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Maori in Australia massively disenfranchised

Maori in Australia massively disenfranchised

In the lead-up to this Saturday’s election, a Wellington researcher has suggested that Māori in Australia are “massively disenfranchised”.

Research on Māori voting patterns in Australia by Senior Associate of Victoria University’s Institute of Policy Studies, Paul Hamer, shows very low levels of electoral participation.

Writing in the most recent edition of the Institute’s journal Policy Quarterly, Mr Hamer said that over the first four Mixed Member Proportional elections, overseas-based Māori, which largely means those in Australia, have not voted in New Zealand elections to anywhere near the same extent as other expatriates.

Overseas votes in the Māori seats, for example, have tended to have by far the lowest tallies of all electorates. This is despite the fact that there are today at least 110,000 Māori in Australia.

Building on research he undertook for Te Puni Kōkiri in 2006 and 2007, Mr Hamer concluded that Māori in Australia are often happy to step aside from New Zealand politics.

“Despite this, there is potential for the votes of overseas Māori to have an increasing influence on the results in the Māori seats, if expatriates’ motivation can be captured,” says Mr Hamer.

While the numbers remain low—only 612 overseas party votes in 2005 out of a total of over 27,000— the total overseas vote in the Māori seats rose 196 percent from 1996 to 2005, as opposed to 116 percent in all electorates.

“According to the Te Puni Kōkiri survey results, Māori who do vote from Australia tend to be older, more likely to speak Māori and emphasise their Māori identity, and more inclined to return to New Zealand to live than other respondents. It appears that continuing to vote in New Zealand is an important element of both maintaining one’s connection to New Zealand and expressing one’s Māori identity.”

Mr Hamer also examined the participation of Māori in the Australian electoral process. Because so few become Australian citizens—approximately 23 percent—most are ineligible to vote. “This may stem from both political apathy as well as an unwillingness to undermine symbolic connections to New Zealand.

“The exclusion of so many non-citizens from the franchise in Australia—in contrast with New Zealand—makes Australia in some ways a less inclusive democracy. The comparatively low rate of take-up of Australian citizenship by Māori leaves them practically the most disenfranchised ‘ethnic’ immigrant group in Australia.”

For more information please contact Paul Hamer on (027) 611 1081. A full copy of the article can be found at http://ips.ac.nz/publications/files/759b2c8f278.pdf


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