Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Labour's racist covid policy

For the past two weeks the Waitangi Tribunal has been hearing evidence on the government's Covid-19 response and its effect on Māori. This morning they released their urgent report [PDF], which is absolutely damning. In it, they find that the government's decisions to not prioritise Māori for vaccination and to move to the new "traffic light" framework when many Māori had been left behind in the vaccination race ignored scientific advice from officials and public health experts and violated its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi and put Māori at risk.

The government's excuse for all of this is that they were worried about public reaction and a "racist backlash" - effectively by the ghost of Don Brash. The Tribunal is particularly scathing of this:

The Crown has a Treaty duty to adopt rational, scientific, equitable policy choices for Maaori. It has a moral and ethical duty to defend them against unreasonable public backlash. It cannot simply find ways of avoiding these duties by coming up with less equitable alternatives; it must make those choices that sustain Maaori well-being, and then explain and defend them as long and as vocally as is required. Failing to perform these duties for the sake of political convenience does not reflect the Treaty partnership and, in fact, threatens the fundamental basis for it.
The question now is what the government is going to do to fix this. They've already agreed to set up a new state-Māori liaison group, Ngā Mana Whakahaere o Covid-19, and to prioritise vaccination for Māori children, and that sounds like a good start. The question is whether they'll actually deliver. But if they don't, then they'll be inviting an electoral backlash from Māori in 2023.