Peters said the Māori seats should go and promised a mid-term binding referendum on whether to abolish the seven seats. Voters would also decide whether to reduce the number of MPs in Parliament to 100.

“My strategy is to tell everyone out there that you will not be talking to New Zealand First unless you want a referendum on both those issues – mid-term after this election.”

That effectively rules out both Labour and the Greens on the Maori seats. National has a policy to do away with the Maori seats but that’s on the back burner as they make use of Maori Party votes to maintain a majority.

But in The trouble with Winston Peters’ referendums Andrew Geddis says that “One is daft and the other is daft and dangerous”.

First, reducing the number of MPs from the current 120 to 100.

Even if you believe that voters generally should get a greater direct say on public policy, these are particularly silly things to promise a vote on.

Take the number of MPs. Asking people if they would like fewer politicians has some immediately obvious appeal. So, it’s little surprise that at a 1999 non-binding citizens initiated referendum, 81.5% of voters approved of reducing the number of MPs to 99.

But a parliamentary backgrounder at the time of that referendum showed that there really was no justification for such a reduction in parliamentary numbers. That message then was echoed by Parliament’s Justice and Electoral Committee in a 2006 report on a members’ bill proposing to cut MP numbers in line with the referendum result:

“The current number of 120 members ensures proportionality and diversity in Parliament and thus contributes to its effectiveness; and we consider it essential that these benefits are not compromised. We do not consider that New Zealand is over-represented compared with other countries, especially given that it is a unicameral system.”

And the proposal is even dafter now than when it was when mooted at the end of the 1990s. Parliament last had 99 MPs back in 1993, prior to MMP’s introduction. At that point New Zealand’s population was 3.6 million, meaning we had one MP for every 36,363 people.

Today, our population is 4.8 million. If we want to use the apparently halcyon pre-MMP days as our baseline, today’s Parliament actually should have 132 MPs on a straight population growth basis.

So going the other way and reducing the number of MPs and would significantly reduce our representation.

Second, whether to retain the Māori seats in Parliament.

Similarly, his call to allow voters to decide the future of the Māori seats is superficially attractive. However, it ignores the fact that the five-yearly Māori electoral option already provides a de-facto referendum on this question.

During this option period, every voter of Māori descent can choose whether to be on the Maori or General electoral roll. If enough Māori voters decide to switch from the Māori to the General roll, then the Māori seats automatically will cease to exist.

Instead, 55% of all Māori voters prefer to be on the Māori roll. That point really needs emphasising; a majority of those Māori enrolled to vote consciously have chosen that the Māori seats should continue.

Peters now is proposing the non-Māori majority will get to decide the future of these seats for Māori. That is just a really, really bad idea. Putting aside the sheer injustice of the proposal, it is a recipe for divisive social conflict.

Peters thrives on promoting divisive issues. There’s votes in it, and his priority is getting votes, not what’s democratically sound.

Geddis has A little bit more on Winston’s proposed referendums:

Peters is flat out lying about the Māori seats. Today he told RNZ’s Morning Report that:

The vast majority of Māori, entitled to be on the Māori roll, are on the general roll.

Here’s the actual statistics from the Electoral Commission at the end of the 2013 Maori Electoral Option period (the last time that voters of Māori descent got to choose which electoral roll to be on).

At that time, there were 228,718 voters on the Māori roll, or 55% of all voters of Māori descent. On the general roll there were 184,630 voters of Māori descent, or 45% of that cohort. So far from the “vast majority” not being on the Māori roll, a small but significant majority of Māori voters positively have chosen to do so. And by making that choice, they thereby indicate their support for the Māori seats continuing in the future … because the more Māori on the Māori roll, the more such Māori seats there are.

He also has two additional reasons why the thinks it is bad to reduce the number of seats in Parliament from 120 to 100.

First of all, even if the number of parliamentary seats were cut to 100, the number of electorates would remain at 71. This is because the statutory formula that provides that number is entrenched – you can’t change it except by a 75% vote of MPs or a separate, stand alone referendum.

I guess Parliament could get enough support to change that.

That means there would only be 29 list seats to apportion in order to create overall proportionality in an MMP Parliament. And this simply isn’t be enough to do so – we will frequently see Parliaments that are distorted by “parliamentary overhangs” where parties win more electorate seats than their share of the party vote actually entitles them to.

Furthermore, at present there are 27 Ministers in the executive branch, or 22.5% of the total number of MPs. Cut the size of Parliament to 100, and that executive branch becomes some 27% of total MPs – tightening the stranglehold that it already applies to the legislative branch.

So cutting the number of MPs to 100 will not only damage how MMP functions, but it will lead to even greater executive dominance of Parliament as an institution.

So there are obvious problems with the proposed referendums.

There is also no guarantee National would agree to having them, and Labour and Greens would seem to rule out considering it.

And the reality is that Peters is unlikely to be able to insist on all his bottom line policies. He is extremely unlikely to get anywhere near a majority say in a coalition.

