“The ACT Party has today launched the next phase of our ‘We hear ya’ campaign.’ ACT MPs travelled the country in 2022, carrying out 208 public meetings. One of the main concerns we heard was about co-government being forced on New Zealanders,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“ACT doesn’t just oppose, we propose. That’s why we’ve set out what practical steps we would take to deliver the promise of a modern, multi-ethnic liberal democracy in Government.

“The current government is presenting New Zealanders with a false choice. It says that if we want to right the wrongs of the past, cherish Māori language and culture, and give all New Zealanders equal opportunity, then we must throw out universal human rights in favour of co-government.

“Parties on the left, led by Labour, promote decision-making made by two parties jointly co-governing when it comes to regulatory decisions and government service delivery. ACT would overturn and replace the obsession with co-government, replacing it with a more liberal outlook that treats all humans with equal dignity.

“In fact, the belief is extraordinary because universal human rights are a foundation of New Zealand. ACT’s agenda is truer to the Treaty and our country’s best interests, based on what works internationally.

“The Treaty guaranteed all people ngā tikanga katoa rite tahi, the same rights and duties. We followed through, in 1893, by becoming the first society in human history to give every citizen the same voting rights. New Zealand, under the first Labour Government, insisted that universal human rights be included in the United Nations Charter, and we eagerly signed up to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights which begins with “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

“Even the Labour Party, today the driving force behind the agenda of co-government, advertises that ‘All political authority comes from the people by democratic means including universal suffrage, regular and free elections with a secret ballot’ in its constitution. Many of Labour’s current policies appear to breach its principles, if not its constitution.

“We are told that ‘one-person-one-vote’ is old-fashioned, and we should welcome a new, ‘enlightened’ type of political system. This new system is a ‘tiriti-centric Aotearoa,’ where we are divided into tangata whenua, people of the land, and tangata tiriti, people of the treaty. Each person will not have an inherent set of political rights because they are citizens of New Zealand. Instead, they will have rights based on their whakapapa or ancestry.

“Continuing to embed the extraordinary belief will be highly divisive. The danger is that if the Government continually tells people to regard each other as members of a group rather than individuals with inherent dignity, there is a danger people will internalise that lesson. Once that happens, it is very difficult to go back.

“This is why New Zealanders deserve a coherent and rational debate about the Treaty and Democracy. They are not getting it, largely because people who question co-government are often accused of racism. This paper sets out three steps that a future Government might take to step New Zealand back from the divisiveness of co-government, and promote New Zealand as a modern, multi-ethnic, liberal democracy.

“Doing so requires separating out a number of quite different matters that are often mixed up. We are told that if we want to honour the spirit of the Treaty, amend for past breaches of the Treaty, preserve and embrace Māori language and culture, and address present day inequities between Māori and non-Māori, then we have to embrace constitutional change that is incompatible with liberal democracy.

“ACT’s policy outlines three changes that a future Government might make. They are:

- Interpreting the Treaty properly by passing a Treaty Principles Act through Parliament and putting it to referendum for confirmation by the people

- Reversing race based policies, such as three waters legislation, a Māori Health authority, and Resource Management law that requires consultation based on race

- Reorienting the public service to target need based on robust data instead of lazy race based targeting.

“ACT will fight for democracy; it will be a key campaign platform for us and an important part of any coalition negotiations. We have practical initiatives we can implement in Government. We hear ya!”

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David Seymour