The Labour Party has always been at the forefront of efforts to ensure that Parliament’s makeup is actually representative of the population as a whole. It started off wanting to ensure that the working class was represented in Parliament. Early on it recognised that women needed to be present. It formed a strategic alliance with Ratana so that Tangata Whenua had a real and powerful presence.
As time passed it achieved a number of firsts. First woman MP, first openly gay MP, and amongst others first Pacifica MP (OK it is Taito but nevertheless), the party prides itself on representing every sector of our community.
In an ideal world and especially in an MMP environment our house of representatives should represent our community. There should be equal numbers of men and women, significant presence of Tangata Whenua, a good representation of Pacifica, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and other ethnic communities and a sizeable number of Rainbow MPs.
The New Zealand Council of the Party has proposed that the Party’s constitution be amended so that the Moderating Committee of the Party is bound by the need to arrive at a list which “fairly represents tangata whenua, gender, ethnic groups, people with disabilities, sexual orientations, and age and youth.”
The current rule states that “[t]he Moderating Committee shall examine the Regional lists and consider the representation across all lists of tangata whenua, women, men, ethnic groups, people with disabilities, geographic spread and range of skills.”
The change being proposed is not radical. It is more directive but the Moderating Committee has always been conscious of the need to select a list which represents our community as a whole.
No doubt there will be a robust debate at the conference and there will I am sure be discussion about how directive the instruction to the Moderating Committee should be. But there will be no dissent about the general principle contained in the change.
Is this a radical measure? Only if you refuse to accept that Parliament should be truly representative of New Zealand society.