Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Point of Order: Don’t accept Human Rights Commission reading of data on Treaty partnership

Wellington is braced for a “massive impact’ from the new government’s cutting public service jobs, The Post somewhat grimly reported today.

Expectations of an economic and social jolt are based on the National-Act coalition agreement to cut public service numbers in each government agency in a cost-trimming exercise “informed by” head counts in 2017.

National campaigned on a 6.5% reduction in spending across the public service.

Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission figures show New Zealand has 63,000 core public servants, of which 28,000 live in the Wellington region.

A drop to 2017 levels would reduce the national count to about 48,000. A back-of- the-envelope estimate would see around 6000 fewer jobs in the capital.

Whether incoming ministers have a little list to guide them – like the little list accumulated by Koko the Executioner in The Mikado – is unclear.

But the Human Rights Commission invited the attention of the axe-wielders when it issued a press statement to report the findings of a survey it had commissioned to gauge public views on Treaty issue.

The headline brayed:

Revealing Poll Shows People See Te Tiriti O Waitangi As Partnership

That doesn’t gel with the way votes were cast in the general election last month.

Most votes were won by parties which reject the “partnership” ideology.

As RNZ reports, the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi will come under review by the new government.

The coalition agreement between the National Party, ACT and New Zealand First includes a pledge to introduce a Treaty Principles Bill.

During the election campaign, ACT leader David Seymour vowed his party would end co-governance and ‘division by race’.

He proposed holding a referendum on the Treaty of Waitangi’s principles.

“This country deserves a say on what the Treaty means. It’s everybody’s country and everybody should have a say in how its constitutional arrangements evolve and develop,” Seymour said.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has also promised to end policies based on race.

During the election campaign, New Zealand First outlined plans to remove Māori names of government departments, for New Zealand to withdraw from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and to introduce a bill making English an “official” language of New Zealand.

“Our very democracy is at risk from a rising tide of racism and separatism that has given birth to secret social engineering that you were never warned about and most certainly never agreed to,” Peters said before the election.

The new government coalition has agreed to introduce a Treaty Principles Bill.

The details have not been spelled out, but as RNZ reminded us:

ACT would define the principles of the Treaty as:
  1. All citizens of New Zealand have the same political rights and duties
  2. All political authority comes from the people by democratic means
  3. New Zealand is a multi-ethnic liberal democracy where discrimination based on ethnicity is illegal
The public would vote for or against the new Treaty principles becoming law.

Can the Human Rights Commission show the government it is out of step with public sentiment?

The commission can’t, because its press statement misrepresents the results of the survey it has commissioned – but the survey data might be helpful.

The opening sentences of the commission’s press statement says:

Seventy per cent of New Zealanders believe it is important for Māori and non-Māori to decide together on an equal footing how te Tiriti o Waitangi is honoured.

This is one of the crucial findings for Aotearoa of a Horizon Research survey conducted for Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission earlier this month. It also found 80% of New Zealanders think respectful discussion of racial issues is important.

A few paragraphs further on, a caution from Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt is sounded:

“While the government of the day could propose something like a referendum on how te Tiriti is applied, such a move needs to be with the agreement of its treaty partner, Māori.”

He is telling us – by the looks of it – that our Parliament is not the supreme governmental institution you might think (or hope) it is.

“People generally want decisions around te Tiriti to proceed with care, and that can happen when government treats its treaty partner as an equal,” says Hunt “and people need to understand that te Tiriti benefits everyone in Aotearoa.”

But the survey results on which Hunt presumably has based his advice did not find a significant majority of New Zealanders supporting a Treaty “partnership”.

Rather, according to a summary of the findings:

70% (2,817,000 adults) believe it is important for Māori and non-Māori to decide together on an equal footing how The Treaty/ Te Tiriti is honoured.

This does not tell us much about public views on “partnership” and how it should be translated into governance arrangements.

There’s a significant difference between these propositions:
  • All individuals, Maori and non-Maori, should all be on an equal footing regarding treaty issues; or
  • Maori collectively should be on an equal footing with non-Maori collectively regarding treaty issues.
Drilling further into the survey findings, you will find a question on governance which does include the word “partnership”.

When asked their opinion on how Māori and non- Māori should govern together:

46% (1,849,000 adults) agreed[1] that the country should move more toward a partnership approach of governing that is equally shared between Māori and non-Māori.

At 64% (2,590,000 adults), the majority agreed that working together requires more careful listening and understanding and less political rhetoric.

And 51% (2,055,000 adults) did not want to see politicians or advocates inflaming race relations when debating how Māori and non-Māori govern together.

Before indicating their views on whether Māori should manage issues and be involved in making decisions that affect Māori, respondents were told:

Some argue local Māori should be at the decision-making table because they understand their community context and needs and are best placed to develop appropriate solutions.

They argue some health, housing, land, environmental and other programmes when managed by, or in partnership with Māori have produced better results than if managed by central government only.

They argue for specific policy agencies to ensure Māori needs are understood when policy decisions are made, without removing policies providing for everyone else.

Others argue that the central government should decide what services are made available for all, and manage them, regardless of ethnicity, to ensure the same solutions are available to everyone.

Respondents were then asked to what extent they agreed with the statement Overall, Māori should manage issues and be involved in making decisions that affect Māori.

Around half (49%) of adults agree that Māori should manage issues and be involved in making decisions that affect Māori. 25% (1,013,000 adults) strongly agree.

26% (1,030,000 adults) disagree that Māori should manage issues that affect them.

The methodology information says 1,076 members from Horizon Research’s online panels and a third-party research panel, representing the New Zealand population 18+, responded to the survey between 2nd and 7th November 2023.

The total sample is weighted on age, education, gender, Party Vote 2023, region and ethnicity to match the New Zealand adult population.

The survey has a maximum margin of error, at a 95% confidence level of ±3% overall.

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


Anonymous said...

I completed that poll. It was shocking and I complained to horizon at the time. It was worded to make you feel guilty of your opinion if it you didn't answer how they clearly wanted you to.

HRC needs to go or be re-staffed at least.

Dr Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

If the figures don't support your case, fudge new figures and present them as gospel truth. Simple - ask any member of the HRC.

Don said...

Who are the Human Rights Commission? How were they appointed?
More light shed on the membership and how they came to be members would be very revealing. Are they another silent cabal biassed in favour of one aspect of our society like the Waitangi Tribunal who can be counted to support any topic proposed by one section of the community.