Jackson all over the co-governance paddock

Labour MP Willie Jackson is a likeable chap. But his TVNZ interview on co-governance last week was a difficult watch. Jackson was a flailing mass of contradictions, confusion, and ill-defined slogans. Interviewer Jack Tame tried to get some clarity, but was unable to penetrate the murk. Which is a problem, because on a matter of such constitutional significance, we urgently need clarity.

The question which Tame should have asked to crystalize the discussion was simple – did Jackson think changing our governing system so that 15% of the population could exercise 50% of the power was democratic? Because it is becoming increasingly apparent that 50/50 power-sharing is what the advocates of co-governance really mean. No one likes to say it, and Jackson was certainly never going to admit it. But that is clearly the implication of their oft-repeated references to the “equal partnership” between Māori and the Crown. And it is also what is now being pursued in an ever widening range of governance spheres across New Zealand.

50/50 power-sharing also appeared to be what Jackson was advocating when he spoke about the need for “equity” as promised under Article Three of the Treaty. However he also asserted that democracy was always about “one-person, one-vote”. But if the votes of individuals in one group carry significantly more weight than those in other groups, then that foundational principle is negated. It’s simple maths. And ignoring that, or pretending it’s not a problem, does not make it go away.

Jackson blustered that Māori were “invisible” and simply wanted a seat at the table. But a seat at the table is not the same thing as half the table. And the fact is, that at least in central government, Māori already have a number of highly visible seats at the table. The Māori electorate seats plus MMP have seen to that. It may be a good idea to make similar arrangements for Māori representation at local government level. But lets do it in the same way we do for Parliament – with seat numbers based on proportionality. That will provide visibility and a voice at the table without negating the “one-person, one-vote” principle.

There is no doubt that in a democracy there is a real issue with what Jackson called the “tyranny of the majority”. Which is why facilitating a voice for minorities in any democracy is an important safeguard. But the tyranny of the minority is also something that needs to be seriously considered. Indeed it must be guarded against if we are to maintain widespread public confidence in the legitimacy and fairness of our governing system. Unfortunately those advocating the simplistic equal power-sharing model of co-governance don’t seem to have grasped that. Either that or they erroneously claim it is a requirement of the Treaty – but that is a whole other story…

Ewen McQueen
April 2022

This entry was posted in NZ History, Treaty of Waitangi and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Jackson all over the co-governance paddock

  1. Bill Floyd says:

    Ewan. Your book is very good. Your research flawless and through careful multisource cross referencing utterly believable. Your conclusions reasonable and logical by any definition. Congratulations on what needs to be read by all media and people interested in where we are now and what we need to do, re the Treaty. Would you agree to main stream media interviews if we could make it happen? Bill Floyd. Blenheim.


  2. Fiona says:

    There was never a mention of “equity” in Article Three of the Treaty. That word has a very different meaning to “equality” as the maori elite separatists well know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ewen McQueen says:

      I think Jackson was probably referring to the idea of equal citizenship contained in Article Three. Which of course it is. However it hard to see how you can use that principle to give greater weight to one citizen’s vote over another.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Roger Strong says:

    There is a confusion in some people’s minds between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. We should as a society always strive for the first but the second is impossible because humans are diverse and short of handicapping some people it’s just not possible.


    • Ewen McQueen says:

      Tend to agree. However poor outcomes for Maori are something we should all be concerned about. I think the Treaty settlement process has been part of addressing that. But I am not convinced that large bureaucratic co-governance structures will help.


      • Roger Strong says:

        I really can’t see how the treaty settlement process have been at successful in altering outcomes for Maori. The Maori elite have said many times that they will not spend the money in areas where the government has the responsibility. In Wellington it fairly easy to see where the money goes in new suits and flash cars for the favoured few. Stephen O’Reagan was accused in parliament by one of his own tribe of enriching himself personally to the tune of $4 million – that in the late 1990”s . As for poor figures well why is the Maori smoking rate at 30% and the other figures generally changing for the worst? Seems to me that state welfare is mostly to blame -increasing since WW2.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s