ACT has released its latest policy paper, Democracy or Co-Government? The paper sets out the practical policies that ACT would pursue in government to deliver a modern, multi-ethnic, liberal democracy.

Labour et al tell us that if we want to right the wrongs of the past, preserve Māori language and culture, and give all kids an equal chance, we must embrace co-government. If we reject co-government, we must oppose pursuing these three goals, and therefore be racist. This is a false choice.

Democracy or Co-Government? argues that throwing out liberal democracy in favour of co-government is a dangerous mistake. The danger is that if the state keeps telling people to regard each other through a racial lens, as it does today in nearly every policy area, people might start doing just that.

However, the paper also argues that there are important policy goals related to the Treaty. Māori language and culture should be preserved. The wrongs of the past should be corrected. Government policy should attempt to give all children an equal shot at life.

ACT argues that you don’t have to choose between these goals and liberal democracy. In fact, they will be better achieved in a liberal democratic framework where every person has the same basic bundle of legal and political rights.

The paper sets out how ACT would go about changing government policy to achieve these goals in a liberal democratic framework.

First and foremost it expands on ACT’s proposal to pass a Treaty Principles Act through Parliament, and put it to referendum. The Treaty Principles Act would state that the Treaty says what it means and means what it says. The government has the right to govern (kawanatanga), the people have the right to self determination (rangatiratanga), property rights are secure (taonga), and all people have the same rights and duties (ngā tikana katoa rite tahi).

The courts have had a near monopoly on the interpretation of the Treaty for nearly 40 years. We do not agree with their interpretation of the Treaty as a partnership requiring co-government of everything. It is time for the people to have a say through an Act of Parliament and a referendum.

The paper shows how ACT would remove raced based laws recently passed, such as section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act that has led to children being reverse uplifted from safe homes because the foster parents were not Māori.

It applies the same logic to other race-based laws such as those passed around Three Waters, the Māori Health Authority, and resource management if they pass before the election. Such laws should go.

Building on the Treaty Principles Act and the removal of divisive laws, ACT would then upgrade how the public service operates. ACT would raise the standards to use proper data-driven targeting of need rather than race.

At present, the Government carries out coarse race-based targeting. In health, for example, people get vaccinated at different times and have access to some medicines, or not, due to their ethnic background.

There are better examples though. The Ministry of Education’s new Equity Index uses 37 different variables to find out which kids do badly at school. Other than ethnicity, they compare kids based on variables like whether their families received a benefit, whether they’ve had a parent in prison, and so on.

This approach is not based on racial assumptions but real world results and data. That is how the government should target need rather than race. ACT would require the use of this kind of approach to policy rather than dividing people by ethnicity.

The next step is to get back to devolving services to community level. Partnership Schools | Kura Hourua are a good example of this devolution. It is possible to let people of all backgrounds flourish in ways of their choosing, without socially engineering the whole country into two tribes.

The outcome is a clear agenda for ACT to pursue in government. A series of practical steps that would take New Zealand back to it’s true heritage of being a liberal democracy with first world social services that are responsive to the needs of all citizens. If that is something you feel you could get behind, ACT needs your support more than ever.