David Seymour, Chlöe Swarbrick clash over James Shaw's comments on treaty referendum as Christopher Luxon dubs it 'divisive', 'unhelpful'

MPs Chlöe Swarbrick and David Seymour have clashed over the latter's proposed treaty referendum in a live interview on AM as parties on the left fear "it could cause violence". 

Seymour, the ACT party leader, campaigned on ending co-governance and for New Zealand to re-think the Treaty of Waitangi. In the late stages of the campaign trail he told Whakaata Māori the referendum is a non-negotiable.   

On Sunday Te Pati Māori president John Tamihere told The Hui to "unravel" and "question" the treaty will create "some of the largest civil disobedience and unrest in the country, and they know that".  

Meanwhile Green Party co-leader James Shaw told Stuff's podcast Tova he would be "horrified to see where that could go".  

"I think you have just seen the equivalent of that in Australia, where you have a majority that has voted to continue to override the indigenous rights there, and I think you could see something very similar here," he told Tova.   

"If that happens, you will see wide scale social disruption - it could lead to violence."  

By Monday Seymour joined AM alongside Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick where Shaw and Tamihere's comments were put to him.   

"Well, I mean, you expect it from John Tamihere he is unhinged and irresponsible in just about everything that he does."  

Though when it came to Shaw's comments, Seymour was "really surprised".  

"To lose an election and then say if the democratic will of the people is honored there will be violence, that's the sort of thing I would expect from fringe lunatic politicians, not from James Shaw who has just had a really good result, who's generally regarded as a respectable person," he said.  

"For him to be making that sort of veiled threat, actually saying violence is justified if you disagree with a political outcome."   

Swarbrick fired back, saying "that's not what James said".

"It's exactly what he said," Seymour replied.  

"It's unforgivable in my view and I think James Shaw should retract that and say it's never acceptable to have violence, we will participate in a healthy, rational discussion about our constitutional future."  

Swarbrick hit back, telling AM Shaw was not making "any form of veiled threats" and said for Seymour to imply that is "actually rather irresponsible".  

"What he was saying was, if you look at the trajectory of those conversations and the type of rhetoric that tends to come forward from an oversimplified binary does divide people," Swarbrick said.  

"Then you need to look at the consequences that have occurred over the course of history."  

AM's Ryan Bridge asked Swarbrick if functions of democracy should be used in this scenario, which she replied "absolutely", but believes the way to achieve that is not through a "reductive binary referendum which is presupposing that there's only two ways that this conversation can play out".

"The point the Greens have made is that we can have these conversations in a way that doesn't presuppose that there's a binary outcome." 

Luxon is standing by the position National made during the campaign that "we think it [a referendum] is divisive and it would be unhelpful. So again, we'll get our way through those issues with the respective parties".  

"Well, again, I'm just not going to play the rule-in, rule-out game. Our position is really clear on that, we've felt very strongly that a referendum would be divisive but again, I'm not wanting to negotiate through the media."  

Watch the full interview above for more.