Friday 7 June 2024

Māori Cannot Re-Write New Zealand’s Constitution By Stealth.

The Kotahitanga Parliament 1897: A Māori Parliament – at least in the guise of a large and representative body dedicated to describing the shape of New Zealand’s future from a Māori perspective – would be a very good idea.

THE DEMAND for a “Māori Parliament” needs to be carefully unpicked. Some Pakeha, thoroughly alarmed by the incendiary rhetoric surrounding the proposition have taken to muttering darkly about “sedition” and “treason”. This is not a helpful line of reasoning to pursue since a threat, if it is to be counted real, requires a credible means of delivery, and, as far as we know, Te Pāti Māori has little to put in the field beyond the thousands of peaceful protesters it has already deployed. But, if the proposition is not to topple New Zealand’s present political system and replace it with one more reflective of Māori tikanga, then what, exactly, do these Māori constitutional architects have in mind?

Crucially, given the fundamental importance of the issues under review, that remains far from clear – at least to most Pakeha. This is not accidental. Indeed, the Māori reticence to openly discuss constitutional reforms with Non-Māori is entirely deliberate. Although constitutional discussions have been taking place within Te Ao Māori for decades, and in spite of the fact that the discussions and debates of the past five years have brought at least the scaffolding of an “Aotearoan” constitution into much sharper focus, Māori are extremely reluctant to discuss their constitutional ideas with the rest of New Zealand.

Their unwillingness is entirely understandable. Most New Zealanders’ understanding of the constitutional instruments by which they are governed is pretty hazy. They know that their country is a monarchy, although an alarming number of them do not appear to appreciate that it is a constitutional monarchy. Many are convinced that the King retains the power to – and should – intervene directly in the nation’s political affairs. They will similarly affirm that their country is a democracy, even if far more of them than is good for any democracy utterly despise the politicians they elect, and would happily reduce their numbers by half. Most Kiwis are confident that they “know their rights”, but are not at all sure it is wise to make them available to everybody.

The sheer scale of this constitutional ignorance, on full display during the occupation of Parliament Grounds in 2022, is frightening. The capacity of New Zealanders to transform themselves, from groovy anarchist collective to howling lynch mob, in no more time than it takes to shout “Hold the Line!”, was daunting enough for educated middle-class Pakeha. For those seeking to advance the cause of New Zealand’s indigenous minority, it can only have been profoundly discouraging.

The question they’ll be asking themselves and their fellow reformers is a brutal one: If Maori cast their constitutional pearls before these pig-ignorant Pakeha, would they have even the faintest notion of what Māori were on about? Assuming that, among those pearls, were the concepts roughed-out in the He Puapua Report, and the institutions sketched by the late Moana Jackson in his Matike Mai paper, the answer would be an emphatic “No!” A new constitution, predicated on the twin principles of Decolonisation and Indigenisation, or, as most Pakeha would instantly rephrase the proposition: a constitution based on race; simply will not fly.

That the mainstream news media seem equally uneasy about spelling-out the ramifications of the sort of reforms favoured by Māori intellectuals is strongly suggestive that editors, too, fear the reaction of “Boomer Cracker Settlers”. Though younger political journalists will eagerly affirm that Pakeha New Zealand has moved on from the sentiments of Don Brash and the Iwi vs Kiwi election of 2005, their bosses seem remarkably skittish about in putting the Millennials’ confidence to the test.

Considering the huge response non-mainstream media outlets, websites and bloggers almost always receive whenever they publish, broadcast or post on the Treaty of Waitangi, decolonisation and/or indigenisation issues, the reticence of mainstream journalists makes a kind of sense.

If, for example, the big media outlets had opted to present the developing story concerning the Waipareira Trust, Te Pāti Māori, and the alleged use of Te Whatu Ora and Census data in the 2023 General Election, in the same way mainstream journalists reported Māori issues twenty years ago, then the public response would likely be crushingly negative. All the more reason to exercise discretion, the journalists of today would argue. If you can’t write something positive about the tangata whenua, then don’t write anything at all.

