Thursday, April 30, 2009

Labour steps up on the Maori seats

Before the election, there was a debate on the future of the Maori seats, driven by the Maori Party's desire for entrenchment. The Maori Party gave the issue away in their confidence and supply agreement with National [PDF], but now Labour's Mita Ririnui has stepped up with a bill:

Labour list MP Mita Ririnui is to lodge a Member’s Bill seeking the entrenchment of the Maori seats in Parliament.

“The Bill will go into the next ballot and will ensure that the Maori seats in Parliament will not be able to be abolished unless 75 per cent of MPs in any Parliament vote in favour of such a move.

“The only other way the seats would be able to be abolished under the Bill, would be if a majority of Maori electors voted in a referendum to support such a step, Mita Ririnui said.

The latter is a good move - of course it should be up to Maori. The idea of silencing a distinctive Maori voice with Pakeha votes is as monstrous as it is untenable. But the formulation will require a separate entrenching clause. And of course as a proposal for entrenchment, the bill would have to pass its third reading committee stage by 75%. That will be difficult - basically, passing it will require National's agreement - but as with many member's bills, the aim isn't really to pass it. It's to signal future policy, and to wedge the Maori Party against both National and its own membership. And the latter is achieved simply by acting where the Maori Party won't.

Correction: Corrected entrenchment procedure. Maybe I should read the things I link to, rather than relying on my faliable memory of what thye say?