We are getting close to the big day, Saturday 17 October, the day when we exercise our right to choose who will make the decisions that will affect our lives, our country.
With the election campaign well underway, we have been looking at each party’s policy statements specifically relating to democracy and the equality of citizenship on which it is based.
Keeping these considerations in mind, the following information may help with your choice of which party to vote for. Please note this evaluation is not intended to take the place of your own effort to assess parties and candidates.
Where do the parties stand on democracy issues?
Labour is still intent on throwing our democracy under the bus. Despite the enormous constitutional implications that go to the heart of Parliament’s sovereignty, Labour’s Māori Manifesto reaffirms its commitment to continuing on the partnership path with Māori - “and looks to take bolder steps to create the change”. It promises “to continue to support the role of Māori Crown relations – Te Arawhiti in growing the capability and capacity of government departments and organisations to be better Treaty partners”. This has resulted in the creation of path for Iwi/ Māori to directly exert power over government policy.
Election 2020 policies include:
- A commitment to progressing the findings of the Wai262 Claim ‘Ko Aotearoa Tēnei’. Ko Aotearoa Tēnei recommends reform of laws, policies or practices relating to health, education, science, intellectual property, indigenous flora and fauna, resource management, conservation, the Māori language, arts and culture, heritage, and the involvement of Māori in the development of New Zealand's positions on international instruments affecting indigenous rights. These recommendations include law changes and the establishment of new partnership bodies in several of these areas.
- A Māori Employment Package to work in partnership with iwi and Māori.
- Support for Whānau Māori enterprise and opportunities through a progressive procurement policy that would set a target for Māori business procurement and facilitate greater strategic alignment of business support for Māori SMEs.
- “The prioritising of Maori students and whanau in the education system from early learning, school and tertiary education through working hard to implement Te Hurihanganui with our communities”. Te Hurihanganui is a Ministry of Education programme working on a structural shift in the education system. It intends taking what it states is anti-oppressive action to do something about the imbalance of power and resources in society. “It means recognising white privilege, understanding racism, inequity faced by Māori and disrupting that status quo to strengthen equity”. The Ministry of Education is planning on launching Te Hurihanganui in six communities across the country from October 2020.
- The intention to work with iwi across the country to teach our history in schools.
- Changing legislation to beef up hate speech laws.
The National Party appears to be shying away from publicising policies relating to democracy issues. There is no mention on their website of policy in opposition to the Crown-Iwi “partnership” model. We suggest you ask the candidates directly.
The ACT Party promotes equality before the law regardless of race, sexuality or religion.
- Abolishing the Māori seats, which they regard as anachronistic and offensive to the principle of equal citizenship.
- Require the Speaker to certify that it is in the public interest, rather than simply the Government's political interest, before a bill can be passed under urgency.
- Repeal of the existing hate speech laws. ACT will remove restrictions on freedom of expression which currently make ‘insulting’, ‘abusive’ and ‘offensive’ speech unlawful.
Policy points in Fifteen Fundamental Principles listed on the New Zealand First website include:
- Open accountable Government - Only on a vote of confidence in a Government (in which New Zealand First is a member) will New Zealand First's Members of Parliament be required to vote with the party. On all other issues not covered by party policy, an MP's first duty is to the Electorate and the Nation.
- An independent anti-corruption commission will be established to enable New Zealanders to have confidence that their institutions are working properly.
- Electoral reform will be determined by the electors. The Government's duty will be to ensure the fair representation of all views and the holding of appropriate referenda.
- Towards a better democracy - All policies not contained in the party manifesto, where no national emergency clearly exists, will first be referred to the electorate for a mandate.
Other policies include:
- Where practical timelines permit remove the use of personal votes by MP’s on all conscience issues and replace by citizens binding referenda.
- Advocate for binding referenda in political decision making.
- Ensure the future of Maori seats is a decision for the people to make.
- Oppose the establishment of separate Maori Wards at the local and regional government level
Mr Peters has also said that New Zealand First would stop any "dangerous settlement at Ihumātao".
The Green Party of Aotearoa supports partnership and co-governance with Māori.
- Constitutional transformation of our representative systems. Support and resource the investigation of how to implement recommendations from the Matike Mai Constitutional Transformation Report.
