Māori in Parliament and the future of the Māori seats - Claudia Geiringer's summary
Claudia Geiringer, co-chair, comment on the two speakers:
There is a great deal of food for thought in the two speeches, and it is clear from them that the future of the Māori seats remains a hotly contested question. There would seem to be at least three related levels on which we could frame the debate that is going on here:
First, we could frame it in functional terms: as a debate over whether the Māori seats facilitate or hinder fair and effective representation for Māori on the one hand, and for non-Māori on the other.
But secondly, sitting behind that functional question are broader and contested questions about the nature of our constitution – the principles that it protects, how we define those principles and what happens when they come into conflict with each other. For example, both the speakers invoked their own conceptions of "democracy" and "equality". Perhaps we can all agree that these are principles that our constitution values, but what do they actually mean? And are they advanced or undermined by separate representation? And how do they sit in relation to other principles that we might also value such as biculturalism, minority protection and, of course, the principles of Te Tiriti itself.
Finally, at a third level, there is a conversation going on here about the symbolic significance of the Māori seats – what symbolic message do they convey to Māori and to non-Māori? And what significance, if any, should we place on the symbolic value of the seats, as compared with the more functional questions concerning their ability to secure a fair and effective representation system?