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Principles

I have already predicted that the National government’s very incompatible partners, Act and the Maori Party, would never peacefully coexist for long. Now there seems to be a major point of difference emerging where the leader of Act, Rodney Hide, has threatened to resign as local government minister if the new Auckland “super” city arrangement has Maori seats built in.

Its an interesting issue and one I’m not totally sure about. Its great to see that the so-called “honeymoon” period the new government was enjoying is well and truly over. There is also a protest and major poster campaign happening here in Dunedin over the fact that the government will spend $40 million sending the SAS (or what the campaign describes as “trained killers”) to Afghanistan while cutting $30 million from the education budget. I guess that’s the sort of priorities we should expect from a right oriented government.

Its not so much that I dislike this government (although I disagree with a lot of what they are doing I think they have been reasonably fair up until now) its more about not having a strong government which feels that it can get away with anything it wants because its so popular.

So what about the Maori seats issue itself?

First of all, I’m sure many people would be really relieved if Hide was no longer Minister of Local Government. When someone like him is in charge you can be sure the same old unimaginative Act money-saving cuts won’t be far away. So the threat of his resignation would be celebrated by many.

Many people have rightly pointed out that one person from a party which received such a small proportion of the vote shouldn’t be trying to control a process which the majority might want to see happen. If he’s going to be part of the government he should accept compromise and not start making wild treats just because he can’t get his own way.

An alternative view is that he’s keeping to his principles. Hide doesn’t believe that some groups in our society should get special privileges and I must say that I think most people would agree. Many people I discuss this with are sick of Maori being given privileges other people don’t have, being given hand-outs, and generally being treated as if they are more important than the rest of us. The junk the Maori Party usually come up with some nonsense about being a special partner through the Treaty is just pathetic. If that’s what the Treaty really says (I’m sure it doesn’t) then its time we eliminated it.

So there is a certain appeal in Act’s message and, while I think they are dangerous and I would never consider voting for them, I do admire their principles even if they are misguided.

There’s also the way this affects the debate on MMP. One of the major objections to MMP is that small parties can have too great an influence on bigger ones. This is a possible example of that happening although there is no real threat to the stability of the government because of it.

So I think its an interesting issue with no clear right and wrong sides. It will be interesting to see how it proceeds but its sure to cause a bit of strife for the government (which they need) so even that is a positive thing.

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