Saturday, November 30, 2019

Mike Hosking: Why are we messing with democracy?

It was with dismay I watched last Sunday night not just a bunch of crooks getting given their vote back, but almost a follow-up story on a whinge fest around democracy and why Māori aren't better represented, and how as a result of that, we should have local council seats dedicated to Māori.

The plea starred Dover Samuels and another former Labour Party operator, John Tamihere fresh from his Auckland mayoral bid thrashing.

It also starred a lawyer who's drawing up a case and is off to the Waitangi Tribunal. This proves the gravy train - started all those decades ago by, ironically, the Labour Party - is not only having to deal with the vast majority of land claims but is still open to all sorts of activism.

Samuels claims having Māori seats in Parliament means we should have them locally. The Bay of Plenty Regional Council gave it a crack, Taranaki had a mayor for a while who was fascinated by the concept, but the locals had a vote and soundly rejected the idea.

And why would you reject the idea? Because Samuel's argument over Parliamentary seats, although technically correct, nevertheless operates in an environment of the most lavish representation these days, thus making race-based seats obsolete.

MMP has been good for the broadest of representation. Lists provide parties the chance to select from far and wide.

Tamihere's argument, and he's not alone, is based on three things. One, not a lot of Māori stand. Two, not a lot of Māori succeed if they do stand. And three, he claims most voters are 50 plus and white.

I have no idea whether that's true. But what is true, and why their arguments fall over at step one, is that democracy is a free-for-all. Anyone can stand, anyone can win if they get the votes, and anyone can vote. If people aren't voting that would come under the broad headline of freedom of choice. The same freedom that allows you to participate either by standing or voting, is the same freedom that allows you to not stand or not participate.

As a result of that freedom, if your personal view of the world doesn't end up on a council or Parliament, that doesn't mean the system isn't working, it means you haven't argued your case well enough.

It is the same for all those bogged down in things such as females on boards. Women are free to stand, and free to succeed. The joy and the celebration is in that freedom. Sometimes it goes well, works well, turns out well, and sometimes it doesn't.

And no, democracy is not perfect. But it beats no democracy and it certainly beats trying to gerrymander it to suit your political purposes.

Democracy is not about race, as long as all races can access the system, anymore than it is about gender as long as all genders can do the same.

For those who want compulsory anything, whether it's seats or voting, recognise you're losing the argument, and argue better, and argue harder. Democracy is also about the freedom of ideas. If the idea isn't gelling, maybe the idea isn't all that good to start with.

Mike Hosking is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB, who has hosted his number one breakfast show since 2008 - see HERE.

1 comment:

Ray S said...

A good commons sense article. The erosion of democracy and fr4ee speech is rapidly gaining pace across all sectors of society. I copied the following text from STUFF which ads weight to the free speech argument.
"Stuff accepts the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by human activity. We welcome robust debate about the appropriate response to climate change, but do not intend to provide a venue for denialism or hoax advocacy. That applies equally to the stories we will publish in Quick! Save the Planet and to our moderation standards for reader comments".
Sure they have control of what is printed, but only if suits them it seems.