But this simply will not do. New Zealanders dwindling faith in the mainstream news media will not be restored by such stratagems – especially when so few other New Zealanders are afforded such lavish media protection.

Nor is it possible to bring about significant constitutional change whilst refusing to engage with the overwhelming majority of those who will, ultimately, be required to live with it. And yet, some Māori radicals are already warning that the movement towards an indigenous constitution is being “infiltrated” by “Kūpapa [Crown supporting] Māori”, and celebrating the fact that most of the gritty constitutional discussion is taking place in Te Reo. Such attitudes are certain to prove counter-productive. An already wary Pakeha population will simply become further convinced that Māori are keeping vital information from them.

Certainly, the conduct of the Labour Government between 2020 and 2023 convinced many conservative Pakeha that, in acknowledgement of the fact that consent from the Pakeha majority was unlikely to be forthcoming, significant constitutional change was going to be imposed, piecemeal, from the top down. Lots of little changes, introduced by legislation, would, by 2040 (the bicentenary of Te Tiriti o Waitangi) have added up to really big change – and all of it secured without having to put a conventional constitutional document to the people for ratification by means of a binding referendum.

That’s not the way to change the minds of your fellow citizens. Māori cannot re-write New Zealand’s constitution by stealth. Change will only happen by Māori being open and honest about what they are hoping to achieve, and by giving Non-Māori plenty of good reasons to help them. In this regard, a Māori Parliament – at least in the guise of a large and representative body dedicated to describing the shape of New Zealand’s future from a Māori perspective – would be a very good idea.

Who knows, after observing the way it contributed to building a more understanding and inclusive society, New Zealanders might even vote to incorporate it into what their children are already calling the bi-cultural constitution of Aotearoa-New Zealand.

This essay was originally posted on The Democracy Project's substack page on Friday, 7 June 2024.


The Barron said...

The heading, "Māori Cannot Re-Write New Zealand’s Constitution By Stealth", is a paradox.

The first point is that an unwritten constitution is always "re-written" by stealth. My 'Unbridled Power' is buried somewhere under old Political Reviews, so I will have to go from memory. Our constitution is based on pre-1954 Westminster precedent, on-going jurisprudence and NZ Parliamentary Bills. The latter two can be influenced by international agreements we are party to and relevant international jurisprudence. So all changes to our unwritten constitution are by stealth. Only some seen as constitutional, like MMP, has gone to referenda. Others, such as the age of voting a simple Parliamentary vote. Although often the Parliament requires a 'super majority' vote on issues deemed constitutional, this is convention. I am unsure if the Speaker could impose the convention over the ruling government. The Bill of Rights is entrenched law so that it can not be amended or repealed without a 75% majority vote in the House of Representatives or a simple majority in a public referendum.

So, all developments of the unwritten constitution is within numerous statutes and judicial interpretation. Changes of 're-writes' usually fly under the radar (an in stealth), and there are few protections against legislation passed in urgency or decisions that can cut out all checks and balances on resource management. Convention can have a governmental middle finger, and the unwritten constitution tested in the courts.

Now to the "Maori' of the heading. The term has been used as an umbrella term. It goes without saying, Maori are not univocal. However, what we have had over a number of decades has been Maori leaders, representatives and organizations that have been consulting on constitutional evolution through networks and the 'flax-roots' base. Largely led by the late Moana Jackson, this consultation has been long and extensive. I am unaware if a consensus plan has been reached or proposal formalized. If that is the case, then Rawiri Waititi may not have been acting in good faith with that process when he advocated for a Maori parliament. While TPM are undoubtedly Maori representatives through their electoral mandate, they are not sole representatives, and electorally Labour share that mandate.

