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Q+A: Transcript of panel discussions

Published: 4:05PM Sunday October 09, 2011 Source: Q+A




In response to PITA SHARPLES interview

Time to welcome the panel this morning. Dr Jon Johansson from Victoria University is back. Good to have you here, Jon. Bob Harvey, the former Waitakere mayor and former Labour Party president, welcome to you. And Ron Mark, the mayor of Carterton and a former New Zealand First MP. Welcome to you, Ron.  Bob, well start with you. Do you think Dr Sharples is on to something here?

BOB HARVEY - Former Waitakere mayor
I think Pita is one of the great leaders of this country. Ive been on that system with him out at Hoani Waititi marae. I think the justice system is failing Maori, and I think what Pita said this morning- I think this is a milestone event this morning with what he said. I think this country should listen up. This guy has got it. I think rehabilitation is not working, and it hasnt worked. I think the danger is that we ignore that Maori need a separate justice system in this country. And we need that, and the sooner we come to realise that, the better.

GUYON Ron Mark?

RON MARK - Carterton mayor
Well, if we did that, the very same people that are calling for it would immediately want it scrapped, because if you had pure, true Maori justice system, you wouldnt have a lot of the problems youve got right now because Maori justice system would be a lot tougher than what were looking at right now, quite frankly, in some respects. But I just want to come back. I think Mr Sharples really needs to focus on the here and now. Many of the reports he talks about are out of date. When he talks about the police force of today, it is not the police force of Ross Meurant or Gideon Tait. The police force has changed hugely. The number of Maori recruited into the police has leapt to something like 31%, I think. The number of Maori recruits going through police college now is about 15%.

GUYON So hes dealing with yesterdays problem.

RON Hes dealing with yesterdays policy. Theres all good political reasons for doing that now, isnt there? But its out of date, and he needs to stop and have a close look at the police force now. We have Maori liaison officers, iwi liaison officers.

GUYON And, Jon Johansson, do you think this is a political stunt from Dr Sharples?

JON JOHANSSON - Political Analyst
 Well, one of the problems of the Maori Party heading into this election is how disconnected it is from its base. But why shouldnt Pita Sharples do what Pakeha politicians have been doing for decades.

GUYON Which is playing the race card in reverse almost.

JON Doing a bit of populism from law and order, you know, frankly. That said, what does get lost sight of as well is that Maori are also overrepresented as victims, and the wider context is that in terms of incarceration, we have a society-wide problem of which Maori are a central part of, and so we have to be open to ideas that allow us not just deal with the Maori component of it, but the whole component. So we should be open to fresh thinking if that can be demonstrated to work.

GUYON Bob Harvey, though, how prepared are we for fresh thinking, because you remember Matt Robson talking about conjugal rights in prison, got laughed out of town, and that was the end of the debate. If you said to people what Dr Sharples has said today, which is effectively only 20% of the prison should be in there is what he said, youre going to have a bit of a public backlash about that.

BOB We keep on building prisons, and we keep on putting Maori in them.

JON As Bill English says, its a moral and fiscal failure.

BOB I went to the farewell of the best cop that the west has ever had, Gary Davey. Crime has dropped, hes tackled domestic violence, and hes also tackled guys within his own police units that have used violence. Hes gone. Hes been sidelined by the system. How come? Thats what I want to say. (RON SCOFFS) Ron can say that, but the fact is theres a lot of rot in the police culture.

GUYON Is that true?

RON I think people will always find in every government department there are some people who are either prejudice or racist or they are thick, actually. Doesnt matter where you go - private enterprise, government departments, even in council buildings all over the country, because that is the make-up of our land. We have people who think like that. But to say that our justice system is systemically racist and biased is out of order, actually. Totally out of order.

JON Just talking to one of my legal friends today, and he says you would like to think that the system is blind to colour. But go and spend a morning down at the Wellington District Court, and its really hard to walk away with that same conviction.

