Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Point of Order: Our politicians have swarmed to Ratana...

......where Hipkins may cause some buzz when he explains his co-governance thinking

Yet another day has passed without Ministers of the Crown posting something to show they are still working for us on the Beehive website. Nothing new has been posted since January 17.

Perhaps the ministers are all engaged in the bemusing annual excursion by politicians of many stripes and a pack of political journalists to Rātana, a small pā between Whanganui and Bulls.

As Stuff explains in a report today, the pā is home to the Rātana Church, a movement started by Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana about a century ago.

Followers of Te Haahi Rātana and politicians from across Parliament travel to Rātana, to celebrate the birthday of the prophet, Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana​, who founded the faith. He was born on January 25, 1873​.

Although politicians tend to stay at Rātana for just one day, the celebration lasts an entire week.

This year, politicians are visiting on Tuesday ahead of the major church celebrations on Wednesday.

Politicians seems to have become impelled to pay homage to this Ratana fellow because…

From the 1930s, Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana harnessed the power of his church to influence Parliament, setting out to have Rātana members win the Māori electorates.

When they succeeded, he instructed the Rātana MPs to support Labour and, at the time, leader of the Opposition Michael Joseph Savage.

This was the start of a powerful alliance between Rātana and Labour.


Although the political relationship started with Labour, parties from across Parliament now visit Rātana.

Their speeches tend to be the start of the political year, as politicians return after their summer break.

We can only wonder why the Nats bother to turn up and try to curry favour. They have never won a Maori seat and are never likely to win one.

We do know why the media have turned up in force.

As RNZ reported today, Jacinda Ardern will deliver her final speech as prime minister this afternoon at Rātana Pā .

Incoming Labour leader Chris Hipkins will then follow. National leader Christopher Luxon will also attend the event Tuesday morning for the first time.

The annual political pilgrimage traditionally marks the beginning of the political year, though Ardern’s announcement last week saw that superseded.

The event will serve as a de facto farewell for Ardern and a test of both Hipkins’ and Luxon’s connection with Māoridom.

Ardern’s last speech?

We looked for it on the Beehive website.

It isn’t there yet.

We looked, too, for Hipkins’ speech and for signs of how he will be handling the highly contentious issues of Three Waters and, more fascinating, co-governance (which he says has not been explained properly).

His speech hasn’t been posted on the Beehive website, either.

But on the Homepaddock website, we were reminded of Hipkins’ thinking at the time (not too long ago) when the Government attempted to entrench part of the Five Waters legislation .

Homepaddock huffs that this was an abuse of power and an attempt to pervert democracy.

The post then reminds us of who said what, according to the Hansard record of the debate attempting to undo the mess.

SIMON WATTS (National—North Shore): Thank you very much, Madam Chair. It’s a pleasure to rise to speak on Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) 310. And isn’t it ironic that we’re back here in the House when only a few—or literally last week, or the week before, we were in here under urgency undertaking a debate in the committee of the whole House stage lasting nearly 10 hours and a debate that went well into the night and bright and early in the next morning. But the fact is, we’re here today because of, basically, a significant mistake that was made on that evening. And there should be lessons that are taken from what occurred at that point from the Government, in terms of the decisions that were made and the impact of that decision, in terms of the controversial nature of it—and also, I think, what was a dangerous precedent in terms of our democracy. . .

So I go back to my questions to the Minister: how did we get to where we are today? This is not a new concept. Never in the history of this country have we seen an ability or an action by a Government to try and institute entrenchment around such public policy. This was well understood. So what does that say about this Government and their ability to make decisions and to lead this country into the future? Whether this mistake was deliberate, or simply one where Government of the day here did not care—irrespective; it doesn’t matter. The reality is the decision was made, the vote was taken, and we are now dealing with a colossal mess of having to reverse that change and that is completely inappropriate in a democracy such as ours in this country—one of the earliest and longest-lasting democracies—to have that occur.

NICOLA WILLIS (Deputy Leader—National): Today we have the grovelling back-down, but the stain on our democracy, the damage to our constitution, will remain. And that must sit on the conscience of the members opposite, who sought, under urgency, in the dark of the night, to entrench a policy position against all constitutional norms, against all democratic norms. Not content with confiscating community – owned water assets, not content with introducing a byzantine co-governance structure without the support of the people, not content with riding roughshod over the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who have spoken out against three waters reform, of the councils up and down the country who have begged to maintain ownership and control of their assets, this Government thought it would push its votes even further. And it took the extraordinary, unprecedented, non-constitutional step of entrenching a matter of public policy.

Hon Chris Hipkins: It’s not non-constitutional, otherwise it wouldn’t have passed.

NICOLA WILLIS: And these are not my words, Minister Hipkins. These are the words of the New Zealand Law Society, who said that it was undemocratic, constitutionally objectionable, and inappropriate. And be that on the conscience of the members opposite, that when given the opportunity that is how they sought to abuse their seats in Parliament. . .

Now, I think my colleague Simon Watts has been charitable. He’s accepted that this was a grand and incompetent mistake. I’m inclined to see something a little darker going on here, which is that the members opposite thought they could get away with it—they thought they could get away with it. That is the arrogance that has set in to this Government—that they are prepared to thumb their noses at basic principles of our democracy if they think they can get away with it. Well, they got caught this time. They tried doing it under urgency, they tried doing it at night, and they got caught. And I say thank you to the constitutional experts and lawyers across the country who raised the red flag and said, “No, not in our New Zealand.” Because we can too easily take for granted the principles that have underpinned the continuous democracy that we have in this country, the unwritten constitution which has been respected by blue Governments, red Governments, and all the bits in between, but it took a Labour-led Government with its majority to abuse those principles.

And today in the House, they attempt to turn back the clock. Well, New Zealand will not forget, because those who are prepared to act in an antidemocratic way when they think people aren’t watching, they are people that can’t be trusted. And this is not the first step. First they came for one person, one vote with the Rotorua bill. Then they decided to push on with three waters without public mandate nor council consent. Then they went for entrenchment. New Zealanders will remember. And when you’ve woken up and decided who you’re going to blame, they’ll be listening and they will remember that the only people to blame are the Labour Party, its leadership, and every member opposite. . .

The leader has changed but the rest of the caucus has not, Homepaddock points out.

They’ll be trying to convince us they can be trusted to have another term.

The only way to ensure they can’t abuse voters’ trust is to vote them out.

The Homepaddock post gives us a welcome reminder of Hipkins’ feeble grasp of what is constitutionally acceptable and what is not.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

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