20 April 2022

Submit today on the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill

David Farrar's Kiwiblog has an excellent submission on this absolute travesty of basic individual rights and liberal democracy.

This debate about this issue has been muted. Stuff reports it, with taxpayer funding from NZ On Air, without ANY discussion about the implications for liberal democracy.

What is proposes is a form of racial gerrymandering that means that Māori Ward Councillors on Rotorua District Council will represent fewer people, but with the same amount of power as General Ward Councillors. 

As Farrar says:

This bill would give the Māori ward three Councillors for an electoral population of 21,700 and the General ward three Councillors for an electoral population of 55,600. This means the vote of someone on the general roll will be worth only 39% of the vote of someone on the Māori roll in terms of Ward Councillors, and 58% in terms of the whole Council. 

It debases the votes of non-Māori ward voters, and for what? To seek to equalise representation not on the basis of counting heads, but by valuing the votes of Māori ward voters 2.5x more than non-Māori ward voters.

Let's apply this to Parliament?

Extend this to Parliament (assuming no change in the number of seats) and the result would be this:

General Electorates: 36. 1 MP for every 89958 voters

Māori Electorates: 36. 1 MP for every 7591 voters

In essence it multiplies Māori roll votes 11 fold compared to non-Māori. The exact impact on Parliament is difficult to forecast for multiple reasons, as no doubt there would be more candidates, but also the impact on emigration (let alone immigration) would change the demographic as well (some advancing this policy would like that). 

It could be assumed that the majority of Māori Electorates would vote Labour, and some would vote Te Pāti Māori, maybe one or two could go Green or even NZ First.  

How would that affect the list seats? It is entirely possible to leave them as is, with one person one vote and let proportionality come to play, but that is likely to create an overhang. Let's say based on the current Parliament, that one in seven of the Māori electorates go to Te Pāti Māori, which would mean it gets 5-6 seats. Even if it got double the party vote of 2020 (which would be 2.34%) it would only be entitled to around 3 seats in Parliament, so Parliament would grow by 2-3 more seats in total.  Advocates of such a change might say the overall impact would not be significant, because ultimately National would get most of its MPs from the list, so proportionality might be retained overall, but the effect would be dramatic.

Moreover, if you can argue for electorates that require 11 general roll voters to elect an MP, but 1 Māori roll voter, then you can argue that Māori party voters get the same magnification of impact.

and that would truly be the end of liberal democracy as we know it, and is internationally recognised on the basis of one person one vote.

This sort of gerrymandering is seen in corrupt democracies, which try to construct constituencies that have small numbers of politicians representing large numbers of people who politicians want to reduce the franchise for, with higher numbers for the preferred group.  During the dying days of apartheid, the South African Government argued for its democracy to enable white South Africans to have a veto of decision making over the black majority.  This was rightly decried as racist and unacceptable. Going from total white minority rule to white minority veto was not advancing the rights of all South Africans.

However, there is a movement in Māori politics that is antithetical to liberal democracy and individual rights. Te Pāti Māori MP Rawiri Waititi said it clearly when he thought Aotearoa had a great future "but not necessarily as a democracy". 

It isn't exactly rude to ask if the Green Party of Aotearoa or the New Zealand Labour Party share his view. 

Now I'm highly sceptical of liberal democracy as a tool to protect individual rights, and Waititi is dead right when he raises concern about majority rule. Unfettered democracy does enable mob rule and does enable injustice, but the contraints on this should be constitutional to ensure basic rights are not overriden. I have a lot of sympathy for calls for tino rangatiratanga for everyone.

However, nobody advancing this change is caring remotely for the rights of individuals to peacefully go about their lives, this is about advancing power, albeit at the local government level, to regulate and tax people's property and businesses.

You have only a few hours to express your opposition to this racist travesty of a Bill, that has NOT been advanced by the local MP Todd McClay but rather Labour list MP Tāmati Coffey.  Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori are all advancing it.

It deserves to be voted down in flames, and it deserves your submission in ardent opposition to it.

Either go here:


or here:



16 April 2022

Is New Zealand abandoning independent foreign policy by backing Ukraine, or is Bryce Edwards missing the point?

