In a recent editorial on his Newstalk ZB Breakfast Show, Mike Hosking made the point that in spite of paying out billions of dollars in settling claims and giving numerous apologies over a 30 year period, Treaty of Waitangi grievances are showing no sign of ending. He called the Waitangi Tribunal a circus and the whole process a farce, saying that the public are completely sick of it all.
But he also raised another important point. In response to new claims by Ngapuhi that they did not cede sovereignty to the Crown, he said, “This Ngapuhi report… has raised more questions than it’s answered due largely to the fact that when you ask the questions (as we tried to on the programme yesterday) the answers either weren’t forthcoming or if they were you didn’t have a clue what they meant… So they didn’t give authority to the Crown. What does that mean – they run the country? They’re the Government, they can make the rules, they don’t answer to our laws. What’s been the point of all this? What’s been the point of any of this?”1
As Mike found, the elite groups who are pursuing the Maori sovereignty agenda are almost impossible to pin down. They avoid addressing the issues, knowing if they did the public backlash against their power grab would crush any hope they ever had of achieving their goal. So instead, they are playing a long and careful game – extortion by a thousand small demands.
As each month passes, there are new rights, new privileges, new funding, new settlements – all in a relentless incremental transfer of money, power and public resources that goes largely unnoticed by most New Zealanders, who are too busy getting on with their own lives. However, some New Zealanders (especially those associated with the NZCPR) do notice, because we have come to realise that this is all part of a much larger agenda – a drive for the co-governance of New Zealand. How to alert a largely passive public, who are blindingly oblivious to the danger, will be our major challenge next year.
Let’s look at the bigger picture: the Maori Party’s plan.
They are using the $4 million taxpayer-funded constitutional review to impose a bicultural constitution on New Zealand. They have hand-picked an Advisory Panel that next year – as a result of a ‘by-invitation-only’ consultation process – will report to the government that New Zealanders are in favour of a ‘new’ written constitution that enshrines the Treaty of Waitangi. They will make recommendations to that effect.
Having received their report the National Party, desperate to keep the Maori Party on side, will set up a new working group to further investigate the issue and draft legislation. After further, largely Maori-only consultation, a bill will be tabled, which, with majority cross-party support, will be quietly passed by Parliament and a new bicultural constitution will be imposed on a largely unsuspecting nation.
So what would a bicultural constitution mean?
At the present time, New Zealand has a written constitution that has been described as one of the most successful in the world.2 Rather than being found in one document, our constitution consists of a collection of statutes, conventions, and common law rights that together set out the basic rules by which our country is governed. This makes our constitution extremely flexible – changing the constitution involves simply changing the specific law. For instance, if New Zealanders decide that under MMP Maori are now over-represented in Parliament and that race-based Maori seats are no longer needed, they could be removed by simply repealing three main clauses in the Electoral Act. Similarly, if the public believes the race-based Maori Statutory Board is undermining local democracy in Auckland and should be abolished, that would involve repealing Part 7 of the Local Government (Auckland City) Act. If the public concludes that the Waitangi Tribunal has outlived its usefulness and should be abolished, then the 1975 Treaty of Waitangi Act would need to be repealed.
Under our constitutional arrangements, New Zealand has one of the strongest parliamentary democracies in the world, since the ultimate law-making power is held by elected Members of Parliament who can be sacked if they lose the confidence of voters.
Those calling for a new “written” constitution want to transfer that ultimate law-making power from our elected representatives to unelected judges – who cannot be sacked. By re-drafting our constitutional arrangements into a single document, lawyers and judges would be put in charge of law-making in New Zealand and if our elected Members of Parliament tried to change this arrangement, their attempts would be struck out as being “unconstitutional”.
Any New Zealander who talks about the need for a new “written” constitution to fix problems that they perceive exist within our present constitutional arrangements should consider the implications very carefully. They need to ask themselves who they want to be in charge of law-making in New Zealand – elected Members of Parliament or unelected judges? If they believe Parliamentary democracy is one of New Zealand’s cornerstone institutions that should be protected, then they should join us in strongly rejecting the call by the supporters of biculturalism for a new “written” constitution. Instead they should argue for change through the repeal of race-based laws, the strengthening of the Bill of Rights, or the amending of specific legislation that is the source of their frustration.
While it is vividly clear that a new written constitution would undermine our Parliamentary democracy, less clear are the implications of incorporating the Treaty of Waitangi into a new written constitution.
I asked this week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator, David Round, a lecturer in law at Canterbury University and the Chairman of our Independent Constitutional Review Panel to outline for us what he thinks a new bicultural constitution could look like. Using a model produced by former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, he has outlined 24 different ways in which Maori would gain superior preferential treatment over all other New Zealanders in his article A Treaty of Waitangi Constitution.
