Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Devon Mace: Gareth Morgan’s ‘Upper House’ betrays all notions of democracy


Sir John A. McDonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, has been oft-quoted for suggesting that the Canadian Senate was a place for a “sober second thought”.

It was, and is, an upper house modelled on the English House of Lords – the members are not elected, but are instead appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Prime Minster. In that regard, it follows the original idea of a senate – ‘the assembly of elders’. And in such a case, a senate works. The Government has the right to appoint whoever they want to the upper house, meaning it’s not a site for politicking and policy-blocking, and instead provides McDonald’s quote with weight. It does, however, bypass the notion of true democracy, and Stephen Harper has long suggested an overhaul of the Canadian senate.

In Australia and the United States, they have a very different senate. In those cases, with the members elected by the electorate and still holding the same rights with regard to passing legislation, it certainly leads to issues within the political structure of the nations. The deadlock in the USA of late, and John Kerr’s dismissal of Gough Whitlam in 1975 are examples of the political instability that can result.

Those ‘senates’ (the word senate is misused in such cases, but is called such in both countries anyway) have valuable democratic ideals – and provide an intriguing gauge of public opinion. It allows a nation to suggest displeasure with their government; but does encourage policy blocking for political gain, and can bring economies to their knees through a government’s inability to act.

Both upper houses have strong positives, and large drawbacks. What everyone accepts, however, is that it needs to clearly reflect an elected representation. The Canadians and British appoint their members of the upper house, while the Americans and Australians elect theirs. The British have realised that hereditary peers bypass any democratic system, and the numbers of those left in the House of Lords are so small as to be in effect a nonentity.

In other words, every Western nation with an upper house has been progressing towards a democratic representation in one way or the other – irrespective of which system is best, reform towards the exemplification of people’s wishes has been the unanimous trend over the last 100-odd years.

But now Gareth Morgan wants to prove New Zealand as an exception, and wishes to move the nation in the opposite direction.

We abolished our upper house in 1950, in what Geoffrey Palmer has termed “the boldest constitutional change ever made by a conservative government.” The upper house we had, called the Legislative Council, was founded in 1840 as part of making New Zealand its own Crown Colony. When the New Zealand Constitution Act was passed in 1852, it became the upper house of a General Assembly.

From 1852 to 1891, the members of the upper house were appointed to life terms, meaning governments were often stymied by sometimes hostile members of the Council. Seven year terms brought in by John Ballance allowed the Council and House of Representatives to have caught up with one another (to a certain extent).

But it was still inefficient, and it wasn’t until the abolition of the Council in 1950 that governments in New Zealand finally had the opportunity to make necessary reform within their first term, without having to appease a Council potentially still reflecting a previous government’s seven year appointments.

It was a progressive move, which has since enabled the governments of New Zealand to make the required decisions at the required time. It was the abolition of this Council that his since allowed governments to progress. Can you imagine Roger Douglas passing his reforms of the mid-1980s with a Muldoon appointed Legislative Council, or Ruth Richardson being able to bring in the ‘Mother of all Budgets’ with a Council appointed by Michael Moore?

To reinstate an upper house in New Zealand would be an entirely backward move, regressing the entire political system the nation has developed. But to employ an upper house with 50% Maori representation not only defeats the purpose of a democracy, but also goes against the idea of the Treaty of Waitangi, which was intended to express the equality of every New Zealand citizen.

If New Zealand is to have an upper house, it must follow the path shown by the Australians, Canadians, Brits or Americans. Although none of those is perfect, they are all representative of the electorate.

Gareth Morgan’s proposal defeats democracy at its heart. He suggests that “Maoridom” should appoint the Maori members, and Parliament the others. That would mean that the citizens of New Zealand no longer have democratic control of their nation. One half of the upper house of New Zealand would be undemocratically appointed by a non-elected panel. Those appointed by Parliament, as in Canada, are at least being appointed by an elected government. If each house has equal legislative powers, as is the theory of such matters, then a full 25% of the New Zealand Parliament will be there undemocratically.

He also suggests that the upper house would require a 60% vote in order to pass legislation back to the lower house. Again, this contravenes our democracy, where majority rules. 60% means that majority rule is no longer sufficient, but instead three fifths support is required.
Gareth Morgan has suggested many things: a number of them insane, a few of them sensible. Most of them have come down to interpretation and personal belief. In the case of an upper house where 15.4% of the population has a 50% representation, however, he’s made a suggestion that contravenes the Commonwealth charter, goes against the Treaty of Waitangi, and fragrantly breaches the nature of democracy in this country.

So long as New Zealand remains a democracy, Morgan’s suggestion remains un-implementable. To suggest an undemocratic and racially-based subversion of the very pillars our nation and society rest upon is both ridiculous and contravenes the Treaty he is supposedly standing up for.

Sir Apirana Ngata was an outstanding politician, and a man who worked tirelessly for all New Zealanders. He was (and remains after death) followed, respected and adulated by people of all beliefs, ethnicities and values.

