Maori in Parliament
It is clear that Labour would like more women and Maori in its caucus after the election. It has put a promising woman - Maryan Street, and a promising Maori - Shane Jones - high on the list for a first term in Parliament. So lets look at Maori representation,noting that one promising Maori woman Cabinet Minister has left to start her own party, and another Maori has recently been demoted from Cabinet.
After the 1996 election, there were 9 Maori cabinet ministers, three were Maori MPs. After the 2002 election there were 19 Maori MPs in Parliament, seven off the Maori seats. Given that 12 MPs were voted on non-Maori seats and 15 percent of the population are Maori, all it takes is for parties to put Maori MPs high on its list to gain representation.
Which is what Labour is making an attempt at. It has four Maori in its top 20 list placings, with an additional four that may get the nod after the election. That's a lot more than 15 percent of its likely list MPs. Labour knows that the only way to increase its Maori MPs is to bump 'em up on the list. Like Shane Jones, who is seen as future minister of Maori Affairs.
Now that the Maori party is in the frame, and the list vote is the most important, many Maori are likely to support the Maori party , taking votes away from a Labour party - and possibly a candidate. Of course some will split their vote.
Shane Jones is only likely to get into Parliament later this year on the back of predominately non-Maori Labour list voters.
It is worth remembering that, of the 88 Maori MP's New Zealand has had since 1867, Labour has never had a Maori constituency MP in parliament for a non-Maori seat, although National has had, I think, three, all of whom had broad appeal. Labour had a hold on the Maori seats pre MMP. Of course, Maori had to go on the Maori roll until 1996, that played a part.
Given that parties can put promising candidates high on the party list, one argument - although not convincing - is that we no longer need Maori seats to provide Maori representation. Maori representation could be up to list selection, rather than Maori seats.
When Maori voted for MMP at a ratio of 2:1, all MMP parliaments since have had a higher proportion of Maori in Parliament, thanks to the number of Maori electorates increasing from four to seven, and a few elected MP's such as Winston Peters making the grade. National have been low on the count, as of course has United Future. We know what ACT's Maori MP was like..
If other parties placed Maori on electable list positions, we wouldn't need Maori seats. Don Brash wants to get rid of the Maori seats, but lets see how many Maori - and women - he puts on his list in a winnable position.