Bryce Edwards in the NZ Herald declares that the NZ Government’s “independent foreign policy” is “virtually dead” because the Government has chosen to support Ukraine. It’s quite a take, particularly if I give Edwards the benefit of the doubt that he isn’t part of the “tankie” left that thinks Russia isn’t entirely at fault, or that Ukraine isn’t worth supporting because some of Russia’s claims about “Nazis” are true (I will take it for granted he isn’t part of the “tankie” right that sees Russia as a bastion of conservative Christian values against a decadent corrupt West).

NZ “falling into line” with Five Eyes and NATO assumes that it resisted supporting Ukraine, and in supporting Ukraine it is doing so somehow subservient to Western powers. This is an extraordinary position to take, reminiscent of the self-styled “anti-imperialist” peace activists whose stance against imperialism never extends to powers, such as Russia and China, that are antagonists towards Western liberal democracies.

Edwards believes it needs more debate and analysis, and he is not wrong, but to infer that a country cannot have an “independent foreign policy” if it provides military assistance to a UN Member State that has been attacked in a conventional war by another, is a curious interpretation. It infers that NZ has no interest in supporting a UN Member State that is a victim of such an attack or that there is no moral interest in doing so either.

You see international relations is primarily a matter of national governments asserting policy that is in their national interest. Although most proclaim that their foreign policy has an ethical foundation, ethics are largely secondary to national interest, and national interest is indisputably linked to the government of the day remaining in power.

An independent foreign policy for NZ puts NZ’s interests first, and within the boundaries of that, it can seek to promote an ethical vision of foreign policy. Although the Ardern Government proclaims loudly about its ethics, but it know it cannot take that too far, otherwise NZ would trade with much fewer countries and for what end?

Neutrality and foreign policy independence are quite different concepts. NZ is not obliged to support NATO, it did not provide support when NATO struck Serbia to deter potential genocide in Kosovo (having done little when Serbia supported “ethnic cleansing” of Bosnia and Croatia (let’s not mention Croatia’s “ethnic cleansing” of parts of its territory of course)).  That is foreign policy independence, but it is not neutrality. Switzerland and Sweden are neutral.

Edwards cites MP Golriz Ghahraman and former National Party communications advisor Matthew Hooton who essentially claim the decision to support Ukraine is not based on substance of either national interests or ethics.

Ghahraman claims that it is about “appeasing allies”, which is cynical sneering about contributing to a collective effort to defend a nationstate that is a victim of aggression. NZ’s commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions are arguably almost entirely symbolic and demonstrative as well, in terms of impact in reducing climate change, but that isn’t seen as “appeasing allies or trade partners”. Hooton appears motivated to sneer at Labour’s claim of an independent foreign policy, which isn’t particularly interesting. He has an axe to grind, as does Ghahraman, who is one of the most left-wing and anti-Western MPs in Parliament, is hardly supportive of either NATO or any military action from Western countries (given her biggest foreign policy focus appears to be criticism of Israel and silence against the authoritarianism and terror expounded by Hamas and Fatah).  She even retweeted a call by tankie UK MP Jeremy Corbyn (who bemoaned the fall of the Berlin Wall) demanding the State of Palestine be recognised days after Ukraine was invaded.

Ghahraman focusing on her highest foreign policy priority

Matt Robson is unsurprisingly in the Ghahraman camp (shocking that a former hard-left MP would be antagonistic towards Western powers) and makes the dubious claim that the Ardern Government “has drawn us into the largest nuclear-armed military alliance in the world, Nato, and has signed up to the encirclement strategy of Russia and China”.

This is deranged stuff. NZ is no member of NATO. NZ has no treaty obligation to defend any NATO member states (through NATO) or vice versa. Furthermore, the idea that there is an “encirclement strategy” is straight out of the Moscow and Beijing playbook of foreign policy conspiracies. There’s no evidence of such a strategy, but Moscow has touted for 20 years the paranoid claim that the West is keen to invade it, and China constantly claims that the West wants to contain and stop its growth.

