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Would Maori Party respect a referendum result?

Media statement
For immediate release
Monday, 29 September 2008

Would Maori Party respect a referendum result?

UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne is challenging Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples to explain whether he would accept the outcome of a public referendum on Maori seats, regardless of the outcome.

This follows comments from Mr Sharples this morning that “no government has the right to take (Maori seats) away,” with Mr Sharples promising to lead “social disruption and protest” if they are abolished.

“I personally believe that the ballot box should be colour-blind. But if the majority of the country feels otherwise, then of course I would accept this,” says Mr Dunne.

“I understand that the Maori party feel that race-based seats should remain – but they need to say whether they would accept a majority decision of the New Zealand public to decide their own electoral system.

“If they would respect the will of the people then we should hold a referendum and put this issue to bed once and for all.”

Mr Dunne says that New Zealanders should be the ones to decide on constitutional matters like our electoral system, and that politicians are poorly placed and inevitably suffer a conflict of interest.

“Nobody wants to see racial protest and social disruption as Mr Sharples has threatened to lead. But a lot of people see a race-based electoral system as inherently racist in New Zealand’s multicultural setting.

“We need to find a way forward that is fair and that avoids unnecessary racial conflict. A referendum achieves both these goals and should proceed.”


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