More special treatment – or just a shrewd idea for lifting Maori Party support?

It’s not too often Alf is obliged to say The Boss got it wrong.

But John Key seems to have got it wrong on 20 April, 2010, when he announced the Government had given its support to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“New Zealand has always supported the overall aspirations of the declaration, and we already implement most provisions contained within it,” says Mr Key.

The statement in support of the declaration (Key then said)

…acknowledges that Maori hold a special status as tangata whenua, the indigenous people of New Zealand and have an interest in all policy and legislative matters;

Really?

Then how come Tariana Turia is bothered about their low turnout at elections and their disinclination to enroll?

She wants more special provisions for them in our electoral laws, notwithstanding they already have several electorates reserved only for Maori voters (and the number tends to increase after each census at the expense of general seats).

Do any of Alf’s constituents know which parties benefit most from this cosy arrangement?

Now she wants special electoral enrollment provisions.

Who for?

Have a guess.

She raised her idea under the guise of being concerned about the voter turnout at this year’s general election.

Maori Party co-leader, Tariana Turia, has come out in support of the call for an inquiry into low voter turnout.

But in the second para of her media statement, we get a whiff of what she is really banging on about.

“Turnout is a huge issue in the Maori electorates” said Tariana Turia.

“Over the last three elections the turnout has declined dramatically from 67% (2005) to 62% (2008) and preliminary data is suggesting just 48% of enrolled Maori voters turned out to vote in this year’s election.

” In fact, voting statistics for Māori indicate a consistently lower level of voter participation in general elections since 1935.

“It is of great concern to us that Maori are turning away from active participation in election and in politics, by choosing not to enrol nor to vote.”

But why should we be concerned about anyone’s failure to enroll and/or vote?

It is their right as a citizen – surely – to exercise their democratic right to vote, or to exercise their democratic right to stay at home, or go fishing, and leave it to the rest of us to decide who should govern us.

If non-participation becomes an issue (and Maori leaders inevitably will make it one), then the bloody government probably will arrange for a bunch of Maori to be appointed to a special board , as has happened in the Super City.

But hey.

Dear old Tariana has been thinking about how to get more people on the electoral roll.

Or rather, she has been thinking about how to get more people on the Maori roll.

By implication this should raise the prospects of these people turning out to vote for…

No, it won’t be National.

Let Tariana explain it:

“One idea we have considered is that all Maori should be automatically entered on to the Maori roll at the age of 18, (with the option to transfer to the General Roll if they preferred). At least then, one part of the process – enrolment – would be taken care of, and we could just focus on the significance of turning up to vote on polling day”.

The real point is to try to give more clout to the race-focused Maori Party, as Tariana recognises –

“The two vote system (electorate and party vote) together with the increased competition of the Maori vote, has actually increased the significance of the votes in the Maori electorate as potentially carrying the balance of power” said Mrs Turia.

She finishes on a general note.

“We need to educate our whanau to know that every vote is worthwhile, and that participating in the electoral process is a key marker of participation in our society”.

“Getting out the vote must exercise our most creative minds, to see how we can mobilise and inspire voters to understand their voting power”.

But she is a shrewd old thing and knows full well that people who are automatically signed up to something typically are not bothered enough to exercise the option to bail out.

The same principle underpins Kiwisaver.

Signing people up automatically but giving them the right to opt out is almost as good as compulsory saving.

But with the electoral roll, why not extend the idea and sign up everybody automatically, when they reach the age of 18?

On to which roll?

Hmm. Alf is tempted to say we should all be signed up on the Maori roll.

Yep. Everybody.

The general roll would disappear, under this proposal, and every electorate in the country would be deemed to be a Maori electorate in which all parties would compete for support from all voters.

Wow. How special would that be?

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