The Haps

ACT’s biggest event for the year is now scheduled. Please save the date for Real Change Now, to be held at Sky City Auckland on Sunday June 4th (King’s Birthday). Details to follow soon. Right now ACT MPs are on tour, with tremendous crowds literally from Whangarei to Invercargill. They hear that people are not happy, want real change, and count on ACT to deliver it. Current tour dates and times are here, please come along and join New Zealand’s fastest growing political movement. David Seymour had another excellent column published, this time dismantling the mathematical modelling used to justify continued mandatory isolation.

A Labour interview worth watching

Some people might be glad Kieran McAnulty has finally said what Jacinda Ardern and Nanaia Mahuta never would. Three Waters is not democratic, and it’s not supposed to be.

At Free Press we hear the alarm bells ringing crystal clear. He’s not just being honest; he’s shifting the whole field of debate somewhere democracy is optional. What we can’t work out is whether he’s being dumb or disingenuous.

In five short years we have gone from a Labour Government that promised kindness, openness, and transparency to one that is openly saying its policies are not democratic, and not meant to be, either.

In an interview with Jack Tame on Sunday (which is worth watching here), a Labour Cabinet Minister said one-person-one-vote is just an ‘academic’ version of democracy. Under Three Waters, he admitted, Māori will have more influence than their proportion of the population. As veteran political scientist Jack Vowles wrote when Willie Jackson said similar things, ‘one-person-one-vote is not just a feature of democracy, it’s the whole point.’

Willie Jackson is unhinged at the best of times, but Kieran McAnulty gave a calm and sincere explanation of why ‘democracy is different in New Zealand.’ He politely explained that ‘we signed a treaty’ and therefore it’s right to have undemocratic policies because that’s what court decisions that he did not name say.

Then come some absolute clangers. McAnulty shows he does not understand the Treaty, current New Zealand laws, or much at all really. It’s difficult to tell if he is unbelievably simple, and doesn’t understand what he’s saying or unbelievably Machiavellian, and is shifting the argument by testing the water with much more radical ideas than Labour has tried to date.

First, he says that there are Treaty Settlements such as that involving the Whanganui River that have co-governance. That is true, but Three Waters is fundamentally different.

Article II of the Treaty guaranteed tino Rangatiratanga, or self-determination, over taonga or property. That’s the reason for returning control of specific areas, sometimes whole rivers or mountains, to the control of specific people whose ancestors controlled them until they lost them in unjust circumstances.

The Whanganui river, for example, was found to have been largely controlled by a number of hapu who lost their land in ways that were unfair, to say the least. The right thing to do in a country where people respect property rights and the rule of law (not to mention the Treaty), is to make right what is wrong, where possible. Co-governance was a solution to acknowledge those hapu’s historic losses while accepting the practical reality that many people depend on the river today.

Three Waters infrastructure, on the other hand, did not exist in 1840. It is not subject to Article II of the Treaty. It is infrastructure that has been built up and paid for by everyone through democratically elected councils. That’s also who should own and control it.

Having mixed up treaty settlements with public services, McAnulty goes on to butcher Article III. He seems to believe, based on court rulings he does not name, that undemocratic Three Waters reforms are ok because there are Māori seats in Parliament.

Where to start? The Treaty is clear. It created nga tikanga katoa rite tahi. That is, the same rights and duties. He doesn’t seem to realise that Māori seats are organized on the principle of one-person-one-vote.

Every five years the Representation Commission draws up the Electoral Boundaries. The Electoral Act requires that every electorate has the same number of voters, plus or minus five per cent. That includes General and Māori Electorates alike, so every vote has the same value no matter which roll you’re on.

McAnulty goes on to say that there are Māori representatives on councils. Well, yes, Māori council wards may be unnecessary and divisive, they still have the same number of voters per ward as general wards. The exception was the Rotorua District Council Representation Bill that was not one-person-one-vote. It was shot down by the Attorney General as inconsistent with the Bill of Rights and later abandoned by Labour.

Perhaps because he doesn’t understand the above electoral systems work on a one-person-one-vote basis, McAnulty went on to say that giving Māori more representation doesn’t take away from anyone else. If that’s true, we’d like all Free Press readers to have two Party Votes this October.

In an even more unusual claim, McAnulty went on to say co-government will make three waters cheaper. He said the ratings agencies need ‘some other body’ involved to achieve ‘what’s called balance sheet separation.’ He goes on to say mana whenua were their right entity.

But just any other body won’t cut it. Does the ‘other body’ help insure the three waters entity will repay its debts? If not them then whom? Why are ‘mana whenua’ a better ‘other entity’ than others? Surely, if you want to avoid reckless borrowing, it would be better to have representatives who are accountable to all the ratepayers or taxpayers who might be left on the hook?

No matter. McAnulty is either hopelessly in over his head, or flying big kites in the hope of shifting the debate on New Zealand’s constitution to the point where democracy is just an option. Whichever it is, the stakes have just been raised again, and the need to win just got bigger.

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