Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Treaty stands

Doug Woolerton's Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi Deletion Bill was defeated overwhelmingly in Parliament last night, with every other party uniting to vote it down. The bill was poorly drafted, and took a simple "search and delete" approach, without stopping to consider the effects of deletion on the legislation. As a result, it would not only have erased the Treaty from practical effect, but also undermined private acts (where Treaty clauses were requested by the sponsors), settlement acts (where the term usually appeared in the government's formal apology to the wronged iwi), and even the jurisdiction of the Waitangi Tribunal itself. But while this provided a convenient excuse for the right, more important is the fact that the political ground has shifted. An identical version of the bill also appeared before Parliament back in 2005, but a that stage it had the enthusiastic support of National and ACT, both of whom were whipping up racial hatred as an electoral tactic. Now, with Brash gone and the Maori Party looking to be a major player in any future coalition negotiations, that is simply no longer practical. So we have the unseemly sight of a party which just two years ago was trying to eliminate the Treaty from our laws, schools, and society speaking up to defend it. Which raises the obvious question: was it their past racism which was insincere, or their present position? Neither answer is particularly attractive.

Unfortunately, this bill won't be going away. While it has been defeated twice, NZ First made it clear that they will be reintroducing it as soon as standing orders allow (1 January next year). So, the walking corpse of Treaty eliminationism is likely to stalk the halls of Parliament again, unless we're fortunate enough to rid ourselves of Winston and his gang of xenophobic racists at the next election.