Sunday, November 27, 2005

Repealing raupatu?

According to the Sunday Star-Times, the Maori Party will introduce a Private Member's Bill to repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act - and they believe they have the numbers to do it. Unfortunately I'm not so sure; while United Future voted against the bill last year, they did so over a fairly minor terminological difference - whether the foreshore would be considered "public domain" or simply crown owned. Other than that, they seemed generally supportive of the Act's aims, and I don't really see them as voting for repeal. More interesting is the prospect of one of Labour's Maori MPs crossing the floor; they had an exceedingly tough time when the act was passed, and a repeal bill will hold their feet to the fire once again. But OTOH, Labour's Maori MPs have all had their consciences tested by this legislation once already and come out (however reluctantly) in support of it, and I don't think the situation has changed enough to force any of them to reconsider.

The real worry though is National. While they support a repeal, we should not forget that they opposed the legislation because they thought it was too generous to Maori, not because they support equality under the law or open access to the courts. The modern-day descendents of Justice Prendergast would repeal the Act to replace it with one which not only expropriated the foreshore and seabed and denied Maori access to the courts (as the current legislation does), but also denied any prospect of customary usage rights as well. In other words, they don't so much want to repeal the raupatu as replace it with more raupatu.

The upshot of this is that when push comes to shove, National may vote against a return to the pre-F&S Act status quo, for the same reason they opposed the act in the first place: because Maori may get more than nothing, which is all National thinks they deserve.