Waititi's premature articulation seems a ploy to capture the narrative, and seems to have gained little traction at the Hawke Bay hui, but extensive knee-jerk reactions from non-Maori commentators. This is a shame, because the idea of a democratic Maori representative Parliament is one which should be given serious consideration. I may have missed it, but I am unaware if Waititi filled in any of the blanks. Is this one person one vote? would that vote be under electoral boundaries of where the voter lives, or Iwi / hapu affiliation? If the latter, does multiple affiliation give multiple vote / representation? Would decision making be Polynesian consensus, or 50% +1?

The Barron said...

Part two -

Of course, we have freedom of association. Nothing would prevent a self-funded independent Maori Parliament. But, if it has statutory powers and the access to the electoral commission, then the NZ Parliament must be involved. Does this require a referendum? When the Auckland 'super city' and other sub-governmental authorities were created, no referenda was held. If a referendum was held or a local government, that would only be the vote for those in that local constituency. I can see a process as to referenda to those registered as Maori on both the Maori and General rolls. This is empowering to that side of Te Tiriti.

The final comment on the headline, is that Maori are not doing anything by stealth. If we are to evolve to include a statutory Maori body, then the elected representatives of the current Parliament, in line with statutory precedent and jurisprudence, must follow the same processes expected within the unwritten constitution. I do not think adherence and growth of a Treaty relationship is required to go back to the general electorate. That is what representative democracy is for.

pat said...

The reason it is undiscussed by its proponents is because its fundamentally antidemocratic (indeed hereditary) and an anathema to the overwhelming majority of the population.

Archduke Piccolo said...

Whether or not the polity at large is capable of grasping complex issues, methinks it is far safer to suppose that they can than to assume that they can't. They - we - ain't children. And we know full well when the wool is being pulled over our eyes.
Ion A. Dowman

LittleKeith said...

Te pati Maori simply laid their hatred bare for all to see. I can just imagine the terrible madness that incapsulates their conversations because the themes and illogic won't be unique to any other racist organisation that exists or has existed. I'm quite sure the Ku Klux Klan are similarly warped in their hate filled world views. You're not born with that kind of destructive ugliness,  it's taught!

But in classic modern left doctrine, the mantra of "the ends justifies the means" has come to the fore, if the rather concerning allegations against the Prez of a certain marae, now MP,  backed by covid text message codes proves founded. How very ironic.

But I wait with great interest to see if Labour denounce them and tell us they'll never work with them, or will their wokeness win the day and Labour passively embrace or outright support this shit? It's one or the other, not a shifty Ardern dollar each way. We know your games Labour! Are you for or against them?

Colonisation, the woke term for blaming everyone else for your shortcomings.  It's as bullshit now as when first invented.  There's not a soul walking this earth that isn't "colonised"!

Two parliaments, co-governance and whatsoever term will be dreamed up next will not work. The melting pot of cultures, the great diversity trick of the left barely works, if at all. The least dysfunctional, safest countries on earth are monocultural, Japan and the Nordic states being prime examples with the glaring exception of Sweden, a recent adopter who embraced diversity now suffering the same problems the rest of us are who pull in a hundred different directions.

Maori, or more accurately, those who are largely not but who identify as such, aren't special mythical creatures, they are not superior beings that require a segregated health system, because they, like all of us, are on a one way trip around the sun to old age. The likes of TPM and race obsessed Wille Jackson milk their superiority for all its worth, and some like his good mate, capitalist "JT" inc make a fortune from this garbage, but there's no rationale way they'll convince the vast vast majority that they are so special that we need to abandon democracy for some hybrid feudal state to live happily ever after!

Time to get real!

Phil said...

Te Pati Maori campaigned at the last election for a Maori Parliament with a $20 billion funding requirement. The issue is that much of the NZ media has an ideological bias that essentially buries information like that. I assume because many journalists wanted a centre left coalition government.

David George said...

