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Sharples - Reduction in Numbers of MP Bill

Wednesday 14 March 2006

The Electoral (Reduction in Numbers of Members of Parliament) Amendment Bill: First reading

Dr Pita Sharples

There is a familiar saying in Maoridom,

Änö ko te marama kua ngaro, kua ara anö

which can be interpreted as 'just like the moon that disappears and rises again'.

And indeed, just like the waxing and waning moon, Maori electors will continue to believe in the right to full and effective Maori political participation, whatever permutations of electoral reform come before the House, just like the latest, the Electoral Amendment Bill today.

Mr Speaker, we support the right of all New Zealanders to be able to describe the type of electoral structures they want to see in this Parliament.

That is why we are supporting this Bill through to select committee. It is about walking the talk - if we are really on about 'power to the people' then we must let the people have the power to determine the preferred political structures for this Parliament.

Mr Speaker, in speaking up for the right for the people to speak up, we do so, mindful of the need for checks and balances - which in itself is the logical outcome of an MMP environment.

Essentially this Bill affects the proportionality of the Parliament. It is therefore incumbent upon the Select Committee to turn their mind to the increasing and compelling challenge of diversity.

The challenge before this Parliament - and before this Bill -therefore, is how do we adequately reflect diversity whether it be 99 members or 120.

Mr Speaker, today's Bill seeks to return the Parliament to the Parliament of 1993 - the last of the Parliaments elected under FPP ("first-past-the-post") rules.

I think it makes for interesting comparisons to look back to FPP in 1993 and contrast it with the implications of MMP in 2006?

In 1993, 0.0% of the Parliament was Asian, in 2006 1.6% of current MPs can claim Asian ethnicity.

Pasikifa representation has grown from 1.0% to 2.5%; and Maori has grown from 7% to 17.3% - which is about proportional to the population.

The questions we need to be asking ourselves - what would be the overall effect if the numbers were actually reduced?

And is it desirable that our parliament reflect diversity - and if so, how do we preseve this?

I am reminded of an organisation called the One New Zealand Foundation which raised its ugly mono-cultural head, during the halcyon days of the eighties when Government recognised the value of Maoritanga within the public service.

Indeed the Labour Government of that day, through the policy document of Puao-o-te-ata-tu, courageously recognised and acknowledged the existence of cultural, personal and institutional racism which existed within the Department of Social Welfare.

The right wing conservative reaction to documents such as Puao-te-ata-tu was lead by organisations like the One New Zealand Foundation, an organisation opposed to Maori World Views and certainly opposed to diversity.

Mr Speaker, we will be supporting this Bill to select committee because we firmly believe that dialogue about diversity, about representation, about accountability, about checks and balances needs further airing in this Parliament.

Mr Speaker, we are pleased that this Bill states that there will be no changes for Maori seats as a result of this Bill. Tangata whenua throughout Aotearoa, in just two weeks time, will be making a clear political statement about their preferences in electoral representation. Between 3 April and 2 August, the Maori nation will experience profound political change as they participate in shaping the lay of the land, electorally, for Maori electorates.

This Bill states there will be no change in Maori seats - but there will very likely be a change in Maori representation.

While the Maori Party is happy to let the Bill go forward to the select committee we are concerned that despite this Bill appearing to favour an Electorate Party such as ourselves, (and that should make us happy) and despite what we may see as muted Maori voices in other parties in this House, the Bill in its current form may have the likely effect of eliminating the Georgina Te Heu Heu's, the colourful irascible Tau Henare, the Maori father of the house Winston Peters, Pita Paraone, Shane Jones and Metiria Turei - all of whom add colour, flavour, pizzazz and intellectual grunt to this House.

Mr Speaker, as we know, the moon will continue to glow whether it is in Takapau, in Tamaki, or Tawa - and as such, Maori will continue to fight for our right to democratic, effective, democratic political representation. We hope the select committee stage will enable all New Zealanders to have a say as to the best possible mechanism for having real political power.


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