THE DAILY BLOG’S EDITOR, appears convinced that there exists in New Zealand a great silent majority of Treaty revisionists. He seems to believe that the revolutionary interpretation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi which underpins, ideologically, both the notion of a “Treaty partnership” and “co-governance”, enjoys widespread and enthusiastic support among New Zealand voters – especially those under forty. Interestingly, the numbers presented to us in the latest Roy-Morgan poll point in precisely the opposite direction.
The poll shows National with 32 percent, Act with 13.5 percent, and NZ First with 5 percent support – a total of 50.5 percent. Labour, meanwhile, comes through with 30 percent, the Greens with 12 percent, and Te Pāti Māori with 4.5 percent – a total of 46.5 percent. On the face of it, therefore, the Great Silent Majority lines up with the parties of the Right. If asked whether Māori ceded sovereignty to Queen Victoria on 6 February 1840, these New Zealanders would most likely answer “Yes, they did.” Having said that, their support for the key Treaty revisionist concepts of partnership and co-governance would be … limited.
Well, okay, but the Treaty revisionists could point out, with some justification, that 50.5 percent is hardly a ringing endorsement for the traditional reading of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. With 46.5 percent in support of the Treaty revisionists’ reading, isn’t it more accurate to say that on this matter the electorate is pretty evenly divided?
Unlike the Greens, whose membership would, indeed, line up overwhelmingly behind Treaty revisionism, Labour’s electoral base is more likely to share a view of the Treaty’s meaning that is not wildly at odds with National’s and Act’s. Labour’s working-class voters – Māori as well as Pakeha – are considerably more likely to view the Treaty as the document that made one nation out of two peoples, each of them equal in rights and obligations, than as an enforceable contract binding two cultures together in a relationship “akin to a partnership”.
Surely, this is why Chris Hipkins has been so keen to step back from the brink of what one of this country’s foremost Treaty scholars, Dame Claudia Orange, describes as the “revolutionary changes” unleashed by Treaty revisionists like herself? Any further advance down the partnership/co-governance road and Labour risked seeing its working-class Māori and Pakeha voters peeling away from the party and moving (albeit reluctantly) to the Right.
Which is why, in his post-Cabinet press briefing of Wednesday, 8 February 2023, Hipkins executed a major and politically adroit course alteration which will not only steer Labour away from Treaty revisionism’s revolutionary rocks, but also deprive National and Act of the angry political breezes that have, of late, been filling their sails.
And it’s not just in relation to the vexed Three Waters project that Hipkins has signalled a significant course-change, he has also unceremoniously thrown overboard Willie Jackson’s proposed public media merger, Grant Robertson’s social insurance scheme, and Kiri Allan’s hate speech legislation. It’s a veritable Night-of-the-Long Knives for the pet projects of Labour’s wokesters.
Announcing a $1.50 increase in the Minimum Wage to $22.70 per hour was the new Labour Leader’s pièce de résistance. Nothing could better signal Labour’s return to its political roots – a movement dedicated to the welfare and uplift of ordinary working-class New Zealanders. For these voters, Hipkins’ turn away from wokeism will have been the “bread” of this afternoon’s briefing, but his announcement of a new $22.70 per hour Minimum Wage was, unquestionably, the butter.
Nor is it likely, that Hipkins’ turning away from Treaty revisionism will cost him all that many votes among New Zealanders under forty. Those who have given themselves, body and soul, to the revolutionary politics of partnership and co-governance are more likely than not to vote either Green or Te Pāti Māori. Rather than angst about the Treaty, younger voters will now be asking themselves: “If Chippy’s willing to raise the Minimum Wage by $1.50 per hour, might he not also be willing to freeze rents and raise the taxes of the wealthy?”
That’s a good question. Because, in terms of political arithmetic, such “bread and butter” moves, precisely because they are so very far from being woke, are bound to subtract even more votes from National and Act, and add them to Labour’s growing electoral tally.
A sum which, after today, looks set to re-configure the Great Silent Majority of New Zealand voters in the Left’s favour.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Wednesday, 8 February 2023.