27 Apr 2022

Luxon warns of 'division' if government coy on co-governance plans

11:30 am on 27 April 2022

National Party leader Christopher Luxon says New Zealanders don't have a good idea of what Māori co-governance means.

Christopher Luxon

Christopher Luxon wants the Ministry of Health's Māori health directorate beefed up. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

It comes after Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson said democracy was no longer about the tyranny of the majority and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said New Zealanders could be proud of the way democracy was being adjusted to ensure better outcomes for Māori.

However, Luxon said having two separate systems in areas such as health would increase bureaucracy without delivering outcomes.

He challenged Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to build her case for co-governance with voters but told Morning Report National remained opposed to the creation of a new level of bureaucracy for health.

He said the government needed to set out clear guidelines on what was and was not included for constitutional issues such as co-governance.

"If we don't, it drives division. If you think about things like the Treaty settlement process, there's been very good public buy-in to that over successive governments, different types of governments because the case was made and and people said, that's right, we need to do some redress there."

While the health inequities between Māori and Pākehā were unacceptable, the creation of a body such as the Māori Health Authority or two separate systems would not work.

"By their [the government's] own admission they're not going to have a single improved Māori health outcome for five years.

"So the real thing we need to do is keep a single system but have huge amounts of innovation and targeting within it."

Luxon wants the Ministry of Health's Māori health directorate beefed up and more partnering with the iwi partnership boards.

The system had not been operating properly in the past.

The Covid-19 pandemic had shown working with communities could work well instead of centralising the operation of health services in Wellington which was not the answer.

National believed that co-governance of natural assets involving iwi working with central and local government in the context of Treaty settlements is long-standing and has been supported by his party.

Victoria University political scientist Dr Jack Vowles believes that part of the reason political parties can waltz around the co-governance expression is because it isn't easy to understand in the first place.

He told Morning Report that co-governance had been occurring under both National and Labour governments for more than 10 years.

He said part of the problem was confusion over the vague dividing line between co-governance and co-management of assets, especially with the joint management of the assets in which Māori and the Crown have an interest, such as national parks and rivers.

In the main most people thought this arrangement was innovative and a potentially valuable way of managing those assets.

The rangatiratanga principle is based on self-government and co-governance comes into the picture where Māori and the Crown both have a claim to govern a resource or asset, he said.

Asked if the Māori Health Authority initiative may lead on to other initiatives setting out self-determination for Māori, Dr Vowles said it had the potential to be extended into education as an example.

He said there was doubt as to whether these types of arrangements would deliver the outcomes the government and Māori were seeking.

The Treaty of Waitangi which was signed in 1840 was proving difficult to apply to current circumstances.

"There's a huge amount of room for interpretation and those involved in trying to come to these arrangements also need to consider whether they are going to deliver the outcomes Māori want."

Dr Vowles said the government has not done enough to be open with the public on its co-governance intentions although there were many useful documents on the websites of various ministries.

He cited discussion about Three Waters reforms which was being limited to information on water quality issues.

"We don't want to talk about co-governance because somehow that's beyond the pale of discussion."

On tax reform

Luxon accused Revenue Minister David Parker of giving a confusing meandering speech on his plan for a new bill to be called the Tax Principles Act.

Labour MP David Parker

David Parker. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

A group at Inland Revenue is collating previously unknown data on how much tax the country's wealthiest people pay.

Parker said yesterday the bill would require regular reporting on the tax system, because it was about time it became more transparent.

Among its aims would be establishing what rate of tax is paid by the wealthiest New Zealanders.

Luxon said it was another sign that Labour believed in more taxation while his party favoured less.

Asked if he agreed with Parker's ambition of finding out how much tax rich people pay, he said: "The IRD is quite capable of doing full tax audits and investigations of people, whether they're wealthy or otherwise.

"Those powers exist today."

He said it was unclear what Parker was trying to achieve and it felt like an "intellectual fishing trip".

Wealthy people pay higher rates of income tax, with the top 3 percent of earners paying a quarter of all income tax in this country, their businesses have to pay corporate taxes, and they have to pay income tax on savings, investments and foreign earnings, he said.

Labour Day being axed

There has been controversy since Luxon's recent suggestion on RNZ that with the addition of the Matariki public holiday another one, perhaps Labour Day, should disappear.

Asked several times whether he still backed that proposal, Luxon said National supported Matariki and any suggestion of cutting out a different one should have been debated at the time legislation was going through the House.

He concluded by ruling out any change to the number of public holidays.

"We won't be doing that."

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