Similarly, the Maori Party have been often positive about the work those within this National government have done.

In both cases, the thread is the same – you shouldn’t be elected, appointed or judged on racial bias, but on the quality of work you do for all New Zealanders. Gareth Morgan’s blatantly racist and undemocratic views of our Parliament are not the way forward for New Zealand. The reinstatement of an upper house would be a backwards step for starters; to reinstate it in the way Morgan suggests would be to move New Zealand in the opposite direction to all other Western nations.

Devon Mace is a 17 year old journalism student, with a passion for cricket and politics.

17 comments:

Allen said...

To see such sense and even wisdom from someone only 17 gives one faith in the future of our great little country. The sooner the media banish Gareth Morgan to the media wasteland he deserves the better. The man is loopy. How achieving wealth by association as in his case, qualifies one to have credibility as a spokesman I am at a loss to understand.

paul scott said...

Gareth Morgan is insane. It must have come from that sudden influx of real money.

Anonymous said...

Excellent, well written and researched article by Devon Mace. Gareth Morgan seems to want to be in the headline news constantly and his offerings are becoming more and more bizarre.His credibility if he ever had any, is long one and time for the media to move on. It is clear there are others, like Devon who have something worthwhile to contribute. THe media do not need to bombard us with Morgans rascist, insulting ideas.

Dick Ryan said...

While unable to accept the idea of unequal representation for the dubious claim of 'first tribes' I must point out that our Upper House disbanding themselves left us in a very undemocratic State. With a caucus style House with just two (in Muldoon's case one) people able to bully their Cabinet, to bully their Caucus to bully Parliament, no wonder Roger Douglas was able to ride roughshod over us. It is said that Magee Thatcher was quoted 'Roger did to the hapless kiwi what I could only dream of doing to the Brits'. Many of us are not at all happy with the results.

Marjorie Davies said...

Why does anyone listen to Gareth Morgan? It makes as much sense as listening to Dotcom.

Dan M said...

I think you've oversimplified the idea of Maori representation in NZ politics somewhat. While by the letter of the law you are wholly correct in suggesting that a 50% Maori senate is anti-democratic, arguably racist, and altogether an insane idea, it completely shears away the context of the situation.

Politics isn't ahistorical, it doesn't occur in a vacuum where the social justice concerns stemming from years of racist oppression (yeah, I know, "boo white people" identity politics from the extreme left). Maori politicians aren't on a level playing field to become elected considering the myriad issues resulting from their historical treatment.

Is the solution a 50% Maori senate? I don't believe so. But there's definitely room for a debate on how best to integrate Maori views into politics, when those voices have for so long been ignored, and they aren't on a level playing field to be heard.

Blair said...

Gareth Morgan has done the research and what he has found is true...The trouble he is running into is when he presents his ideas. "NZ should change its name to Aotearoa" or "lets create an upper house".... Those are fairly pointless moves.

The primary concern of Maori was and always has been the LAND and resources. All the other points of governance they are quite happy to accept leadership from the govt.


So while an upper council definately takes a backward step...Governance of that which was promised in the treaty is Maori's right and they have never actually had an opportunity to even give it a shot...despite it being in law for the past 180 years.

Personally.. I would like to see sovereignty of the Hapu recognised. Its not about ownership. We have two democratic governing bodies working in parellel. The Maori seats are used to appoint representatives of the Hapu to Parliament to represent Hapu in Government and to represent the government within Iwi.
This system would allow Maori the freedom to govern in the style they want to that best fits with their social system. It would allow the NZ govt to get on with running the country and the entire concept of settlement would just dissppear. If Maori govern the land then there is nothing to settle.
The key to the whole thing working would be the Maori Ward MP's ability to work within the 2 separate systems and promote cooperation when its needed.
Guardians of the environment and the lands is all they ever wanted.
On a day to day basis government would basically operate in the same way...laws would get passed normally...BUT any law that crosses over to Hapu governance can be veto'd within 6 months of the bill passing.
it wouldnt be a full time job or anything for Hapu but each Hapu would be remunerated by Hapu rather by an individual. Their only real role would be to ensure that they keep themselves up to date, that their Whakapapa is mapped out and that decisions to veto are only made in light of their role as 'guardian'. They are also responsible for making sure that voters on the Maori Wards are registered.
I reckon it would be great!!!! none of this us and them shit.

The Government can make the ENTIRE treaty issue go away without spending ANYTHING on settlement if they formally recognise Hapu as a government entity. They are given all the resources they need to setup an effective and agreeable system of governance which allows their voices to be heard and required when needed.
Trial it with Nga Puhi - They are going to have to face the music re: sovereignty anyway. Nga Puhi can be the test case (since they are the only ones that havnt settled).
Empower the Maori ward MPs and give them all the resources they require to effectively manage the relationships.

Half the issue is that the whole debate has a Pakeha contextual view....And this is reflected in Gareth Morgans ideas....

I like the idea of Maori keeping the govt in check.

