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Sir Robert Jones

Maori seats give unwarranted influence based on race

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I dislike the Maori seats, which are both racist and undemocratic. Introduced as a short-term measure, they should have been abandoned decades ago. Why not allocate Asian, left-handers, Pacific Islanders or even homosexuals special seats.

Anyone’s at liberty to start a left-handers’ or Asian party, but there would be great indignation were they to be automatically guaranteed seats in the House, a privilege currently accorded Maori. If an argument could ever have been made for Maori seats, which is questionable, then it has long since gone. That they exist is due to MMP, which allowed the successful creation of the Maori Party while letting Maori voters follow tradition and favour Labour with their party vote. Lacking that advantageous MMP factor plus his general ineptitude is why Mat Rata failed with his attempt to create a Maori party.

Polls suggest the election will be decided by the Maori Party which will thus find itself gifted with a grossly unfair and disproportionate influence.

Will it behave responsibly? The answer is an unequivocal yes, at least under the current leadership of Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples, who are justifiably two of Parliament’s most respected members. But Turia is odds-on to pull stumps in three years time and who can blame her? She is a dignified woman who finds much of the current political conduct distasteful. And what if Sharples is hit by the proverbial bus, or gives up in despair as he hinted at recently?

While both have occasionally spouted nonsense it must be said they’ve done this a damn sight less often than the vast majority of MPs. Sharples showed himself to be a truly honourable member in revealing the disgraceful overtures of Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia to influence the Privileges Committee decision on Peters, solely on the basis of Winston’s race. The committee is a judicial institution and making its findings is not the equivalent of lobbying over planned legislation. On television, Sharples mused about his ongoing durability as a parliamentarian in being obliged to tolerate the unprecedented climate of corruption and immorality which so characterises the current government’s third term. He’s not alone. I know of another extremely prominent Opposition politician who has contemplated chucking it because of the culture of mendacity that has evolved in recent years.

The Maori Party lists only three policy objectives on its website. All are an outrage and will never happen, at least not without causing a revolution.

The first is to take ownership of the foreshore and seabed, the absurd claim which spawned the Maori Party and which brought about a properly bold response from the Government. The expressed tenuous grounds for this claim apply equally to claiming the air we all breathe.

The other two stated objectives are to allow Maori to retire (and presumably claim superannuation) at 60 while non-Maori wait until 65, and finally, unspecified special tax advantages, solely for Maori.

In essence these goals amount to an assertion that Maori are entitled to special privileges solely by dint of their race and presumably because they settled here first. On that rationale all recent immigrants to New Zealand should pay higher tax rates and qualify for super when they’re 90.

Turia and Sharples are much better than that. They should rewrite their party’s objectives to a broad aim of overcoming Maori underperformance which appears to be their real concern, and scrub forever, divisive race- based favouritism as their party’s ambitions.