A Labour MP’s bill to entrench the seven Māori seats will not have the numbers to pass due to opposition from both NZ First and National.
Rino Tirikatene, who holds the Te Tai Tonga seat for Labour, had his member’s bill drawn out of the ballot last week.
His bill would give the seven Māori seats the same protection as the general seats, meaning a 75 per cent majority is needed to overturn them – currently Māori seats can be abolished with a majority of just 51 per cent.
Even if NZ First did support it, it would not become law. Any bill which seeks to entrench a section with a 75% majority itself needs a 75% vote in favour at the committee of the house stage, under Standing Orders.
The argument that the Maori seats should have the same protection as the general seats is superficial and misleading.
Without general electorates, we don’t have MMP. Abolishing electorates would be a major constitutional upheaval. It would negate the referenda results implementing MMP.
The inclusion of Maori electorates does not change the basic electoral system. In fact the Royal Commission recommended the Maori electorates not be part of MMP.
Doing away with the Maori electorates will just mean seven fewer electorates, and seven more List MPs. Actually it might be just five or six fewer as we would then have more North Island seats. But anyway the only difference is everyone would be on the general roll.
I don’t actually advocate taking away the Maori seats without the agreement of Maori. But neither do I support entrenching them.
I believe there should be a referendum every ten years on whether they should be abolished as the Royal Commission recommended, and in return the threshold for Maori parties eliminated.
For a referendum to pass, I would advocate a majority of all voters plus a majority of voters of Maori descent would have to vote in favour.