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Dr Muriel Newman

Election 2011 – tapes, vandalism, separatism, and the voting referendum

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John Key was right to take a principled stand to prevent the release of an illegal tape recording of a private conversation between himself and John Banks. If he hadn’t, the whole boundary between what is private and what is public would be forever blurred. Certain members of the media would feel perfectly entitled to snoop and engage in covert recordings across the board in the hope that they could get a ‘scoop’ and the rewards of an “exclusive” story. And those political leaders who are saying that the recording should be released are particularly disingenuous. In fact they should be ashamed of themselves because if they were the target instead of Key and Banks they would probably be calling for privacy too.

The willingness by some of the media to set aside a legal principle is shameful. The reality is their catch-all excuse of something being in the “public interest” is simply a convenience for the media to publish whatever serves their best interest. Not all reporters joined in, of course. There were notable exceptions – seasoned and principled journalists who respect the right to privacy and who have strongly condemned the actions of their media colleagues.

So with a week to go before the elections, what have the media missed reporting on?

In my mind their most serious lapse is the failure to investigate the policy detail of parties who are very likely to play a major role in the next Parliament. For instance, has anyone seriously questioned the validity of the Green Party’s promise to create 100,000 new ‘green jobs’ through “direct government investment”? With ample research now available to show that for every green job that is created around 2.2 jobs in other parts of an economy are destroyed, their figures do not stack up. That would mean that 100,000 new ‘green’ jobs would kill off over 200,000 others. Most of the early research on this issue came out of the King Juan Carlos University in Spain.1 And they should know. Their socialist government enthusiastically embraced green technology and dreadfully overburdened the country with green job subsidy schemes. With an unemployment rate of over 20 percent, “green” job schemes are surely an example of what ‘not to do’!

The Green Party’s plan to scrap the subsidies on the Emissions Trading Scheme does not mean that ‘polluters’ will pay as they claim, but that the cost will fall on ordinary New Zealand households. That’s how the ETS has been designed – to pass the cost onto consumers. That means that householders would be forced to bear the cost of a doubling of the ETS levy on petrol and electricity, and the resulting rise in the price of food and all other goods and services. In addition, they have set the unachievable goal of requiring 100 percent of New Zealand’s electricity generation to be from renewable sources – which would send prices through the roof. They want to charge everyone for water, they will push up the price of cars by regulating for higher fuel efficiency ratings, they plan to provide “legal protection” for plants and animals, and they want to place a moratorium on private land use in areas they decide are “sensitive”.

And where has been the proper media scrutiny over the Green Party’s defacing of the National Party’s billboards? As Mike butler notes in this blog, “How squeaky clean is Green Party co-leader Russel Norman over the billboard stickering, and where are the reporters asking all the questions to find out how it all happened? Compare the media reaction to the Green delusion pamphlets in 2005 with the current billboard stickering. In 2005, when anti-Green pamphlets were connected to the Exclusive Brethren, and then to National Party leader Don Brash, reporters kept asking the questions until they chased the story down. In 2011, when the Green Party is under the spotlight, reporters seem quite happy to accept Russel Norman’s apology and assertion that he had nothing to do with it and leave it at that. Yet who paid the $500 to have the stickers printed? Where did the money come from? How were activists throughout New Zealand mobilised to put the stickers on National’s billboards? Was a Green Party list of email addresses used? If so, how did the self-confessed billboard sticker mastermind Jolyon White get access to that list? How much did his wife know, especially since she is the stood-down PA to Russel Norman? Can we really believe that over that time Norman did not know the plan was afoot?”

I don’t see anyone asking the hard questions – it’s as if the media have decided to give the Green’s an easy ride leaving voters largely oblivious to the damage their policy prescription would do to the country.

Then we come to the speculation over what is going wrong with Labour’s campaign. But why didn’t they heed the warning of former Labour Prime Minister David Lange who said that a capital gains tax is the sort of tax you introduce if you want to lose not just one election, but the next three! Enough said.

Another serious failing of the media has been their lack of scrutiny of Maori issues. The Maori Party, the Mana Party and the Green Party all want to increase Maori privilege, to give Maori greater rights than non-Maori, and to jack up the electoral system to give them more Maori seats by requiring that any voter who identifies as having any Maori ancestry is placed automatically on the Maori roll – with an option to move onto the general roll. This would be the opposite of the present system which treats every new voter as equal – unless they chose to vote on the Maori roll.

