THOSE RESPONSIBLE for New Zealand’s national security face problems considerably greater than anti-vaxxers issuing bomb-threats. (Although with an anti-vaxxer currently being held in what sounds suspiciously like preventive detention, on a charge of sabotage, perhaps they’re mistaken!) Over the next 12 months, the NZ Defence Force, the Police, and the SIS – The Forces of Order – will have to decide which group of potential insurrectionists they have the best chance of beating: White Supremacists or Māori Nationalists?
These two extreme tendencies, both of them hostile to democracy, currently stand outside the arena of practical politics. For them to remain there, however, a political environment supportive of traditional democratic principles and, most crucially, supported by all key state institutions, will have to be actively promoted. Not only that, but an emphatic majority of citizens will have to believe the such official promotion is sincere, and that it will not simply evaporate if ordered to do so by radical political actors.
This is a predicament without precedent in New Zealand history. At no point in the 170-year history of responsible government in these islands has the arbitrary introduction of fundamental constitutional change turned on the outcome of an election. Radical changes have been made in the past, but always within the parameters of parliamentary democracy and the rule of law. It is one of the great strengths of our Westminster system of government: that change is always reversible. What’s done can be undone – if the people will it.
If, however, the next general election produces a Labour-Green-Te Pāti Māori coalition government, then fundamental constitutional changes, of the sort recommended in the He Puapua Report, will be introduced. This can be stated with confidence for the very simple reason that an unwavering tripartite commitment to the “decolonisation” and “indigenisation” of Aotearoa’s governing arrangements would be a precondition for any such coalition’s formation. The Māori Caucus of the Labour Party would demand it. The Greens would expect it. And the support of Te Pāti Māori (TPM) could not be contemplated without it.
These constitutional commitments could not be kept hidden from the electorate. Their necessity would be loudly proclaimed in the run-up to the election by TPM as a means of mobilising Māori voters generally, and energising young Māori voters in particular. TPM’s most obvious electoral strategy would be seek all seven Māori seats, while freeing their supporters to cast a Party Vote for Labour by way of compensation. Should TPM win all seven seats, but fail to win a commensurate share of the Party Vote, then the next Parliament would have an “overhang” of Left seats – making it even more difficult for the Right to secure a majority.
Would Labour consent to TPM’s strategy? Almost certainly. On the issues of decolonisation and indigenisation the Labour Party Caucus has demonstrated a firmness of purpose not seen since its predecessor’s embrace of “Rogernomics” back in the 1980s. It was not unusual in the late-80s to hear Labour MPs declare that they would rather lose their seat than reverse their support for Roger Douglas’s radical economic reforms. Faced with the option of repudiating the Treaty “partnership”, and the co-governance measures they believe it mandates, this present Labour Caucus (with a handful of exceptions) would almost certainly evince a similar determination to win through or leave Parliament altogether.
Such a coalescence of the Left around te Tiriti and co-governance would, naturally, generate an equal and opposite reaction from the Right. Any notion the National Party may have entertained of attempting to ride the Treaty-and-Co-Governance tiger would have to be jettisoned hastily. Christopher Luxon would have no choice but to embrace Act’s maximalist anti-separatist/pro-democracy policies as his own. David Seymour’s plans for legislatively defining the meaning of the Treaty, and having the resulting law either ratified or rejected by referendum, would thus be presented as the rock-solid commitment of the National-Act coalition government-in-waiting.
Faced with the possibility of losing every centimetre of ground they had won since 1985, Māori nationalists would make no bones about the consequences of a National-Act Government. The re-colonisation of Aotearoa would be resisted – by any means necessary.
Not to be outdone, White Supremacist groups would make it clear that any attempt to “re-tribalise” New Zealand society, by stripping its citizens of their democratic rights and property, would be met with armed resistance.
How would the Forces of Order respond to such threats? Their first move would likely be against the most ardent promoters of the decolonisation and indigenisation agenda. Senior public servants, vice-chancellors and media editors would be “invited” to moderate their radical stance on the politics of partnership. With “radicalisation” occurring apace among the activists of both camps, the Forces of Order’s top priority would be to “depressurize” the increasingly tense political atmosphere.
At the same time “the usual suspects” of the activist Right and Left would be made the subjects of heightened surveillance. All forms of intelligence gathering would be utilised in an attempt to keep abreast of the White Supremacists’ and Māori Nationalists’ activities. From the perspective of the Forces of Order, the best outcome of such a surveillance programme would be the uncovering of plans by both sides to launch a series of attacks on their opponents – up to and including the assassination of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
In these circumstances, the Forces of Order would be presented with the opportunity to persuade the leaders of the Centre-Left and the Centre-Right to dispense with their respective coalition partners and announce their intention to go into the election as a Grand Coalition for Peace, Unity and Democracy. The urgent necessity for such a dramatic solution could be demonstrated by a few suitably terrifying leaks to the most co-operative media outlets. Poll data, real or concocted, would indicate the public’s overwhelming support for the Grand Coalition. Dissenting MPs from Labour and National could then be purged ruthlessly from their Party Lists. At the electorate level, the candidate from the party assessed as most likely to win would be given a clear run by their coalition partner.
With the Grand Coalition parties promising to respect both the Treaty and New Zealand’s democratic traditions, while spending billions to “close the gaps” between Māori and Pakeha, the political prospects for Act, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori would take a decided turn for the worse.
The Forces of Order would breathe a massive sigh of relief. Principally because the question originally posed: who could they beat? – is a trick question. The uncomfortable truth is: not the Army, not the Police, not the Spooks, and not even a combination of all three, could defeat the scale and violence of White Supremacist and Māori Nationalist resistance which the imposition of radical decolonisation – or its racism-inspired defeat – would unleash upon the country. An uncompromising government’s pursuit of one or the other would simply topple the nation into a bloody civil war.
And who would win that conflict? The answer, almost certainly, is – The Australians. Canberra could not afford to have a failed state on its eastern flank – ripe for the picking by a Chinese regime only too happy to sail to the rescue of whichever side seemed most likely to prevail. The Aussies’ pre-emptive intervention would see Aotearoa-New Zealand become the eighth state of the Commonwealth of Australia.
We would all have lost.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 2 August 2022.