The Maori Ward MPs would NOT have to be Maori or have any affiliation BUT An NZ citizen who wants to stand in a Maori electorate Must approach the Hapu in that electorate and formally request Whangai (adoption) into that Hapu. In doing this they would be legally recognised as Tangata Whenua which is the requirement to stand and/or vote on the Maori roll.
There would be no law around Whangai...it would totally be the decision of the Hapu weather they are willing to accept you into the Whanau or not.
Maori Ward MPs would be expected to become advocates of the treaty and it would be their role to make that relationship work by operating within the Hapu governance and within the Westminster System.

Anonymous said...

Devon Mace should go far in journalism if he writes like that at 17. I have to say the typo 'fragrantly' doesn't properly describe Gareth Morgan's ideas, because they stink!

Roy G. said...

What country has Dan M. been living in for the last 20 years? Since the 'Maori Renaissance" that emerged in 1990 a tidal wave of Maori cultural and political influence and parliamentary change has swept the country, culminating in the example of unelected Maori members on city councils among many other civil and social agency reforms and policies that positively discriminate in favour of Maori. Treaty reimbursement producing extremely wealthy Maori corporates paying no tax is yet another example that reflects Maori influence.

paul scott said...

Dan above 7.18pm. Maori views are integrated into society at a preferential and racist level. How much more would you like. You do know the Asian population outnumbers Maori, don't you. Proportional votes anyone?
Part of the reason, NZ Nat party panders to racist idealogues is because he knows we vote against racist privilege. Goodbye Green. Good bye Labopur Hello China and Asia.

mitch morgan said...

Any move to require a legislative body to consist of an appointed 50% 'Maori' would create a situation wherein an additional part-Maori would be barred from applying for a position on the non-Maori side as it would create an imbalance. For example, a Council with half appointed by the 'Maori race" would debar another part-Maori from qualifying for the democratically elected half - and everyone knows that it is racism in NZ to disqualify an individual because of their race. Well, isn't it?

Chris K said...

Excellent article thank you Devon.
Dan M - I am interested to know why you think Maori don't have a level playing field to be heard.

Jim Rose said...

I know of no credible steps to either reform the Australian Senate or the U.S. Senate to make them more democratic

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

One little detail that needs highlighting when comparing systems is that the House of Lords lost their veto power over the Commons in 1911 and since then the Commons have unilaterally presented Bills for the Royal Assent on a number of occasions. Hence the British law-making system is effectively unicameral and not bicameral. So it doesn't matter whether the HoL is truly 'democratic' or not. (BTW there's 92 hereditary peers and let's not forget the 26 seats reserved for senior CoE clergy.)
Barend Vlaardingerbroek

paul scott said...

So Barend at 8.52. As usual a mine of information
What the hell does the house of British Lords do if it can not alter legislation. Is this why Lords Monkton and Ridley have so much time on their hands?

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

Paul - the Lords certainly do 'alter legislation' - they have a big input into many bills. However if they simply won't wear a bill at all, they do not have the power of veto as they had before the 1911 Act. But they can delay the passage of that bill into law. Thus had they gone against the 3-parent bill that has just gone through, the Commons would have had to wait until the next session before presenting it for the Royal Assent.
Barend Vlaardingerbroek

Anonymous said...

When I was at university, we called those who think [sic] like Gareth “WIggers.” A Wigger is someone who reflexively rats out their own race and culture for the warm glow that comes from lining up with supposedly “oppressed” peoples.

Like all Western countries, New Zealand has a raft of these self-despising, West-hating socialist traitors-- both in our universities and amongst the tertiary-educated -- who have been helped by their Communist lecturers to see that whites are to blame for all the evils of the world.

These are people who told us three decades ago that apartheid was a social and moral evil in South Africa. Now, they’re telling us that it’s a social and moral good in New Zealand. Whether apartheid is to be decried or endorsed is based entirely on the skin colour of its beneficiaries. Whites always deserve a good kicking.

Leftists despise their own culture. They’ve been schooled to hate Western civilisation and regard Western countries as racist, sexist, colonialist oppressors. They desperately want to see other cultures as somehow morally superior to our own.

They’re not. The Judeo-Christian culture that originated in Athens, Rome and Jerusalem, then took root in Europe before being exported worldwide, is vastly superior to other cultures. Many non-whites have also benefited massively in adopting Western cultural norms and values. This fact is undeniable to anyone except a moron.

Wiggers are people who have learned that the highest status in our society goes to anyone who can claim to be a member of a Marxist-designated race, gender, class, or sexual preference-based "victim "group.

For those who can't claim such membership, the next best thing is to be a totally supine, groveling and penitent member of a "victimiser" group -- a rescuer. That's why liberal Wiggers like Gareth seek moral preening opportunities for "saving" the [part-] Maori, or “saving” the Muslims, thus facilitating and enabling the Western culture-trashing depredations of both groups.

Marxists use these useful idiots (as Lenin called them) to create dialectical conflict between the status quo and groups they have told us are "oppressed" in order to subvert and undermine our existing society.