Monday, August 29, 2005



No place for Maori under National

Don Brash has rehashed his Orewa speech in laying out National's treaty policy, and in doing so made it crystal clear that there is no place for Maori under a National government. Instead, he wants to disband Te Puni Kokiri and Te Mangai Paho, expunge all references to the Treaty from legislation, abolish the Maori seats, and destroy the Waitangi Tribunal - returning us to the "golden age" of the 1950's when New Zealand had "the best race relations in the world" because it simply pretended Maori did not exist.

Things have come a long way since then. The Maori population has grown both in numbers and political power. Maori culture has undergone a renaissance which is still going on. Thanks to the 1985 amendment to the Treaty of Waitangi Act, the Waitangi Tribunal gained the power to investigate historical claims, and this has led to a settlements process which is finally putting to rest the grievances of the past. And we've seen governments taking Maori problems seriously, and trying - through organisations such as TPK - to ensure that Maori are full and equal participants in our society, with living standards and life expectancies equal to those of any other New Zealander.

Brash's divisive vision puts all of that in danger. Rather than working through and solving our problems, he would introduce new grievances. Rather than trying to close the gaps between Maori and Pakeha in health, education, and employment, he would leave Maori to rot at the bottom of the heap. And rather than try to ensure Maori were listened to, he would ensure they were ignored.

Worse, as his policy for Treaty clauses and the Waitangi Tribunal show, Brash would effectively tear up the treaty, and reduce it to "a simple nullity" which the government had no obligation to keep. Even if you take a minimalist view of the Treaty's meaning, there can be no question that it imposes continuing obligations on the government to protect Maori property rights and ensure that they are equal citizens. Yet Brash is proposing to do away with the very institution and legislative clauses which recognise and enforce this obligation, and instead leave it to "the conscience of the crown" - an approach shown to be manifestly inadequate in the past.

This may go down well with the rednecks in talkbackland, but its not a solution to race relations in New Zealand. You don't bring people together by pretending that one group doesn't exist, and you don't encourage harmony by stripping a people of their rights and systematically blinding government to their interests. Quite the opposite, in fact. And the result will be festering grievances and constant relitigation through the political system until these policies are changed. And on this, time and demographics are not on Brash's side.

Brash justifies all of this on the basis that the Treaty as a 19th century document cannot possibly have anything to say about the modern world. To the contrary, I think it has something very simple and important to say: that Maori must be full and equal participants in our society, and that their needs and interests must be respected and taken into account just as those of more recent arrivals - Pakeha, Chinese, Dutch, Pacific Peoples, Afghans, Zimbabweans - are. I'd prefer a government which took that message to heart and tried to make it real, rather than one which sought to deny it from the outset in the name of grubbing votes from rednecks.

14 comments:

No place for Pakeha under Labour

Posted by Anonymous : 8/29/2005 04:08:00 PM

Hey it worked for him before and the man needs a few more voters. Can't blame a Don for trying.

Posted by muerk : 8/29/2005 04:24:00 PM

What's next? Full tax deductability for banjos?

Posted by t selwyn : 8/29/2005 05:00:00 PM

"Brash justifies all of this on the basis that the Treaty as a 19th century document cannot possibly have anything to say about the modern world."
I guess the Yanks are lucky Don's not their President, he'd be turfing out those outmoded 18th century documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America...

Posted by Psycho Milt : 8/29/2005 05:01:00 PM

It might be the one policy he can agree with Winston on though, and therefore stands a chance of implementing...

Posted by huskynut : 8/29/2005 06:41:00 PM

> You don't bring people together by pretending that one group doesn't exist

I am not sure if I can think of a country that is seperated into two racial groups despite those two racial groups not being recognised as different.

On the other hand I can hardly thing of a place where two races ARE recognised as different where there is not some form of racial disharmony.

Examples of (1) are china (where just about everyone is called "han" Japan (where just about everyone is arbitrarily called japanese)
examples of (2) are all the south east asian countries where there are chinese, any tribal area in africa etc etc

Posted by Genius : 8/29/2005 07:58:00 PM

Huskynut: except for the Maori seats. Even Winston recognises reality there, and is pushing for removal on a timetable set by Maori rather than one set by Pakeha. And I think he'd admit that if Maori vote with their feet to be represented in that way, despite all its disadvantages, then its probably better to respect their wishes.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/29/2005 11:38:00 PM

well, Don seems to have given up on the Maori vote. But by the time you add in spouses of Maori, relatives of Maori, friends of Maori etc, he won't have many voters left.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/30/2005 01:42:00 AM

Brash is talking about EQUAL, get it EQUAL treatment for ALL New Zealanders. Seems a sensible policy to me.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/30/2005 05:30:00 AM

It's just that we signed this treaty that said that we would safegaurd the rights of Maori,get it?
Brashs reiteration of the Orewa speech is the expected fallback after the non-event of the so-called tax policy.

Posted by Balach : 8/30/2005 07:09:00 AM

Reality is that Maori are reconolising from the periphery to the centre, the future "mainstream" will not be Anglo-Pakeha. Choices that we make will either make Aotearoa, New Zealand an angry or non-angry place to live. The future of this country is collaboration, embrace Maori don't deny it!

Posted by Anonymous : 8/30/2005 09:44:00 AM

Anon: exactly. Unfortunately, the desperation of the dead white males to cling to social control is likely to lead us down the "angry" path rather than the cooperative one.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/30/2005 10:35:00 AM

In my opinion, the treaty is utterly irrelevant. Maori must be full and equal participants in our society, and their needs and interests must be respected and taken into account just as those of more recent arrivals are, but that's not what the treaty says, and the absence of a treaty would not make it any less true or important.

Posted by Commie Mutant Traitor : 8/30/2005 12:43:00 PM

The problem is not just that legislation mentions Treaty Principles but that ever historical settlement deed from the mid 1980s is backed up by legislation that sets out a Treaty relationship between the Crown and iwi. For Brash to ditch the Treaty today means the Crown must ditch its Treaty relationship with iwi, and in fact put an end to all historical settlements. This is a glaring contradiction indeed which runs in the face of National Party policy. What iwi would want to accept an apology from the Crown for historical injustice without an acknowledgement of the Treaty? Very few I would imagine.

The other problem is social reality. Iwi are not going away as organisations; Maori are not going away as an ethnic group; the continuity in practice of Maori cultural norms is as strong as the continuity of the practice of Common Law in NZ. In other words, the purported irrestible force of Brash is going to hit the immovable wall of Maori ethnic identity, and I suspect that the former will come out second best. The alternative of a Brash victory, taking his rhetoric to its logical conclusion, is cultural genocide (although of course no-one will be killed, just administered out of existence).

Posted by Anonymous : 8/31/2005 11:16:00 AM