Monday, February 16, 2004


That's the only way to describe it. I'm disappointed that Don Brash can gain so much by playing the race card and pandering to ignorance and prejudice. I thought we were a better country than that.

I've been waiting around to see the promised additional questions from the poll, and I think the money stat is this one: 57% of respondents thought that Maori were "getting too much" from the government. This is a view that National and especially ACT have worked very hard at promoting - using dodgy statistics or simply making shit up if necessary - but a look at the facts shows that it's simply not the case. Treaty settlements - righting the wrongs of the past - have accounted for about 0.1% of total government spending in the past five years. And in health and education, Maori receive funding which is within one or two percentage points of their proportion of the population. Given the appalling statistics on Maori health, literacy, employment and life-expectency, I fail to see how that is "too much".

The comparisons to Pauline Hanson are entirely appropriate. Like Hanson, Brash has singled out a grossly disadvantaged group, accused them of privilege, and profited by it. Unlike Hanson, Brash is well educated, and ought to know better. That makes it all the more despicable.

While I don't for a minute believe that any of this will lead to "fighting in the streets" (we're definately not that sort of country, and Clayton Cosgrove should be ashamed of himself for that piece of hyperbole), it does stand a good chance of undermining the remarkable progress we've made on race-relations over my lifetime. We've gone from being a country which actively denied the past and relegated Maori to performing quaint little dances for visiting dignitaries to one which acknowledges and attempts to remedy its past mistakes, and where Maori are beginning to partake of the partnership that was promised to them. Understandably, some people (let's call them "our parents") find this threatening - but it is the only way forward. Denying the past will simply result in things festering and being endlessly relitigated. Only by resolving past grievances and ensuring that Maori - like other New Zealanders - partake fully in our society can we move forward.