Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Treaty stands

The Justice and Electoral Committee has reported back [PDF] on Doug Woolerton's Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi Deletion Bill, and recommended that it not proceed. Actually, that's putting it mildly - it found that the bill was inconsistent in its application, that it would make entire sections of law "a nonsense" and could even "make the [Waitangi] tribunal's jurisdiction itself nonsensical", that it undermined existing Treaty settlements and could lead to further claims, and that it

would send a message that the Crown was minimising recognition of the Treaty and the status of Maori, and would have a divisive effect by implying a lack of good faith on the part of the Crown
Which about sums up my objections in a nutshell. NZ First is of course livid, claiming that the overwhelming number of submitters who opposed the bill had deliberately misunderstood it and focused on the explanatory note rather than the bill itself. To the contrary, I think we understood it all too well: this bill was about erasing the Treaty and robbing it of legal force, while giving the finger to Maori. And I'm very glad that it has failed.

One other interesting point is that National's flip-flop on the principles of the Treaty is now complete. Having been enthusiastic advocates of excising the Treaty from legislation just a few years ago, they are now strongly defending it. So what's changed? Firstly, Don Brash has departed, and some sanity on racial and constitutional issues has been restored; and secondly, National has finally figured out that it is likely to need the support of the Maori Party if it is to have any hope of governing in future. OTOH, given John Key's infinite malleability on policy, I wouldn't want to bet against a return to their crude race-baiting tactics as the polls narrow...