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Muriel Newman: 2024 – a Year of Reckoning

Muriel Newman,
Publish Date
Thu, 1 Feb 2024, 5:00am

Muriel Newman: 2024 – a Year of Reckoning

Muriel Newman,
Publish Date
Thu, 1 Feb 2024, 5:00am

It’s traditional to start a new year by reflecting on the past and contemplating the future. With that in mind, we can confidently say that New Zealand is in a far better position at the dawn of 2024 than we were a year ago when Labour was in charge.

They had alienated the public, not only through reckless spending that had fuelled inflation and a cost-of-living crisis, but also through their divisive obsession with identity politics and gross incompetence in the delivery of public services.

Their authoritarian approach to government had deeply divided society, exposing the ugly side of humanity.

So, what’s in store? Will National, Act and New Zealand First be able to sort out Labour’s mess, and will National have the fortitude to tough out the inevitable barrage of criticism from those who are still grieving the loss of their socialist ideals and self-interested agendas?

Certainly the coalition’s 100-day plan launches the renewal in a definitive fashion with 49 initiatives that range from repealing Labour’s disastrous co-governance measures - including Three Waters and the Māori Health Authority - to getting rid of misguided policies including Auckland Light Rail and He Puapua.

Their 100-day plan also includes “strengthening democracy”, which, in the first instance, no doubt relates to local government: “Restore the right to local referendum on the establishment or ongoing use of Māori wards, including requiring a referendum on any wards established without referendum at the next local Bbody elections.”

But in light of the uprising of radicalised opposition to the coalition’s plan to remove Labour’s race-based initiatives, a much greater emphasis on ”strengthening democracy” will be needed.

To understand the quantum of the problem we face, we need to cast our mind back to 2020, and remind ourselves that it’s the public mandate a government receives from voters for their policy agenda at the election, that gives them the constitutional legitimacy to govern.

That’s why Labour’s entire He Puapua agenda, which aimed to replace democracy with tribal rule by 2040, was totally illegitimate. They had kept their policy secret from voters during the election, only releasing it after winning the right to govern alone. That means Labour had no public mandate whatsoever to transfer democratic power to iwi leaders through co-governance.

50:50 ”co-governance” was also a fraud. It gave representatives of the 17 per cent minority of the population who identify as Māori the same voting power as representatives of the 83 per cent majority of New Zealanders. By giving the tribal elite almost five times greater influence in decision-making than the public, co-governance grossly discriminates, undermining the one-person, one-vote foundation stone of our Westminster democratic system.

Furthermore, through the power of veto, co-governance effectively replaces democracy with tribal totalitarianism.

To justify all of this, Labour claimed the Treaty of Waitangi was a ”partnership” between Māori and the Crown. Despite that being constitutionally impossible, they forced it not only onto the public sector, but also those private organisations that depend on the government for registration or funding.

Through their unmandated He Puapua agenda, Labour effectively gave the iwi elite unrestrained influence to advance their tribal control agenda across the country. 

The 200 staff at the Office of Māori-Crown Relations - an agency established in collaboration with iwi leaders - were instrumental in fast-tracking co-governance and a commitment to the Treaty throughout New Zealand.

There is no question that huge progress was made by iwi over the past three years towards their goal of tribal rule and they will fight hard to keep those gains. Rallying “their people” to the  Kingitanga hui at Ngāruawāhia has no doubt laid the groundwork for what is to follow. 

But the rhetoric from iwi leaders is dishonest. They claim the Government wants to change the Treaty when it is the recently invented Treaty principles that are up for debate – namely should they continue to be defined in such a way as to divide New Zealand along racial lines or, like the Treaty itself, should they be redefined to promote unity. 

Last year’s election gave the new government the mandate to deliver a reset. Voters resoundingly rejected racial privilege; elevating one person over another, purely on the basis of ancestry, is a notion that should be abhorrent in any civilised society.

But 2024 is going to be a turbulent year as the varied limbs of radicalism - including in Parliament, the media, the public service, and academia – look to align in an attempt to undermine and destroy the Coalition Government. 

In the face of the vocal and extremist opposition they will face, the coalition needs to remember that it has a strong mandate to reset the country and get us back on track. That means ignoring the pleadings of noisy vested interests and standing firm to deliver on the promises made to the majority of New Zealand voters at the 2023 election.

Dr Muriel Newman, a former Member of Parliament, runs the New Zealand Centre for Political Research public policy think tank at www.nzcpr.com.

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