The Maori seats must stay in Parliament
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.