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Racist Legislation Not The Answer - Newman

By pegging its future success to an objective that is ethnically focussed, such as closing the gaps,the Government risks not only alienating the rest of the country but damaging Maori in the process.

A key strategy in Labour’s closing the gaps policy is the introduction of legislation based on race. The Government intends to insert Treaty clauses into social policy with an objective of ‘promoting economic and social equity between Maori and non-Maori’. The rationale is that the Treaty is a ‘living document’ that has force only when it is included in law.

The reality is, of course, that racially based legislation can lead to apartheid. It can divide a country as power and wealth are stripped from all citizens in favour of special privileges given to an ethnic minority, far in excess of their rights as citizens. Further, such a process can have a corrupting influence as the ethnic elite line up for their share of the state largesse. One has to look no further than the Tainui treaty settlement debacle to understand how bad it can get.

Tainui leaders believed that the Treaty settlement was a watershed opportunity for Tainui to take the future into their own hands, to close the gaps and bring hope to their people. The reality was that millions of dollars were squandered on perks, risky business ventures and general incompetence. Meanwhile, poor Maori families in Huntley, who had their expectations raised by the settlement process, remain trapped in disadvantage.

The only law that is relevant in the twenty first century in a free and democratic country with a diverse cultural base, is one law for all. However, that does not preclude a thorough analysis of present laws to identify those that could be exacerbating negative outcomes for Maori. It is well known that Maori suffer from poor health, educational failure, and are over-represented in crime, violence, and welfare dependency.

Many of these, are interrelated: people who are unemployed are more likely to get sick, people who are working are less likely to commit crimes, people who drop out of school are less likely to get a good job.

Common sense tells us the single most effective way of closing the gaps is to ensure that everyone has a job. If New Zealand had full employment, then even those most disadvantaged would have an opportunity to participate. Policies to create full employment should be leading the agenda of any Government that is seriously committed to ‘closing the gaps’.

Yet, sadly for all of those people concerned about the growing levels of disparity emerging in this country, the agenda of the government has been shown to be the exact opposite. By raising taxes, re-nationalising ACC and re-introducing union domination of the workforce, the Government has undermined business confidence, causing many successful businesses to leave New Zealand taking away expertise, capital and jobs.

The Government has stated that a key to closing the gaps is building an ‘inclusive society’, yet it ignores the fact that welfare dependency, more than anything else, alienates people from the mainstream. Long term welfare dependency in particular, damages children; parents, who have been on welfare for years, all too often, fail to appreciate the importance of education - reading, working hard, doing homework – and there is little encouragement for children to get after-school jobs, to learn about managing money, saving, and other life skills that so many take for granted.

The Government will not close the real gaps between Maori and other New Zealanders through racist legislation that provides special privileges and handouts to the well educated, well positioned Maori elite.

The gaps will start to be closed when the Government focuses on the key issues – creating jobs through lowering taxes and reducing red tape, ending welfare dependency through supporting people on welfare into job enhancing activities, and ensuring that every child starts school ready to learn and able to rise up through education.


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