Waititi's "premature ejaculation" problem, and what looks like endemic conceit and corruption elsewhere within the Maori Party will certainly opened many people's eyes to the real nature of that outfit. They seem to have been treated with kid gloves despite many complaints and thought, consequently, they could just carry on as they damn well liked; that they were somehow above the law.
Give a man enough rope and he'll hang himself?

David George said...

The actual words from Waititi's foulmouthed missus were "we can do whatever the f..k we like"
Exactly what are we dealing with here? Overly enthused compassion? Something else?

"There's two sets of core Psychopathic traits so the first core Dimension is something like predation. It's like if I'm a psychopath whatever is yours is rightfully mine and if you can't defend yourself against me taking it that's just an indication of the kind of weakness that makes you a viable moral Target. You're too weak to resist - you're too contemptible to even bother with; so not only can I take your stuff but morally I'm obligated to.

The second dimension is parasitism and so that's a more subtle form of predation and someone with a parasitical lifestyle will adjust their attitude towards you so that you'll do the work and support them and they'll do whatever they can get you to do it.

Proclamation of victimization for example is one of the strategies that
the parasitical Psychopaths use so a psychopath is a predatory parasite and that means they're very very low in agreeableness, no empathy and tend to be
callous that's the personality manifestation in a very unconscientious individual."

Run away from the dark tetrad types. 4 mins.

What we're seeing are attempts to promote and to provide a moral justification for envy, resentment and hate. The stock in trade for the murderous monsters of the 20th century come to our fair shores and enabled by the contemptable useful idiots that believe their BS. Don't fall for it.

The best strategy is to run away for these people and make damn sure they don't succeed.

CXH said...

Barron 'While TPM are undoubtedly Maori representatives through their electoral mandate, they are not sole representatives, and electorally Labour share that mandate.'

So any Maori that voted for a different party to the above have no share of the 'mandate'? Or are they just the wrong type of Maori that need to reconnect/re-educate themselves on where their priorities should lie.

new view said...

My feelings of Maori self determination or some sort of parallel system, is extreme caution. There has been the "cry wolf" factor. You know, by not keeping the proposed tobacco ban you are killing our people. There is the endless renegotiating of Waitangi settlements whether they were just or not. There is the propensity by Labour government Maori to show an inability to run business efficiently and without wastefull spending of other peoples money. There is the funding of any new proposals that give Maori more autonomy and how long would that go on for. There is the feeling that Maori think all these ideas are the way to the promised land where imo it's not. The more you give people the more they'll want. There is plenty of opportunity in NZ Aotearoa for Maori to nurture their culture and still live and work in step with their fellow NZrs of all cultural backgrounds. You just have to want to do it and to achieve anything in life requires education and hard work, something that seems to be lacking for many (not just Maori) these days. If we as a nation gave these Maori activists everything they wanted now (if we could afford it), would they not come back looking for more when they find their system hasn't worked for them. We need all NZrs working hard and educating their children to be as successful as they can be. That's how you increase productivity in the work place and life satisfaction. Governments encourage business which is good, but they do a bad job of making those businesses share more of their profit. Everyone needs to do better and work toward the common good. IMO those Maori who want self determination could destroy NZ in the process of getting it, yet wouldn't know what to do with that responsibility if they achieved it.

Wayne Mapp said...

It is obvious that constitutional changes requires a consensus to occur, or at least a majority to back it. But minorities can also push majorities to change.

Obviously not everyone will be persuaded. There are plenty who still rail against the Waitangi Tribunal (or the post 1984 economic reforms for that matter). But they are a relatively small minority.

So looking ahead. Te Pati Maori is advocating for a Maori Parliament. There are those who say "fine, so long as it is entirely a private matter with no institutional role". Those people will be in the dustbin of history.

It is not hard to imagine that the next government (Labour, Greens, Te Pati Maori) will agree on an elective Maori Assembly that is responsible for the Parliamentary appropriations for Whanau Ora, a Maori Heath Authority, all the maori educational initiatives. Plus more. There would be already at least $5 billion public money in these areas. No doubt more in the future.

