Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Entrenching the Maori seats

Every five years, Maori can choose whether to go on the Maori or the general roll via the Maori electoral option. If the Maori seats were entrenched, 75% of Parliament would be needed to remove them. But if the Maori electoral option was entrenched it would the the only entrenched provision that could effectively be removed without a vote - purely by getting rid of the Maori Seats through a simple majority in the House. I'll explain.

Entrenchment of the Maori seats is a bottom line for Maori Party post-election negotiations - to the extent of supporting a bill to amend electoral law through all stages. The PM doesn't like that as she is maintaining that she has no difficulty with entrenching the Maori Electoral Option even though she has great difficulty with it. The entrenchment clause [clause 268 of the Electoral Act] can only be affected by a simple majority as it can't itself be entrenched. But touching entrenchment provisions to suspend or reduce the 75% majority would be a most unlikely thing for a Parliament to do.

Yesterday Helen Clark said this about the Maori seats.
There's obviously no need to entrench them with a Labour government
Today she said this:
I don't have any particular difficulty with entrenching those.
On radio today she said she was open to entrenchment.That pleased Tariana Turia.But she said she meant entrenching the seats through the Maori electoral option. Turia was still pleased.
Labour is very committed to the Maori electoral option. Can't see any problem with entrenching that. In fact you wonder why it isn't entrenched now.
Because this has no practical effect as the seats aren't entrenched, that's why. Clark's reason was that it pointless entrenching the option as clause 268 of the Electoral Act can't itself be entrenched and can be voted out by a simple majority - although hell will freeze over first. It's is a silly argument, as any entrenchment - like the voting age or term of parliament - can thus technically be overturned also.

But lets pretend the Maori electoral option is entrenched (and the seats aren't). What happens, then, if Maori think the seats should go, and Parliament gets a simple majority to remove them. In reality the option disappears with the seats so its effectively not entrenched - it goes with the seats and without a vote in the House. So entrenching the Maori electoral option is effectively retaining the status quo as a simple majority can get rid of the seats and effectively the entrenched option in one fell swoop.
Update see comments.




Blogger Idiot/Savant said...

I think you should read the Act. Both the Maori seats and the Maori electoral option are covered by the same clause (s45), and the proposal is to entrench the entire section (just as the section covering the calculation of the electoral population and setting of the quota for general seats are entrenched).

October 29, 2008 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger Swimming said...

I would have thought the option couldbe entrenched without entrenching seats, and vice versa, but it would require parts of s45 of the Electoral Act to be entrenched. I`ve just found out that the Maori Party bill is to entrench s45 -which includes the option and the seats. So Helen Clark is playing semantics as I`ve been told she's seen the Maori Party bill.Have you seen it? I've got a copy.

October 29, 2008 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger Swimming said...

I've checked the the Electoral Act as you`ve suggested and Option is under s76-78 - so the Maori Party bill does not intend to entrench the option, just the seats. Helen Clark is not just playing semantics, shes treating us as fools.

October 29, 2008 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger Idiot/Savant said...

Dave: yes, I was wrong about the location of the option, and I apologise. I think the intertwinded nature of the law (and in particular the already entrenched ddefiition of general election population) means entrenchingthe maori option would have a more significant effect than you suggest (in that it would then be impossible to remove the seats without stripping everyone on the Maori roll of all electoral representation). But I'd much rather see both protected.

More thoughts (and draft legislation) here.

October 29, 2008 at 2:03 PM  

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