Maori and Pakeha views of what the Treaty means and what that means for Parliament and Government are now beginning to openly conflict.
The division exploded in Parliament yesterday when Maori Pati MP, Rawiri Waititi, was thrown out of the Chamber after performing a haka after the Speaker refused to accept his claim that National Leader Judith Collins was racist.
That prompted a lengthy debate over Parliament’s procedures; about when and where it is appropriate to describe another member as racist.
In the process Te Tai Tokerau MP and Crown Maori Relations Minister, Kelvin Davis, delivered a sharp barb to the Maori Pati, saying, “don’t ever think that a party that gets 1.2 per cent of the vote actually represent the views of Māoridom.”
What is driving all this is Collin’s continued questioning of the Prime Minister about the He Puapua document, which, amidst several different governance proposals, suggests a tricameral Parliament with a separate Tino rangatiratanga Chamber, a kawanatanga chamber and another plenary chamber.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has not helped subdue this debate by so far not giving any specific commitment on what the status of He Puapua is nor how the Government proposes to undertake the debate it calls for.
And she has failed to acknowledge in Parliament that He Puapua is simply another chapter in the long-running development of a response to that part of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which deals with indigenous self-determination.
It draws heavily on a document prepared for the Iwi Leaders Forum, Te Matike Mai, which proposed a tricameral legislature; with a tino rangatiratanga “sphere”; a Kawanatanga (or crown) sphere and a “relationship sphere” to reconcile the two.
Both Te Matike Mai and He Puapua set out timetables for their implementation, and a nationwide debate was supposed to be well underway by now.
But Ardern continues to downplay the significance of He Puapua despite it being a formal response as part of the National implementation plan for New Zealand’s adherence to the UN Declaration.
“This was a report—a group that we brought together to provide us with ideas, advice, and their views. It was not a Government report,” she said yesterday.
But two Cabinet papers from early 2019 show quite clearly that her Cabinet appointed a committee of technical experts to look at the implementation of the Declaration.
In her submission to Cabinet, Maori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta said: “I propose to establish a working group of technical experts from Government and Māoridom in April 2019 to help develop proposals for the plan and an engagement process with iwi, hapū, whānau and civil society.
She said she intended to report back to Cabinet in August 2019 to seek initial decisions on the Declaration plan and the approach to discussing it further with Māori.
That report is what Ardern claims is not a Government report.
Ironically this whole process was kicked off by the Key National Government in 2010 endorsing the Declaration,
That endorsement required that eventually, New Zealand would have to produce a National Action Plan on how it was proposing to implement it, which is what He Puapua is.
However, Collins’ questions yesterday started out prosaically enough focusing on process rather than content.
When would public engagement on He Puapua take place; what form would it take?
Then she got more specific: “Does she endorse her Minister for Māori Development’s statement last night that he would first talk to Māori to, “see where they see things are going, particularly in terms of the constitution… We want to get their view, and then we want the public’s on where we go in terms of the partnership.”?
And then: “Does she in any way accept the view in He Puapua that New Zealand has two spheres of governance, the Kāwanatanga sphere that represents the Crown and the rangatiratanga sphere that reflects Māori?”
And there was more: “Is this dual Government model what her Minister for Māori Crown Relations was referring to yesterday when he asked her if she agreed with the “comments made at the Iwi Chairs Forum in Porirua on Friday that when kāwanatanga and rangatiratanga work together in partnership, we’ll see great things happening.”?
That was when the Maori Pati protested.
First, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer asked Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern whether these questions were racist.
Speaker Trevor Mallard ruled that out of order.
Collins again: “ Does she agree with former Prime Minister David Lange, who stated that “Democratic Government can accommodate Māori political aspiration in many ways. What it cannot do is acknowledge the existence of a separate sovereignty. As soon as it does, it isn’t a democracy.”?
That was when Waititi exploded.
He asked Mallard for his guidance and advice.
“Over the past two weeks, there has been racist propaganda and rhetoric towards tangata whenua,” he said.
“That not only is insulting to tangata whenua but diminishes the mana of this House.”
Mallard essentially ducked an answer.
“We are a House of Representatives,” he said.
“There is a broad range of views within the House, and part of my responsibility is to allow those views to be aired.”
After a brief clash over whether he could raise a point of order, Waititi said: “When it comes to views of indigenous rights and indigenous peoples, those views must be from those indigenous peoples for the indigenous rights of our people. They can’t be determined by people who are not indigenous. So what I am asking, e hika mā, (for goodness sake) to this House—tēnā Koe e te Pirīmia (Greetings to you Prime Minister)—is that if we find this attitude acceptable in this House, the constant barrage of insults to tangata whenua, then I find this House in disrepute and— “
Mallard then told Waititi his mike was off at which point Waititi moved from his seat to the body of the Chamber and performed a haka. Mallard then ordered him out. He was followed by Packer and Green MP Teanau Tuiono.
But the whole affair provoked a lengthy debate when Green co-leader Marama Davidson questioned a 1998 ruling which, she said, “rules that no member in this House can ever be racist.”
That ruling was the basis for ruling Waititi out of order.
National’s Shadow Leader of the House Michael Woodhouse argued against any relaxation of the wording in the ruling.
“To automatically presume that because a certain line of questioning, which you’ve ruled is in the Standing Orders, should be ruled out because somebody has a perception that it carries with it an inference I think would demean the quality of the debate and the freedom that we have, the privileges that we have, in this House to engage in robust but reasonable debate in accordance with the Standing Orders,” he said.
The Leader of the House, Chris Hipkins, more or less agreed.
“If you have an objection with what someone is saying, elaborate on that, debate it, rather than simply throw labels at each other,” he said.
Davidson responded: “I am also looking for your guidance on how we can have a genuine debate without marginalising entire groups of communities, including tangata whenua, who feel that the standard of debate in this House is not at all welcoming or inviting to actual democratic debate on the important issues of how our country comes together in the future.”
But it was left to Labour MP and Minister, Aupito William Sio to define the issues the House was having to deal with.
“There are various worlds here, and they’re colliding because the system here is not an indigenous system,” he said.
“I’m not trying to defend what’s occurred; what I’m saying, which I think has been demonstrated here, is that there are certain issues of debate within this House where there’s a duty of care in how we approach it.
“How it’s handled in this House also has rippling effects on the wider community. And for minority groups, including myself, it is quite painful to sit in here knowing that whilst it is a robust House here, where all things are open for debate, there’s a line that often crosses here.
“And I think it’s no different from us also being careful about sexual harassment and abuse that we’ve often talked about.”
Mallard ruled that it was out of order to call another a member a racist, but it was within order to define another party’s statements — or line of questioning – as racist.
The problem is that everyone knows that though Collins is asking reasonable questions within Parliament, every weekend, addressing her party’s base at their regional conferences, her comments on He Puapua take on a much more political slant clearly designed to appeal to Pakeha.
And the problem remains that New Zealand is required to produce a National Action Plan on the Declaration. Backing that plan up will be a 2014 judgement from the Waitangi Tribunal that Maori did not cede their sovereignty in February 1840.
“Rather, they agreed to share power and authority with the Governor,” the Tribunal said.
“They and Hobson were to be equal, although of course they had different roles and different spheres of influence.
“The detail of how this relationship would work in practice, especially where the Maori and European populations intermingled, remained to be negotiated over time on a case-by-case basis.”
That is what Parliament should be discussing.