- Tangata whenua to have partnership roles in governance, including co-management where possible.
- Support giving effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi in local government structures, including through negotiated governance agreements. This includes support for capacity-building and training of both local government and iwi and hapū organisations, to enable effective Tiriti partnerships.
- Local government must honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi and work in partnership with tangata whenua on economic, environmental, social and cultural issues within their rohe.
- Review of the Treaty settlement process. The “full and final” Treaty settlement model should be replaced with alternative just and sustainable models of restitution.
- Support for the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, with the interests of tangata whenua as the principal consideration of its implementation.
- The entrenchment to the Māori parliamentary seats.
- Ensure tangata whenua have guaranteed representation in Local Government.
- Support an increased role for tangata whenua as kaitiaki of their rohe, in both urban and rural areas.
- Acknowledge and affirm Māori rights of kaitiakitanga over natural resources, including the marine environment, and customary and commercial fishing resources.
- Reform legislation on marine reserves to better enable solutions that promote ecosystem protection and customary rights.
- The formal recognition of rāhui. (A prohibition against a particular area or activity, typically one in force temporarily to protect a resource).
- Māori to have a partnership role setting immigration policy.
On a more democratic note:
- Key decisions on the shape of the nation's democratic system belong to the people, not political parties.
- The votes of all electors are of equal weight in influencing election results.
- Strengthen the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.
- Require Local Government to publish video of all council and committee meetings, except for publicly excluded sessions.
The New Conservatives has several policy planks relating to democracy issues. These policies include:
- Repeal race-based co-governance arrangements.
- Replace the RMA. Repeal any requirement for race-based consultation from the Resource Management Act.
- Disestablish the Māori electorates.
- Remove reference to “the principles” of the Treaty of Waitangi from legislation.
- Repeal the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 to return ownership of the coastal and marine area to everyone, held in trust by the government.
- Review all race-based funding to ensure that funding is based on need not ethnicity.
- Introduce Binding Citizens Initiated Referenda (BCIR) as a means of adding a safeguard to our democracy.
- Defend free speech.
- Stop fast-tracked law making.
- Remove the party vote threshold so that every party with enough votes for a seat will be represented in parliament.
As expected, the Māori Party policies are largely race-based and discriminatory. Policies include:
- The establishment of a Māori parliament.
- The entrenchment of the Māori seats.
- Register all Māori to the Māori Electoral Roll.
- Reduce party vote threshold to 2.5 percent.
- Waitangi Tribunal Recommendations to be binding on the Crown.
- Māori control of the marine and coastal area.
- Honouring of rangatira and kaitiaki rights and interests of mana whenua over freshwater. “In a Western rights framework, this can be expressed as proprietary rights, customary rights, and decision-making rights, or put more simply, ownership”.
- End "full and final" settlements and "large natural groupings", ensuring smaller hapū and iwi can have rights recognised.
- Insert relativity clauses into all settlements to ensure all iwi have parity with Ngāi Tahu and Tainui.
- Return the land at Ihumātao to ‘mana whenua’.
The Opportunities Party has a democracy reset policy. It considers democracy issues in a general vein on their website. Specific policies include:
- Re-establish an Upper House, charged with providing parliament a learned and independent check on pending legislation.
- Māori to have equal representation in this Upper House.
- Communities to have more say in the decisions that will affect them, including making use of deliberative democracy such as collaborative software, participatory budgeting and citizen’s juries/assemblies.
See more here: https://www.top.org.nz/the_democracy_reset
Advance NZ also has a democracy policy. It wants a Royal Commission to recommend an entrenched written Constitution and Bill of Rights, and a new referendum on the MMP system at the 2023 election.
See more here: https://www.advancenz.org.nz/democracy_policy
A list of all parties registered for the 2020 election is available here:
Links to other information on the party’s policies which may be of interest:
Hobson’s Pledge: Where do the parties stand on a colour blind NZ?
RNZ 21 September 2020: RNZ guide to party policy for general election 2020
There are many concerns that are of importance to voters, but generally constitutional and democracy issues do not rank highly in the polls, even though this goes to the heart of who we are as New Zealanders. Therefore, I urge you to take all opportunities to question the candidates about their party’s policies.