A big win for the Maori Party

The Herald reports:

National has bowed to Maori Party wishes and agreed to support the highly contentious United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples despite the previous Labour Government issuing dire warnings that the document is fundamentally incompatible with New Zealand’s constitutional and legal systems. …

The declaration recognises the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination, being able to maintain their own languages, being able to protect their natural and cultural heritage and manage their own affairs.

Dr Sharples, one of the Maori Party’s co-leaders, said this morning’s announcement restored the mana and moral authority of Maori to speak in international forums on justice, rights and peace matters.

But National appears to have given its backing to the declaration on condition a proviso is attached saying that progressing Maori rights occurs within New Zealand’s “current legal and constitutional frameworks”.

Which appears to me to be a sensible proviso.

National’s concerns appear to have been dealt with by the attachment of the rider to New Zealand’s statement of support. This proviso reaffirms “the legal and constitutional frameworks that underpin New Zealand’s legal system” and notes that those existing frameworks define “the bounds of New Zealand’s engagement with the declaration”.

Dr Sharples said the Labour Government’s position had called into question Labour’s commitment to Crown-Maori relations and undermined New Zealand’s credibility on human rights issues.

There will be some anguish amongst Labour’s Maori MPs that National and the Maori Party found a workable solution to this issue, which their party did not.

Personally I’m not someone wildly concerned about non binding UN declarations, and whether or not we say we support them or not. But if it is important to a “coalition” partner, then I’d much rather have something like this given to them as a “win”, than something which I have serious objections to.

So far, there have been five major “wins” for the Maori Party. None of them have caused me great disquiet. They are:

  1. Repeal of Foreshore & Seabed Act – have long supported this on the basis of not taking away the right to go to court of any person or group
  2. Dropping of opposition to Maori Seats in Parliament. I support the Royal Commission’s recommendation to abolish them (and in exchange have a lower party vote threshold for Maori parties) but National was never going to get the numbers to repeal the seats unilaterally anyway, and in exchange the Maori Party dropped their efforts to entrench them.  It’s a freezing of the status quo.
  3. Whanua Ora – the principle of it is something I have long supported, and is linked to the Family Start programme started in the 1990s. I have concerns over how well it will be implemented, but all in favour of devolving resources to the private sector, to help get better outcomes for disadvantaged families.
  4. UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Does not change legal rights under NZ law, but symbolically important to Maori.
  5. A Maori Flag flies on Waitangi Day alongside NZ Flag. As the day celebrates a treaty between the Government and Maori, think flying both flags is a fine idea.

Now if the Government had agreed to legislate special Maori seats on the Auckland Council, that would have gone down badly with me.  I think it would have entrenched the notion of race based seats as being a good form of Government, that should be spread to all levels of Government.

The deal with the Maori Party over the ETS was a fairly shabby one, which I don’t think one can defend on particularly principled grounds. However I note that was a horse trade over getting a law passed, not directly liked to the confidence and supply agreement. In other words would probably have occurred even if there was no National/Maori Party agreement.

The very nature of MMP and minority Government requires larger parties to agree to some things they would probably not have otherwise done. My test is how “bad” one considers those concessions to be.

While I have a fundamentally different world view to the Maori Party on many issues, I don’t regard any of the above five concessions as particularly “bad” – some in fact I would support National having done regardless of the Maori Party’s wishes.

And I compare that to the demands of NZ First under both National and Labour. Winston demanded weakening of monetary policy, making superannuation more unsustainable, huge increases in funding for his pet portfolios, appointments for his mates, protectionism etc etc – a lot of stuff that I regarded as fundamentally bad for NZ’s future.

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