February 27, 2013
Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson says the census is important for all communities.
It’s just a pity that one of those communities – New Zealanders – is an afterthought in the ethnicity category.
The NZ Centre for Political Research has a poll asking people if New Zealander should be an option in the census.
Muriel Newman explains that a change in the ethnicity questions in the 1980s means that the number of Maori is exaggerated.
I don’t know if she is correct. My concern is that the current choices are discriminatory.
What message does having European New Zealander at the top of the list of choices and having to tick other send to people who consider themselves New Zealanders but happen to be of Maori, Pacific Island, Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, African . . . or any other descent?
If statisticians want to know about race, that is what the question should ask. If they really want to know about ethnicity then New Zealander ought to be an option.
November 3, 2008
The Electoral Finance Act has rightly received much of the blame for a dull campaign but Muriel Newman also points the finger at MMP:
The MMP system itself is also responsible for emasculating the campaign. Parties have turned a blind eye to the radical policies being promoted by some, lest they offend those who may become bedfellows after the election. As a result, policies are not being exposed to public scrutiny and the radical agendas of some parties are largely unknown to voters.
MMP also threatens good government and the democratic process by allowing minor parties to exert influence far beyond their electoral support. This is particularly true of the Maori party which only attracts the support of mainly activist Maori (about 2 percent of the population) yet is likely to win around 5 percent of the seats in Parliament through the racially based Maori seats.
. . . Former Labour Prime Minister Mike Moore puts it this way: “No major party dare question the Maori party because they know they will have to do a deal, best save that until later. But what some Maori party leaders have said should be reason for some tough media questions. For example, when a leader says they want equal representation in a government because it’s not about numbers, it’s a partnership, what does that mean? Sorry, democracy is about numbers.
One of the strengths of the adversarial nature of parliament is the scrutiny opposing parties subject each other to. However attacks are sometimes blunted under MMP because MPs know their party might need the support of other parties and therefore they pull their punches.
At best this means policies and actions don’t get the rigorous examination they ought to have. At worst it could allow corruption to go unchecked and we had an indication of how that might happen in Labour’s refusal to accept the Privileges Committee censure motion of Winston Peters.
July 4, 2008
Tariana Turia said on Agenda that Maori have only had a dedicated Maori voice since the Maori Party has been in parliament.
I think what our people are starting to realise though is that when they voted Maori people into Labour they never got a Maori voice, they got a Labour voice and that was the difference, and they’ve only begun to realise it since the Maori Party came into parliament, because it is the first time that they have heard significant Maori issues raised on a daily basis.
In other words it’s not the Maori seats which give Maori people a voice it’s the Maori Party.
Hold that thought for a moment and consider what might happen if a future government decided that the rural people weren’t being represented adequately and created special rural seats. A Country Party then forms and takes all the seats but gets only a small percentage of the party vote which creates a two or three seat overhang and gives them the balance of power. When urban people complain and want the seats removed, the country people say that would be for them to decide.
Would that be fair or right? No and for the same reasons it is neither fair nor right to have Maori seats nor to leave the decision on their existance up to Maori.
It has nothing to do with race, the Treaty, or rights of indigenous people, it’s about democracy in which one group of people should not have the right to make a decision on something which affects everyone.
The Maori seats impact on us all in two ways: the potential for overhang distorts the proportionality of parliament which is one of the merits of MMP; and if Maori seats were disbanded there could be more general seats so electorates would be smaller and and more manageable for MPs and their constituents.
The Royal Commission which drew up recommendations for MMP said there would be no need for Maori seats and that has been confirmed by the Maori Party leader’s own words – it’s not the seats but the party which gives a dedicated Maori voice.
P.S. Muriel Newman disccuses Maori seats here and refers to a paper by David Round which is here.