GUYON So, the interesting thing about the ethnicity, though, is Asian New Zealanders. Nearly 10% of the population. There are 240 Asian people in jail - almost none - so it doesnt lead to a conclusion, does it, that the non-Pakeha are getting targeted, does it?

RON When you talk to cops, you will find out and they will tell you there are those in their groups, those who they go out on patrol with who will spot a young Maori walking down the street and theyll want to pull him over and talk to him. In the past that might have happened regularly and frequently. It might have been part of the police culture. But it is certainly not the way it is. Dr Sharples needs to stop-

BOB Where are you living, Mark?

RON Ron, actually.


JON Carterton.

RON Where have you been? Go to the schools. Look at the way our young people are being educated today. Have a look at the way theyre indoctrinated. Theyre taught tikanga Maori, theyre taught kapa haka, theyre taught about the Treaty of Waitangi. The young people-

GUYON You just dont see it changing, though, Bob?

RON The young people coming through the recruit ranks right now are not like you, Bob. Theyre not like the people you hang out with. They are far more broad-minded. They are far more understanding of human rights and civil liberties than your generation or my generation ever was, and there is a changing culture in the police.

JON Go look in Mt Eden.

RON That is irrelevant.

JON As far as the police go, youve got to accept, I think, that its traditions, its a conservative institution, but it is a conservative institution with all the baggage that comes with that that is changing and is making attempts to change, but it takes time.

BOB Its not changing enough.

RON How do you explain the increased confidence that Maori New Zealanders have in the police, which is at a record high from the latest surveys?

GUYON All right, well have to leave it there.



In response to LIANNE DALZIEL/SIMON BRIDGES interview

Ron Mark, you were a list MP for some time. Do they get treated as second-class citizens?

JON JOHANSSON - Political Analyst
  You wagged the dog, mate. You wagged the dog.

RON MARK - Carterton mayor
Oh well, nice to know that they think theyre a dog. (ALL LAUGH)

GUYON Second-class citizens compared to electorate MPs. Is there a bit of feeling like that?

RON Its one of those things. I mean, Pita Sharples talks about systemic racism within government departments. Well, you could probably argue theres systemic prejudice towards list MPs. I mean, they dont get funded as well, and yet you go through the names of the list MPs. I could argue that some of the top performing MPs that have gone through the house in the last 12 years have all been list MPs.

GUYON And this is to get experts in, really.

JON In a small country like New Zealand, thats actually been a real useful way of recruiting talent.

GUYON People dont often think about that diversity, do they? They think about ethnic diversity.

RON Yeah, and its professional diversity, its skills diversity. But youve got some lazy, backside, useless, most disliked constituency MPs who stay there.

GUYON Who are you thinking about?

RON I could name the electorates where I used to get all my work from as a list MP.

GUYON Go on, name one.

RON All right. Waimakariri. Uh, Ilam. Um&

GUYON All right. I think I can hear the phone ringing now. Bob Harvey, you want to ditch MMP. You joined the team that said, No, ditch it.

BOB HARVEY - Former Waitakere mayor
 Two things that Ive never regretted - picking David Cunliffe when I was president of the Labour Party. I saw him as a terrific comer. I thought today he was great. And the other non-regret is that I decided that I think its time we had a rethink of MMP.

GUYON What do you want to go for?

BOB Well, I just want to see it debated, and I thought the way to do that was to join in that gang that was looking at debating it.

GUYON Whats wrong with MMP, though?

BOB I think its flawed. Ive seen so many people that we have basically not wanted anymore and said, Thank you, goodbye jump back on the list and do bugger all for three years.

GUYON So you cant get rid of them.

BOB Theyre bludgers. (RON LAUGHS) I work for a living, and I work very hard, and I see people who dont work very hard being paid by us, the taxpayers. Now, I think it needs to be fixed, thats all.

GUYON Ok. Ok, Jon.

