Politics

National's bid for more diversity conjuring up more white men

Is National in a position to determine any policy relating to Māori equity considering a stark lack of diversity?

Tova O'Brien and Christopher Luxon spoke on the issue of a lack of diversity in the candidates for the Tauranga by-election, and the wider party in general. Especially when considering National's opposition to the Māori Health Authority, though the party currently has no plans to scrap it altogether.

O'Brien asked the opposition leader outright if National is in the best shape to be determining any policy relating to Māori equity.

"Absolutely," Said Luxon. 

"I think the National Party's had a very proud track record with Māori, you know, if you think about starting off with Duncan MacIntyre, on Te Reo, when you think about treaty settlement claims, you think about social investment and you think about also the progress that we're making on Māori education on the Māori economy through the national government."

O'Brien asked Luxon once Simon Bridges goes, how many Māori MPs would be in National's caucus.

Luxon said they would have two. That's two out of 33 sitting MP's.

"I've said to you before we don't have the diversity that we want to have in the National Party but we will in 2023 and that's a function of having done very very poorly in the election in 2020. 

"So I can tell you now we are getting great candidates reaching out to us over the summer through our National 101 programs wanting to explore candidacy with the National Party."

O'Brien asked Luxon if National has any Māori in the running for the now-empty Simon Bridges Tauranga seat.

"That'll be determined ultimately by the local electorate and that candidate will be announced I think on Sunday."

Asked if there will be any Women in the running, Luxon said again "I'll let the local body determine that and I'll come through on Sunday with the final announcement."

O'Brien asked Luxon if he would be disappointed if no Māori or female candidates were in the mix considering his strong stance on wanting more diversity in the party in prior interviews.

"What I'd say is the by-elections are slightly different because it comes at short notice. 

"But what I can tell you is we are working incredibly hard to make sure that we're going to end up with really a great amount of diversity into our 2023 slate of candidates. And I'm really passionate about that. I'm really committed to that.

"I've been working with the board about how we actually identify talent, how we actually help people start to explore candidacy, really understand what's involved, not an easy decision to decide at short notice to become an MP. 

"But what you've really got to do is actually support people through that process, make sure they understand what they're getting into, make sure what kind of support that they have available to them.

"From my point of view, we need to be a 'National' National party. I've said that I've been very upfront about it and we're going to continue to build that."

O'Brien said she doesn't buy the excuse around by-elections being short notice and to her understanding, there are four candidates that are all white men.

"That may well be the case," responded Luxon.

"But I'm telling you, we have the final candidate on Sunday. But what I'm saying to you, is don't doubt that there's a commitment to diversity and inclusion in the National Party."

O'Brien responded by saying "It's easy to doubt that there's a commitment to diversity within the National Party if you don't have any diversity in your first candidate selection."

Luxon said "we have got put new processes in place in January, that we've tried to work out how we can get more diverse candidates into the National Party, we're having great conversations with people. There are diverse candidates exploring candidacy with us."

O'Brien interjected to say there doesn't seem to be any in Tauranga.

Luxon continued to say they have a lot of work to do before 2023 but they are working on it.

"You're off to a terrible start," O'Brien replied. 

"If you have zero Māori in your potential candidates in Tauranga and you're sitting here telling me how important diversity is to you…"

O'Brien asked Luxon if he had considered a prior recommendation from her about embedding the Treaty of Waitangi into the party's constitution.

Luxon says they have done this.

Listen to the full interview between National Party Leader Christopher Luxon and Tova above.

You can also download the full interview on the Tova podcast, and listen on the go. Check it out on the rova app or wherever you get your podcasts.