Sunday, February 27, 2005

Ignorance and relevance

The Holden Republic looks at Don Brash's position on public servants and the Treaty and concludes it is the fault of constitutional ignorance. I'd be harsher and add words like "pandering to" and "bigotry" into that. The demand to expunge the Treaty from employment ads (and approval of the same) strikes me as being the same sort of small-minded bigotry seen in people who refuse to patronise supermarkets with bilingual announcements. It's a demand to be allowed to continue in your own little Pakeha world, completely blind to a vital part of the history of the country, or its influence on our constitutional structure. Whether Don Brash is one of these bigots, or simply pandering to them in a cynical exercise to get votes is left as an exercise for the reader.

Lewis' solution to this, a written constitution which spells out exactly "the nature of government and sovereignty in New Zealand" is a good one, except that it requires agreement on that nature. And some are so scared of any agreement which does not match their preconceptions that they are refusing even to take part in even the first stages of a process towards reaching one. Which I think lends more weight to the "small-minded bigotry" argument above...

Meanwhile, over at Blogging it Real, DC_Red questions the relevance of the Treaty - and indeed the constitution as a whole - to people's everyday jobs. And he's right - generally speaking, the Treaty or the seperation of powers or the Bill of Rights Act do not intrude into the everyday activities of a bean-counter, paper-pusher, or sysadmin. The story is obviously different for those in any sort of policy or advisory role (depending on the area they work in), and I'd argue (and DC_Red agrees) that it is important for anyone in public service to have some idea of how it all operates. He also suggests a better way of expressing the "Treaty requirement" in job ads:

Why not include something to the effect of "the successful candidate will have knowledge of New Zealand's constitutional arrangements, including the Treaty, and their applicability to the post" in public sector job advertisements?

I agree with this wholeheartedly, as it makes it quite clear why some knowledge of the Treaty is demanded. But somehow, I suspect Dr Brash in his zealousness to expunge any reference to the Treaty as anything other than a historical document would object even to that.