BOB So dont dump it, but fix it.

GUYON Jon, Simon Bridges put up quite a strong argument that Supplementary Member was a bit of a balance or a halfway house, if you like, between MMP and First Past the Post. Is he right?

JON What he did was paint the lipstick round First Past the Post.

BOB On the pig.

RON On the Rottweiler. (LAUGHS)

JON And I dont think he did that very effectively, which is the problem with those that are advocating Supplementary Member. It is First Past the Post with lipstick. Political scientists, we have measures of how we view how equal votes are under different systems. Under MMP, New Zealanders votes are about as equal as they can be. The properties of Supplementary Member make our votes far more less equal, a la First Past the Post. That is the nub of it, and anything said to the contrary of that is just sophistry.

GUYON Ron Mark?

RON My twist on SM is its FPP in drag, isnt it? And it puts all the power with the parties which dominate the constituency seats, which will make the Maori Party very happy. And if I was the Maori Party, Id be out there campaigning for SM.

GUYON Nine Maori seats. They have the balance of power every time.

JON I dont think the SM proponents, the ones that are strongest in favour, actually understand that themselves.

BOB Does New Zealand understand? We saw that brilliant 30 seconds. I think he may well have been talking Mandarin.

GUYON Well, this is the problem, isnt it? I mean this would be, wouldnt it, moving to a third electoral system in - what - two or three decades. Can we realistically do that?

JON Ill tell you why there is. Then youd change the electoral systems twice in a generation, and especially if you move to a less proportional system, and with our very dramatically changing demographics, there will inevitably be a continuing push for a third change, then a fourth. And at what point do you have electoral instability, Bob? So you end up like an Italian type chaos.

GUYON Ron Mark, there are problems, though, arent there, with MMP. Um, I mean, if you look at New Zealand First, your old party, I mean, in the last election they got just over 4% of the vote. About 85,000 people voted for New Zealand First. No representation in Parliament at all.

RON Well, thats right. Youve got to add up ACT, the Maori Party and Peter Dunne and Jim Anderton, and you still dont get the New Zealand First vote. So those are some of the things that would need to be discussed in the tweaking of MMP. Is 5% the right threshold? Should it be 4%? Should you get the extra representation if you win one seat?

JON Can I just add here that all the polling has shown that there is a super majority, theres over 60% of us, and Lianne Dalziel made that point too about all of us can find something we dont like with MMP.

GUYON Oh, well, that there are politicians in it probably.

JON But theres 60%-plus of New Zealanders who want to either keep the basics of MMP or keep it with some modifications, like that one-seat rule to deal to the madness in Epsom and these sorts of things.

GUYON Bob Harvey, you were briefly involved with the group who wants change. They dont seem to have much of a head of steam. There doesnt seem to be a clamour on the streets.

BOB I thought theyd have more grunt by now. I thought that wed start really feeling a mood of change. I dont think thats happening.

GUYON Its not going to happen, is it?

BOB Look at Epsom. I mean, what a jack-up, and what a bloody jerk-off that whole thing is, you know? (ALL LAUGH) I mean, give us a break. Were better than that. We deserve better than that. And I rest my case on that alone. How come weve got ourselves in such dire straits?

RON Guyon, theres another group of people who quietly, whilst they may yearn for the total control that they get with their favoured party, their preferred party under FPP, theyve actually learned how to use MMP to their advantage - the lobbyists. And there are a couple of groups I can think of who now understand completely that whilst they might have a preferred political party they would prefer to be in the government benches, they learned how to work the minor parties and the coalition partners to get the major party to tweak major policy, to tweak legislation.

GUYON Ok. A quick round the house about what you think is going to happen on the night in terms of the referendum.

BOB I reckon itll stay.

JON I think it will stay easily.

RON MMP all the way.

GUYON No disagreement there. I think thats the first thing weve all agreed on. (ALL LAUGH)