How would such an assembly be elected? Almost certainly from the Maori electoral roll.

In constitutional terms, such an assembly would be subordinate to Parliament, in the same way as local authorities are. It would be a significant innovation in our constitutional arrangements.

It is a much bigger step to have a second Parliamentary Chamber (or Upper House) as envisaged by Martin Bradbury, in his adoption of the ideas of Moana Jackson. In the same way that MMP required a referendum, so would also be the case of an Upper House. New Zealand is a long way from that.

Would the next conservative coalition abolish a Mari Assembly? If they follow the practise of the current coalition, the answer would be "yes". But that is not a long run strategy. That will simply invite the following government to double down and reinstate it again, but with more powers.

Flipping to and fro on central issues, depending on who is in government, is not viable in the long term. Each government has a responsibility to think through what it needs to retain from the previous government. Obviously not everything, but also not zero.

Perhaps this also says something about the role of the two major parties. Do they need to be more robust with their minor allies. To rule out things that will unnecessarily inflame passions on the other side, in the interests of long term stability. It would mean calling the bluff on minor parties, when they say they will sit on the cross benches. Perhaps the answer, at least sometimes, is to say, "go for it, we are not agreeing to your all your minority requests".

The Barron said...

This becomes the differentiation between Parliamentary representatives that are Maori and Parliamentary representatives of Maori. There is no denying that many Parliamentary members of all stripes can whakapapa Maori and self identify as Maori. They are of course indisputably Maori.
However, they do not have electoral mandate from Maori but rather from general constituency (of which Maori maybe included as a minority).
This compares to those that sought a mandate from Maori and have been given a specific mandate from Maori constituency, whether in the Maori seats or campaigning as someone with the intent of representing Maori in Parliament.
I know of no one in the coalition or the Greens that claim that.

The Barron said...

I believe I carefully phrased it as premature articulation. However, cosmologically, everything starts with a seed.

The Barron said...

Thanks for the first part Phil, although ruined by your assumption.
The idea of a Maori "Parliament" is not necessarily a leftwing concept. The Anglican Church sought a Treaty based structure since 1984, with a revised constitution in place since 1992. It seems to have passed the test of time.
Of course, NZ may have moved so far to the right that such bastions of the establishment are seen as less Derek Nimmo and more Wolfe Smith.

Shane McDowall said...

Rawiri Waititi is not the sharpest knife in the draw.

He publicly claimed that Field Marshal Erwin Rommel praised the Maori Battalion. He said something along the lines of "Give me the Maori Battalion and I will win the war".

Rommel said nothing of the sort. The only reference I can find dates from October 1942 when Rommel denounced how the British Army used "scalphunters, like Maori".

There is ,however, at least one intercepted radio communication to his senior German and Italian commanders that he considered the NZ Division to be the best infantry division in the 8th Army.

Recently on "The Hui" Waititi claimed that the British tried to conquer New Zealand, but failed, and the result was the Treaty of Waitangi.

Whatever else it is, the Treaty of Waitangi was not a peace treaty. And the only conquests pre-1840 were made by Maori against Maori in the bloody Musket Wars of the 1820s-30s.

All the Maori Party MPs can do is make outrageous statements in a desperate attempt to get on the six o'clock news.

National will probably win the next election and possibly the one after that. So, TPM are doomed to continued political impotence for the next six to nine years.

If I was Labour leader I would rule out the TPM as a coalition partner, because the TPM is a political albatross.

Anonymous said...

Your memory is a bit selective on the demographics of the 2022 squat, Chris. There were plenty of pig-ignorant Maori at the protest; esp towards the end when there was an opportunity to rumble with the pigs. Indeed the protest was essentially a bicultural congress of ferals. Warms the heart!

Gary Peters said...

As the following shows, he may despise colonisation but certainly knows how to enjoy the benefits it brings down the line.