See  Number of Electorates and Electoral Populations: 2013 Census  –  Media Release

Maori versus Peters on referendum bottom line

I think NZ First have always had a policy to have a referendum on whether to retain the Maori seats in Parliament or not.

The only different yesterday was Winston Peters saying it was a non-negotiable policy this election. He repeated his party’s referendum policy but made it clear which outcome he wanted – scrapping the seats. The other outcome he no doubt wants is picking up some anti-Maori votes, an easy target against a minority.

Parliament has to balance the need to represent majority wishes with the need to protect minorities. Referendums are useful for some things but are a democratic risk when they attack a minority representation in Parliament.

RNZ:  Peter’s referendum call would sideline Māori – Fox

At his party’s annual convention in Auckland, Mr Peters said the Māori seats should go and promised a mid-term binding referendum on whether to abolish the seven seats. Voters would also decide whether to reduce the number of MPs in Parliament to 100.

“My strategy is to tell everyone out there that you will not be talking to New Zealand First unless you want a referendum on both those issues – mid-term after this election.”

Maori Party list MP Marama Fox (in Parliament through the overall party vote)…

…said the seats could go only when disparity was removed for Māori in this country.

“We have the highest … rates of youth suicide in the world. We have the highest rates of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) for Māori women in the world.

“We have a shorter life expectancy – and so on and so on and so on, and Winston Peters is merely politicking for votes and trying to take us back to the good old days of colonisation where you stick Māori in the corner and don’t give them a voice.”

Labour Maori electorate MP Kelvin Davis…

…said it was probably smart politics on Mr Peters’ part to attack Māori and politicians in the two-pronged referendum.

“The majority love hearing that sort of stuff: ‘we’re all New Zealanders, we should all be the same’.

“Well, the reality is, tangata whenua have different views, different values and we should be the ones that decide whether those seats stay or go.”

Shane Jones agreed with this earlier this month:

That was also the view of new New Zealand First candidate for Whangārei, Shane Jones, when asked earlier this month on TV3’s The Hui whether Māori seats should stay or go.

He said Māori seats should continue to exist “as long as people of Māori extraction remain on them and want them to continue”.

I think that’s a fair position. As long as every vote is equal as it is under MMP then I don’t have a problem with whether we have Maori electorates or not – in fact if it gives Maori better representation that’s a good thing.

The rest of us should look at how to improve our own representation. Our best way of doing that is by tactical voting in general elections, not in voting away a minority’s preference for their own representation.

More Winston bottom lines

Yesterday Winston Peters implied that a Northland rail link to Marsden Point was a bottom line, or at least was an election promise.

Newshub:  Northland rail ‘going to happen’, Winston Peters promises

Winston Peters says the Northport rail project at Marsden Point is his bottom line for any coalition deal.

NZ First has been strongly advocating the connection, which may cost up to $1 billion.

Mr Peters says it’s the first thing both National and Labour will have to concede if he’s the kingmaker.

“I can say for the people of Northland and Whangerei this is going to happen,” he told The Nation on Saturday morning.

“We’ve got the corridor, it’s been designated – the only thing it lacks is the commitment from central Government, and that’s one of the first things we’re going to be doing straight after the election.”

Today he had another promise/bottom line: Winston Peters delivers bottom-line binding referendum on abolishing Maori seats

Winston Peters promised “explosive policy” at his party’s convention on Sunday but it was a tried and true pledge of referenda on abolishing the Maori seats and reducing the number of MPs that he delivered.

Speaking to media following his speech, Peters said the size of Parliament needs to reduce because there was a referendum in 1999 where 80 per cent of the country wanted to reduce the overall number of MPs but it wasn’t binding.

“The public should be asked again now whether they want the 120 or 100.”

A binding referendum on the two matters would be held on the same day in the middle of the next election term.

Peters said both issues were “explosive” but in particular the Maori seats because “Maori progress economically and socially has been massively sidetracked, detoured and road blocked by the Waitangi industry”.

“How could that possibly happen when we’ve got all these new members of Parliament coming from the Maori world?”

Peters said he wouldn’t use “silly phrases” like “bottom lines” but he made it clear the referendum wasn’t negotiable.

“My strategy is to tell everybody out there that you won’t be talking to NZ First unless you want a referendum on both those issues at the mid-term mark of this election.”

So it’s not a ‘bottom line’, it’s non-negotiable.

Peters is clocking up a few non negotiable policies. Unless he doesn’t have to negotiate:

Peters’ interview with media was interrupted several times by members of his youth wing yelling “Make New Zealand great again” but when asked if he thought his supporters using a Donald Trump slogan was helpful, Peters said he had never heard Trump say that.

He talked about a “great political upset coming” and signed off with a promise – “we will be, most definitely, the Government.”

That’s fairly ambitious to say the least, unless it’s just hot air.

I wonder if he would agree to a referendum of MPs in the next coalition on whether a referendum on Maori seats should happen?