Wednesday, March 10, 2004


The idea of a royal commission to investigate the Treaty and define exactly what those "Treaty principles" are seems to have caught on, with most parties coming out in support (to be fair, everyone has suggested it at some time in the past, but now they all seem to be agreeing all at once). The only holdout is National, who have labelled it a "smokescreen" and a "diversionary tactic" which would "resolve nothing".

To the contrary - the whole idea of a royal commission is to resolve these fundamental constitutional issues. And while it may not reach a conclusion, even the act of investigation is likely to shed some light on the subject. At a minimum, by allowing people to have a say and vent a bit of steam a formal inquiry would likely significantly reduce the tension surrounding the Treaty and race relations. And that is precisely why National doesn't like the idea. Despite all their talk of "debate", they're not actually interested in informing the public or building consensus - their plan has always been to stoke racial tension to get votes.

Update: David Slack has emailed me to point out another perspective: that of Tariana Turia, who points out that we already have such a commission of inquiry in the Waitangi Tribunal:

"The Waitangi Tribunal is charged by legislation with determining the meaning and effect of the Treaty as embodied in the two texts, and deciding issues raised by the differences between them.

"In considering claims, it must decide if the Crown breached the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

"Over almost 30 years, the Waitangi Tribunal has made extensive findings on the intent of the original signatories, and how their aspirations in 1840 can be realised in today's circumstances... It has made extensive comments on the principles of the Treaty.

Which is pretty much what we're after. Unfortunately, as Turia points out, pakeha generally don't pay much attention to the Tribunal (except, perhaps, to complain about it), and as a result these findings have been ignored.