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The Real Casualty after the Orewa Speech

David Miller Online

The Real Casualty after the Orewa Speech

No matter whether one agrees with the Orewa speech or not, there is no denying that it refuses to vanish from the political landscape. The speech, the man and his party remain as talked about now as the day Don Brash delivered it and the controversy surrounding the fall out rages on. There can be no doubt that National can only gain traction in the polls by using the Treaty as its main point for debate however this upsurge in voter support has been matched by the level of condemnation from those opposed. Suddenly phrases such as ‘Maori-bashing’, ‘redneck’ and ‘racist’ have become prevalent in political rhetoric throughout the country and anyone who has expressed even the slightest hint of support for National or Dr. Brash has been branded with one or all of these labels. New Zealand’s self-belief in its cosy image of harmonious race relations has been shattered as people begin to question the state of race relations in this country in greater numbers and with greater volume.

Lost within all the controversy over bias within Government funding and accusations of racism is the fact that New Zealanders have not had the opportunity to express their views on the Treaty or any other contentious issue for such a long time. Throughout the past decade it was highly unfashionable, certainly suicidal in a political or career sense, if one spoke out and nowhere is this more apparent than within Government sponsored institutions, such as its departments, public organisations or institutions such as universities and tertiary providers. With opinion so compressed into a politically correct straight jacket only those who advocate a socialist point of view can be heard. Anyone else must hold his or her tongue.

However, so much of the controversy that surrounds Dr. Brash and National’s policies on the Treaty and race is a result of this restriction of speech. Unfortunately there are those who do hold racist or extremist views and who are speaking out but for many people there is simply a lack of understanding of the Treaty and its relevance to 21st Century New Zealand society.

People should not be afraid of questioning the role of that the Treaty plays within New Zealand and nor should they be intimidated by those socialists who dominate the country’s public institutions and sectors of the media. Without question there cannot be understanding and without understanding there can be no acceptance and development. If there is no opportunity for learning and the chance to see all sides of the debate then what is bred is resentment and eventually hostility.

The need to be allowed to question the Treaty, race relations and other contentious issues such as the detention of Ahmed Zaoui, the war in Iraq and New Zealand’s relationship with the United States is not only long overdue but needs to be addressed and allowed. Simply because someone does not understand the Treaty or supports the invasion of Iraq does not automatically brand someone a right wing fanatic or a racist nor does it condemn their view to going unheard. Ignorance and racism are unacceptable in any society but one way to ensure that they arise is to strangle debate, questioning of the issues and different points of view. If there is one lesson that New Zealand must learn in the wake of Dr. Brash’s Orewa speech is that being overly political correct does more harm than good and will not help this country in the long run.


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