But as he notes, this is just a start. The crucial point is the fabricated notion being pushed by Treaty activists that they have superior rights over everyone else. New Zealand would turn into a country where race is the single most important determinant of a person’s future – controlling whether they were part of the ruling class, or a second class citizen.
“The Treaty, our politically active judges already tell us, involves some idea of partnership. Never mind that the Treaty actually says that the Queen is to be sovereign over all ~ by some strange legal alchemy, clever judges have transmuted this into its very opposite. This is now regularly interpreted to mean a partnership of equals. Maori are not to be subject to the Crown, but are to be its partner. This partnership is a fundamental subversion of democracy. Special reserved Maori seats on local bodies, and even in parliament itself, are just the start. Maori are claiming now that their involvement in decision making should not be on the basis of one person one vote, but instead on 50:50 representation. Some are already clamouring for a separate Maori house of parliament whose consent would be required for any laws. Imagine dealing with that! But they all seem to be united in expecting representation well in excess of what their proportion of the population would entitle them to. That is what they have on the official Constitutional Advisory panel~ five Maori and five European New Zealanders. That is what they are demanding in their new proposals for ‘co-governance’ in the Hauraki Gulf Forum ~ equal numbers to all other interests combined. That is what they will be seeking everywhere; and once they have got this 50:50 representation, then they form an unassailable voting bloc. Then we will be forever at their mercy. And given what foolish judges have already said about partnership, it is entirely possible that Maori Treaty rights under a new constitution will give them this equal 50:50 representation.”
If you share our deep concerns about these developments, then I urge you to read David’s full article. Don’t leave yourself in the dark – become informed and see the ambush that awaits us in 2013. These radicals need to be exposed and stopped, but that will only happen if the passive and silent majority find their voice.
Back in 1995, the editor of the left-leaning New Zealand Political Review magazine, Chris Trotter, faced the same problem of trying to find out what a bicultural constitution might look like: “Talked about by many, explained by few, Maori Sovereignty – and its implications for our future – remains frustratingly vague”. As a result, he had a go at writing one himself. In his article The Constitution of Sovereignty, he created a revolutionary scenario as the context from which “to give the promises of the Treaty of Waitangi concrete expression”. He did this because, “It is almost inconceivable that Pakeha New Zealanders would surrender their dominant position in this society without a fight”. [Chris’s full article can be read HERE]
Today, the truth is very different – while most New Zealanders remain oblivious to any real threat, the radicals with their extremist vision of restoring the country back to Maori rule, are in the ascendancy. At the rate we are going, Chris Trotter’s dreadful depiction of a bicultural Aoteoroa could be achieved almost without a word of complaint, much less the fight he had predicted. Following are some extracts from Chris’s article.
“The First Article of the new constitution is devoted to the principle of Maori Sovereignty. Aotearoa is declared to be the birthright of the tangata whenua and the stewardship of its lands, forests and fisheries is irrevocably vested in the Maori nation.
“The Second Article recognises the Pakeha as the ‘People of the Treaty of Waitangi’ whose right to live alongside the tangata whenua was recognised in 1840. That right is reaffirmed by their agreement to establish a Republic in which the governance of Aoteoroa-New Zealand is vested equally in the Maori-Pakeha peoples.
“The Third Article sets forth the mechanism for returning ownership of lands, forests and fisheries to the Maori. In essence it abolishes the monarchy and transfers all Crown lands and all properties held from the Crown in fee simple to the Maori Nation. Pakeha will thereby become honoured tenants of the tangata whenua…
“The Fourth Article guarantees to the Pakeha full property rights in perpetuity to all private dwellings and their adjacent lands previously held in fee simple from the Crown.
“The Fifth Article converts all lands, forests and fisheries exploited for commercial gain into leasehold property and requires the leaseholders to pay compensatory rents to the Maori Nation for a period of 150 years.
“The Sixth Article declares all remaining property – including basic infrastructure, commercial buildings and public services – to be held in trust from the Republic of Aoteoroa.”
In his article Chris Trotter suggests that a National Maori Assembly would be the constitutional embodiment of the Maori Nation to sit alongside the House of Representatives as the constitutional embodiment of the Pakeha Nation. A Senate would provide for shared governance and a Council of State would run government departments. The President would be elected alternatively by the Maori and Pakeha Houses of Parliament for a single 7 year term. The Supreme Court, whose primary job would be developing the constitution, would be made up of equal numbers of Maori and Pakeha judges. A Citizens’ Charter would be established to tie in to the rights agenda of the United Nations, and full procedures for amending the constitution would include a 75 percent vote in all three Houses of Parliament to be “ratified by a public referendum supported by a simple majority of both the Maori and Pakeha electorates”.
While Chris Trotter’ scenario was clearly fictional, unless New Zealanders rise up to defend their rights and our democracy, who knows where this drive for a bicultural constitution will lead.