The Prime Minister failed to unambiguously champion the democratic ideal that all citizens should have equal rights as citizens, when she was questioned on Q + A a few weeks ago.
She flunked the test again in Parliament this week.
Does she stand by Minister Willie Jackson’s statement that “‘one person one vote’ is but one value within … [democracy], not the only value.”, and, if so, what does she say to Victoria University professor of political science Jack Vowles, who wrote in reply to Minister Jackson that “everyone having a vote or votes of equal weight to elect those who represent them is not just one value [of democracy], it is a foundational principle. As such, it is recognised in the Bill of Rights”?
Here was an opportunity to assure the public she believes in a liberal democracy of the sort with which Kiwis are familiar. One person, one vote – that sort of thing.
Jacinda Ardern simply had to acknowledge she agreed with Jack Vowles.
But that would be to disagree with influential members of Labour’s Māori caucus who advocate the “tweaking” of democracy and/or other forms of distorting it.
More critically, it would be to disagree that democracy must be subservient to the Treaty of Waitangi and to highly contentious ideas such as Treaty partnership and 50:50 co-governance.
On the other hand, the PM may be keen to continue to camouflage her belief that the Treaty indeed should over-ride the democratic principle that all citizens should have a vote or votes of equal value.
Whatever the reason, she ducked the critical question Seymour had put to her:
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I would say that I would support the regional representative bodies that are being proposed as part of the three waters and as have been supported by the local government representatives who themselves suggested that this is the right way to move forward for the entities. I would back that over the member’s own proposition, which is essentially the ability for foreign-owned corporate boards.
We did not receive a press statement from ACT in reaction to what the PM said in Parliament, but in the aftermath of the Jack Tame interview late in July Seymour did issue a statement to observe:
“Speaking to Jack Tame this morning on Q+A, Jacinda Ardern couldn’t even answer whether her co-governance regime was undermining the fundamental right of one-person one-vote,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.
“It is chilling to hear Jacinda Ardern describe such an important question as ‘overly simplistic’. The idea that one person should have one vote, and every human being is born alike in dignity isn’t one that should be so difficult to answer for anyone who believes in a functioning liberal democracy.
“This is why ACT has called for a referendum, so we can have meaningful debate and all New Zealanders can have their say. We’re the only political party not afraid of having an honest conversation on issues like this.”
At the time the press statement was released, ACT’s petition for a referendum on co-governance had been signed over 25,000 times since it was launched in March this year.
“It is clear that Kiwis want to have this conversation. Co-governance is now everywhere but it has never been openly discussed or debated.”
Nobody in Government had ever asked whether the public wanted co-governance, Seymour said. There was just an assumption that there should be two sets of political rights – but:
“No society in history has succeeded by having different political rights based on birth. Many New Zealanders came here to escape class and caste and apartheid.
“All of the good political movements of the past four hundred years have been about ending discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex and sexuality to treat each person with the same dignity. We are the first country in history that’s achieved equal rights and has division as its official policy. It’s nuts.”
Seymour said it was time for honest and bold conversations.
“New Zealanders are up for it and ACT will keep leading the debate.”
Alas, ACT does not seem to have followed up this week when the PM again failed to uphold the principle of equal rights for all citizens.
Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton