Removing the Māori seats: Simon Bridges asks, 'Would it be worth it?'

National has "some sympathy" for ACT's plan to cut the number of MPs and the Māori seats, but isn't sure the hassle would be worth it.

In a speech to a few dozen of the party's hardcore supporters in Remuera on Sunday afternoon, David Seymour announced he's putting a Private Member's Bill into the ballot which would:

  • reduce Parliament to 100 MPs
  • scrap the Māori seats
  • limit the number of ministers to 20
  • force all candidates, even those intending to be elected via the list, to stand in an electorate
  • force MPs elected via the list open an office in the electorate they stood in.

"We're the only party drawing a line in the sand saying if you can't start reducing the number of MPs and overpaid ministers, how are we going to possibly batten down the hatches and get through a coming financial crisis?" Mr Seymour told The AM Show on Monday.

The last time the public was asked about reducing the number of MPs was 1999. More than 80 percent of voters agreed with knocking the number of MPs down to 99, but the referendum was non-binding and ignored by Parliament.

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: The AM Show

"I've got some sympathy for it," National leader Simon Bridges told The AM Show on Monday.

"If you look at the executive right now, we've got 31 on it. It's the biggest, the flabbiest executive we've ever seen. You've got to say there's a bit of a sense of jobs for people who don't necessarily need them."

The current executive consists of 20 Cabinet members, eight ministers outside of Cabinet and three Parliamentary under-secretaries - a total of 31. Before being booted from office, the National-led Government had 20 Cabinet members, seven ministers outside of Cabinet and one under-secretary - Mr Seymour - for a total of 28.

Mr Bridges was less keen on reducing the overall number of MPs.

"Take some of the South Island seats - some of them are already bigger than the state of Israel, so you'd be ramping up the size of them."

Reducing the size of Parliament by 20 MPs, assuming they're all backbenchers with no ministerial responsibilities, would save the taxpayer $3.2 million in salary costs out of a total annual expenditure of nearly $80 billion.

Accused of stealing the policy from rivals New Zealand First, Mr Seymour said Winston Peters had "completely sold out" and couldn't be relied on to get it done.

"This policy is something Winston Peters said he'd make a bottom line - they guy had more bottom lines in the election than a 100-year-old elephant. Now he's the Deputy Prime Minister and he's doing nothing about it."

Simon Bridges.
Simon Bridges. Photo credit: The AM Show

'Would it be worth it?'

Mr Seymour wants to can the Māori seats, telling supporters there is already enough Māori representation via the general roll.

"New Zealand is a modern, diverse democracy. There is simply no longer a place for one group of people to be treated differently under the law."

Mr Bridges said it remains National Party policy to get rid of the Māori seats, but it's not a priority.

"Let's be honest - it would be incredibly divisive. I think we'd see protests like we've never seen before, so you've got to say actually, would it be worth it?"

No moves were made to get rid of the seats under John Key's tenure as Prime Minister because National relied on the Māori Party to pass legislation its other partners, ACT and United Future, wouldn't support.

"That's politics, that's MMP," said Mr Bridges, not ruling it out in a future National-led Government.

National didn't actually need the Māori Party to form a Government.