Then there is Peter Dunne’s claim that moving away from UN-mandated sanctions is significant. This infers that the UN is somehow neutral, yet it is obvious that UN-mandated sanctions in response to Ukraine would not exist, because Russia as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, can veto any UN sanctions. The UN is absolutely impotent, so the choice is simple in foreign policy:

· Do nothing, because the UN is impotent. Effectively showing zero interest in punishing Russia for invading a neighbour.

· Join traditional Western allies and others in sanctioning Russia.

Edwards does say NZ should seek UN reform, but that is absolutely not going to happen without the consent of the Permanent Five, and that isn’t going to happen whilst two of the five are aggressive revanchists (which one has proven and the other has indicated it wishes to).

Dunne claims “New Zealand will now find it more difficult to resist United States' and British pressure to become involved in similar situations in the future”. Really? Why? Besides, why would it NOT want to be involved in similar situations? Does independent foreign policy mean turning a blind eye to Russia or China invading a neighbour? If so, why? Is it for trade, or is it a desire to not be allied to peaceful liberal democracies against aggressive tyrannies?

Edwards continues “there's a sense in which the New Zealand Government has been slowly but surely edging further into the Ukraine war, discarding any neutrality”. Hang on, neutrality? Since when has NZ had a policy of neutrality in international conflicts? Wasn’t the last significant step in NZ foreign policy to simply remove itself from the US nuclear umbrella and prohibit nuclear weapons but stay in ANZUS, or do some really think NZ is trying to distance itself from other liberal democracies so it can… wait for it… be NEUTRAL when another liberal democracy is invaded?

The claim that this is the biggest change in NZ foreign policy in 35 years is highly questionable. If NZ did become neutral, that would be news, but it has NEVER been, despite some on the hard-left in the Greens and Labour wishing it were so.

Edwards infers that it isn’t a conscious and willing decision to back Ukraine, but a “concession” from “demands”, which implies that the Government didn’t want to help Ukraine. That is worthy of debate, although it is not clear that is the case.

He bemoans that “alternatives to war and aggression are hardly being discussed at the moment”. Whose aggression? Russia is the aggressor, Ukraine is not. Russia chose war, Ukraine did not. What is the alternative? Surrender? This is the morally bankrupt talk of the tankie Stop the War Coalition in the UK, which pleads for “peace”, but by taking a “pox on both their houses approach” is effectively siding with Russia. Is defence of the weak against aggression by the strong to be questioned when the cost of supporting the weak is so low?

He's right that NZ has done little on refugees, but that is beside the point.

His final point is both naïve and frankly ridiculous:

Abandoning UN processes for imposing economic sanctions and going to war, as New Zealand has done with Ukraine… just returns the world to a place where the international bullies are free to threaten and dominate smaller and poorer nations. That isn't the type of world we claim to want, but one which our current actions are leading to.


1. UN processes cannot impose economic sanctions on Russia.

2. International law allows nation states to go to war to assist allies in the event they are attacked, without the need for UN Security Council resolution.

3. NZ providing military assistance to Ukraine has NOT made the world a place for bullies to dominate smaller states. That’s so preposterous to be silly. Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, Georgia before that. NZ is virtually irrelevant to Russia.

4. NZ assisting Ukraine is demonstrating a more unified resolve against Russia and is a sign to its ally, China, that a similar approach may apply if it seeks to say, invade Taiwan. That could very likely make the world a safer place.

The alternative to all of this, is for NZ to be neutral. That would put NZ in the position some would like, like India, of straddling the liberal democracies and the authoritarian aggressors. Some naïve peace activists may think this is advantageous, and some may see it so from a trade point of view, but Edwards hasn’t mentioned trade, at all. If NZ were neutral, Moscow and Beijing would cheer. If NZ imposed no sanctions or few sanctions, it would be seen as a place for the rich and powerful from both countries, and their allies, to place themselves and their money. It would be seen as a weakening of the liberal democracies, and as Beijing has already done, they would point out how Wellington is more “even-handed” than Canberra, London and even Warsaw, Tokyo and Helsinki.

I don’t know if Edwards thinks the counterfactual of neutrality on Ukraine is in NZ’s interests or is even morally defensible. It’s difficult to see how it would be, unless your vision of NZ is one that thinks there is no essential difference between Ukraine and Russia, or between the United States and China, and that is a bleak, dark and disturbing vision indeed.