NZCPR Research Associate Mike Butler, this week’s Guest Contributor reminds us of the major changes introduced by National during the three years of their coalition with the Maori Party in his article Maori Politics – rights without responsibilities. From the flying of the radical Maori sovereignty flag, to the signing of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, the introduction of Maori-only welfare system Whanau Ora, the repeal of Crown ownership of the foreshore and seabed to enable privatisation to the tribal elite, and the Constitutional Review which is aimed at entrenching the Maori seats and the Treaty of Waitangi in a new constitution.

He then examines the policies the various parties are proposing asking, “Which New Zealand political party poses the greatest threat to harmonious race relations? The parties that assert one law for all, or those demanding entrenched Maori seats, automatic enrolment of Maori on the Maori electoral roll, have Maori language compulsorily available in schools, or an independent Treaty of Waitangi Commission elected solely by Maori voters?”

He explains, “Election manifestos show a conspicuous absence of Maori issue policy by the National and Labour parties, with wish lists by the Green, Maori, and Mana Parties that are big on asserting rights and small on taking responsibility”. To read Mike’s full article and see what the parties are proposing, click here .

Back in 2009 I wrote, “It is tragic for New Zealand that John Key’s National Party appears to be blind to the agenda of radical Maori and naïve in allowing this escalation of racial division under its watch. Incredibly the National Party has advanced the Maori sovereignty agenda much more than the socialist Labour Party did. At a political level, the actions of the National Party have re-opened the door to the return of Winston Peters – who has consistently argued against racial division and the prevailing partnership myth of the Treaty of Waitangi. It also re-exposes National’s right flank to gains by the ACT Party, should ACT choose to pursue this issue and wrestle away votes that would otherwise go to New Zealand First.”

This warning has come to pass. While ACT was initially forcefully outspoken on the need for one law for all and an end to Maori privilege when Don Brash first took over the leadership, latterly they have become relatively silent over this ticking time bomb. Winston Peters however, has never stopped his attack on Maori sovereignty, the Treaty industry and the Maori Seats. His recent climb in the polls indicates that on this issue he is striking a chord.

In thinking about Maori policy, one thing is certain. It is long past time to abandon the biculturalism model that has become the driving force of racial separatism within New Zealand. Biculturalism has allowed the development of a parallel society where well-funded tribes are seeking greater political power and control as well as access to even more taxpayer resources. Creating a nation of self-governing tribes will be the death knell of this country. New Zealand can only prosper and grow if we build on the governance and institutional arrangements that strengthen democracy. Powerful Maori tribes, doing everything they can to undermine our democratic state, and using the country’s resources and institutions to foster the Maori tribal world view, is not the way of the future. It is time that every New Zealander understood the dangerous path we are on and demanded our elected politicians give us the right to live in a country that is not defined by the colour of our skin.

Finally, on Saturday we not only have to vote for the person we want to represent us in our electorate and the party we want to govern the country, but we also have an opportunity to vote in the Referendum on the electoral system. We will be presented with two questions. The first is whether we want to keep MMP or whether we want a change. The second question then asks which of the alternative voting systems we would like to change to: First Past the Post (FPP), Preferential Voting (PV), Single Transferable Vote (STV), or Supplementary Member (SM).

In looking at the voting options there are a many factors to consider. Here are a few. If you are happy with list MPs selected by party bosses, then SM, which elects 90 electorate MPs through an electorate vote and 30 list MPs through a party list vote, is the choice for you. If, however, you want every Member of Parliament to be elected directly by voters, then your choice is between FPP, PV and STV.

Then there is the size of the electorate: if you would like a small number of big electorates – between 24 and 30 around the country each with between 3 and 7 MPs – then STV is the system for you.

But if you want a system that delivers 120 small electorates each with only one elected MP, then your choice is between FPP or PV. And of those, if you prefer the system that elects the candidate with the most number of votes o

n election day, then FPP – the voting system we used to have before MMP – is the choice for you. If on the other hand you want small electorates and a voting system that doesn’t waste votes by ranking candidates according to preferences – re-allocating those from bottom polling candidates who drop out until one passes the 50 percent threshold – then PV is the choice for you.

The systems most likely to result in coalition governments are MMP and STV. The ones least likely to result in a coalition government are SM, FPP and PV.

Then there are the Maori seat considerations. Because the Maori Party gerrymandered the Referendum process to retain the present proportionality of Maori seats (under MMP there are 7 Maori electorate seats out of a total of 70 electorate seats, giving a 10 percent proportion), under SM with 90 electorate seats there would be 9 Maori seats, and under FPP, PV and STV with a total of 120 electorate seats, there would be 12. Full details about the voting system options can be found on www.referendum.org.nz .

Good luck with your deliberations on who to vote for in the election and the referendum on Saturday!