The Maori seats must stay in Par­lia­ment

Central Leader - - News -

You’re dream­ing if you think Maori in­ter­ests would get a fair hear­ing in Par­lia­ment if the Maori seats were canned.

In fact, you’re dream­ing if you fig­ure that Maori can get a fair go even with seven elec­torates set aside for them.

The ar­gu­ment I keep hear­ing – not sur­pris­ingly from par­ties who have no show of win­ning a Maori seat – is that there are now enough Maori MPs who’re in Par­lia­ment thanks to the party lists. Labour has half a dozen list MPs who’re Maori, the Nats have four, New Zealand First three and also Me­tiria Turei from the Greens’ list.

And there­fore, or so goes the ar­gu­ment, that’s am­ple Maori rep­re­sen­ta­tion with­out the Maori seats.

Well, you could al­most go along with that, if it weren’t for three un­com­fort­able truths.

The first is that – with only a few ex­cep­tions, such as Michael Cullen, Sue Brad­ford, Nan­dor Tanc­zos and He­len Clark – the 100 non-Maori MPs are so clue­less about Maori is­sues that you’d need at least 21 Maori MPs to cope with their ig­no­rance.

It’s not a ques­tion of them be­ing de­lib­er­ately an­tiMaori.

It’s just that they’ve come through an ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that has left them with lit­tle grasp of New Zealand his­tory or how Maori so­ci­ety has been clob­bered over the past 168 years.

The sec­ond un­pleas­ant truth is that main­stream par­ties are serv­ing vot­ers who, by and large, are as dopey and as prej­u­diced about Maori is­sues as their MPs are.

So there’s not much in­cen­tive for the Pakeha Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans to be­come more en­light­ened and more sup- portive of Maori projects.

Then the third awk­ward re­al­ity is that not all Maori MPs are qual­i­fied to rep­re­sent Maori.

Nor are they all in­ter­ested in do­ing so.

Take Win­ston Peters, for ex­am­ple. Much of his en­ergy and charm goes on woo­ing Pakeha. And he’s not averse to bash­ing Maori if he thinks that might win more votes.

So don’t talk to me about cut­ting down Maori rep­re­sen­ta­tion. We need more, not less.

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