David Seymour denies Treaty Principles Bill divisive, Willie Jackson calls it 'most divisive of last generation'

ACT Party leader David Seymour denies he's being divisive as he pushes his Treaty Principles Bill.  

He made his State of the Nation speech in Auckland on Sunday and claimed it's the people calling the debate racist who are instigating the trouble.  

Now that he's got the power, Seymour laid out the plan for his ACT Party supporters. It includes "simplifying our health and safety laws", to rewrite the Arms Act, and "improving farm environment plans".  

But one nugget from last year's coalition negotiations is causing extra niggle - the Treaty Principles Bill.  

Seymour said those proposed principles are one law and government, self-determination for all - not just Māori - and everyone having the same rights and duties.  

"Our Bill means Parliament would legislate that those are the principles, and that means that we are not a partnership between races," said Seymour.  

"We are not people who have to look at our family tree to find out how we fit in. We're all New Zealanders with the same basic rights."  

The Treaty Principles Bill became a New Years headache for the Government after a leaked draft Ministry of Justice paper revealed the proposed principles, which don't include rights specifically for Māori. Frustration was clear at the Kīngitanga's hui-aa-motu last week, as well as at Rātana celebrations.  

"If there is any measure of meddling with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Māori will not sit idly by," said Waikato-Tainui's Rahui Papa at Rātana.  

After skipping the Kīngitanga's hui and Rātana, this was Seymour's first big political speech of the year, and he's on the defensive ahead of Waitangi in a week's time.  

"Don't call anyone who disagrees with you racist. What you say is not only true, only untrue, but saying it cheapens a powerful term," Seymour said.  

"Don't say, or even hint, that there will be violence if you don't get your way. That's just pathetic."

He even went as far as to call out senior Māori.   

"Leaders in Maoridom who have the ear of the young need to ask themselves: are they dealing with the issues responsibly, or simply inciting baseless racial resentment?"  

Labour's Willie Jackson said: "He's threatening to take away Māori rights, and when you threaten to take away Māori rights, you get an upset Māori nation."  

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon this week repeated his unease with the legislation, which he's only committing to support at the first reading.  

"We think it is divisive and unhelpful," said Luxon.  

 Jackson said: "It's probably the most divisive Bill of the last generation."  

Asked if he acknowledged the Treaty Principles debate was divisive, Seymour said: "No, I don't."   

"Ultimately if we say that the Treaty Principles debate is divisive what we are really saying is we can't do anything where people disagree in this country."  

Seymour was talking to the converted on Sunday as he prepares to head north to a potentially different reception.