Clayton Mitchell: Protecting democracy

Opinion 01/05/2019

By Clayton Mitchell, New Zealand First MP

As the smaller party in the Coalition Government we have maintained our strong voice when many said it couldn’t be done.

The most notable example of this was the Capital Gains Tax.

Recently we have also loudly opposed matters which we felt were eroding democracy.

In the Coalition Government, parties carefully negotiate to reach a consensus on the Government’s direction, however Member’s Bills are a different kettle of fish.

Member’s Bills are randomly drawn from a ballot, and tend to represent a particular area of interest for an individual MP and to Party principles and values. These Bills can sometimes seem like the Wild West of the political landscape, where party lines are clearly distinguished from Government relationships.

Rino Tirikatene’s Members Bill, the Electoral (Entrenchment of Māori Seats) Amendment Bill, is a clear example of this. This Bill aims to entrench the Māori electorate seats, which would mean that  Māori seats could only be removed through a 75 percent majority in Parliament.

New Zealand First would never support a Bill such as this, that undermines the very idea of democracy. 

We believe that any changes to the electoral system should go to the public.

We have supported this Bill thus far so we can seek to include a two part binding referendum on the question to either abolish or entrench Māori electorate seats. It would be undemocratic to unilaterally entrench the seats, especially without asking the public if they feel the seats are still necessary.

On this matter our parties’ differences could not be clearer.

We also, recently put a stop to The Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) local Bill, because of the impact it would have on regional democracy.

Local Bills also fall outside of the Government collaborative space. If passed this Bill would have given Ngāi Tahu the ability to recommend two individuals to be appointed to the Canterbury Regional Council, without being democratically elected.

New Zealand First firmly advocates that regardless of race, gender, faith, ethnicity or wealth, everyone should be treated equally. There is nothing stopping those recommended by Ngāi Tahu from standing for a position just like everyone else.

We proudly opposed such an affront to democracy.

New Zealand First will continue to make its unique voice heard and ensure no one ever needs to ask, what does New Zealand First stand for? 

Clayton Mitchell is MP for New Zealand First.