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English Address to the Wellington Rotary Club


Hon Bill English MP National Party Leader

11 August 2003,
12.30 pm

Address to the Rotary Club of Wellington Copthorne Hotel, Wellington

It's as much the job of Opposition to propose, as it is to oppose. New Zealand faces some real and crucial choices on what place we give to the Treaty of Waitangi over the next few decades.

National has proposed a way forward - one standard of citizenship. Whatever differences of race religion or income, we ought to concentrate more on our common rights and obligations. We ought to have more pride in the singular privilege we all enjoy - citizenship of this wonderful country.

That's a proposition I will come back to, but we also have a duty to oppose and in recent weeks there's been no choice.

The civil service was caught out "Lying in Unison" over an immigration case. The media, the public and the Opposition used to be able to assume that civil servants might avoid the question or bury it with bureaucratise - but no longer.

Now they have license to lie, because Labour have given them that license. There is an enquiry into the "Lying in Unison" scandal. It will be carried out by the Secretary of Labour, and his job is to find out if his Minister is innocent or guilty. I suspect it's more about finding out how the "lying in unison" memo ended up in the media.

The civil service should not accommodate Labour's partisan interest. The State Services Commissioner must protect the integrity of the civil service by initiating his own independent inquiry.

The Solicitor-General might also be wondering his future role. He advised the Privileges Committee of Parliament that Harry Duynhoven had disqualified himself from Parliament. Margaret Wilson, Attorney General, voted against that unequivocal advice from the Government's senior legal advisor.

This is just one small scandal in a large one. Harry Duynhoven is the first MP in our history to be elected not by ballot, but by legislation.

We should no longer be surprised by Labour's attitude. The Save Harry Bill is the second time that Clark, Cullen and Wilson have abused Parliament. Remember the farce last year when Helen Clark defended Jim Anderton's right to sit in Parliament as the leader of the Alliance, when outside Parliament he had been kicked out of the Alliance and had formed a new party.

The Duynhoven Bill shows Labour regard themselves as above the law, and it starts with the Prime Minister. Whether it's Paintergate, Corngate, the Alliance party hopping debacle, and now the Duynhoven Act.

Helen Clark has done a Mugabe on our electoral system - a trail of dishonest behaviour that defies our expectations of decent behaviour in light of the law and its spirit.

Parliament itself has now been corrupted for Labour's political convenience.

Harry Duynhoven disqualified himself on June 11 from sitting in Parliament. This was revealed in early July. Last week, another month later, Parliament passed legislation to retrospectively absolve him. A disqualified MP sat in the House for two months, Harry Duynhoven did not step down, and still the Speaker did not declare a vacancy.

Why not?

Helen Clark and the Speaker have had for at least a month unequivocal advice from the Solicitor-General and the Clerk of the House that Duynhoven was disqualified.

Why didn't they act?

Nothing is as fundamental to Parliament as the privilege to sit in it. Could any National MP expect such indulgence, or sloppiness?

The explanations don't wash. First, it was an archaic law. It turns out the law as amended and confirmed last year, 2002.

Then it was too expensive to have a by-election. Last week, Parliament spent $3.5m of time passing Harry's Bill to save the $350,000 cost of a by-election.

Then Labour wouldn't own up to other MPs covered by the law.

The real reason for this Act is that a by-election in New Plymouth would be bad for Labour. It would disrupt the Prime Minister's travel plans. It would expose Labour to public opinion over who owns the beaches and the seabed - in a city built by the beach, the hub of an industry taking energy from the seabed.

Sometimes principles are inconvenient, but that's the time when they matter most. No MP is above the law - ask Nick Smith, facing bills of over $100,000 to defend himself from a contempt charge, which if successful could see him ejected from Parliament. All for doing his job and sticking up for a family caught up in long delays in the Family Court.

Ironically, Parliament has in front of it a piece of legislation, which will remove any possibility that his statements amount to contempt.

So, this is the Government we are meant to trust with the Treaty. Labour has earned mistrust. No Prime Minister of New Zealand has had less to say about the Treaty and race relations as Helen Clark. It's critical for any New Zealand government to talk to the public, to set a direction. Labour lacks the courage.

But let's stand back from the current controversy for a moment and look at ourselves.

New Zealand has a short, dramatic history. Because we are a small country, things can change fast and our society has to change fast too.

We are a mixture of peoples - Polynesian, Asian, European, Maori. We will become more of a mixed-race nation over the next generation.

It is already hard to tell who belongs where - just go to a children's sports event and see for yourself. Look at the All Blacks. Look at the Maori All Blacks. Look at Wellington's own Christian Cullen.

The face of New Zealand is browning and whitening, and there is yet to be significant Asian intermarriage into our population, but it will most surely occur.

This isn't about how New Zealand should be. It's what people are doing; it's how they are living.

I want each and every New Zealander to know their own story, but also to be proud of the story about their country - a country that has opened its arms to them; that cares for their children. A country that is their home, wherever they have come from.

Today, we cannot give them that story. Because today the story of New Zealand is about failure, loss and division, reparation and recrimination.

We have a history people don't know, because they don't want to know it, and because that history is so loaded up with political correctness that we now have in place the cultural equivalent of the regulated economy.

And then there's the culture of claim and blame. Sure, there are other positive stories that go along with it, but they are not about the heart of our nation.

I want to change that. I want this country collectively to share the pride in what we have made of this country - the same pride many New Zealanders have felt for most of their lives.

What do I mean by citizenship? I mean people who love their country; who recognise that New Zealand represents rights of legislative privileges and opportunities that are unique. People who treasure our national values of fairness, equality, opportunity, and our environment; the intimacy and the tolerance; the determination and the hopes of our small, distant country.

These ought to outweigh the significance of race. The sense of our nation has to be stronger than the sense of our different races.

I believe our country honours all its citizens by treating them equally. This was not always the case. At different times our laws have discriminated against different groups - they have not had the full rights of citizenship.

But now they do. People may be disadvantaged by birth, or wealth or misfortune, but being a New Zealander disadvantages no one by the laws and rights of that citizenship.

So one standard of citizenship is a call for unity and for progress.

It represents the fulfilment of all that Maori have striven for in 150 years - equal protection of the law; certain property rights; a place for different beliefs and customs, and a future that is uplifting. But our citizenship will not be built on a contest of colonial cultures - it will be built on a new, third culture.

It's indigenous, it's unique to New Zealand; it's shaped by the realities of today's New Zealanders and how they live. It is not the property of any elite or left wing project in nation building. It's not a prisoner to yesterday's New Zealanders.

That's why I've gone out strongly on the foreshore and seabed issue.

Our view is straightforward. The Court of Appeal's decision in June invited Parliament to clarify the position on ownership of the seabed and foreshore. In the absence of clarity, it supported Maori to seek to establish customary rights to this area through the Maori Land Court, which could in turn lead to the granting of customary title.

National takes the firm view that Parliament must legislate to remove any doubt that the foreshore and seabed are owned exclusively by the public, regardless of race. There should be no compromise or deals on that.

Ownership cannot be divided; whoever owns the beaches and seabed will expect to exercise the rights of ownership eventually.

Does that overstate matters?

I think not. Last month, over 1000 Maori from around New Zealand gathered for the largest hui in a decade in Paeroa to discuss the issue. They declared that:

* the foreshore and seabed belong to hapu and iwi under our tino rangatiratanga, and

* the final decision on the foreshore and seabed rests exclusively with hapu and iwi. Since the Court of Appeal's decision there have been a rush of claims lodged over several thousand kilometres of coastline. What will happen to them?

Well, I predict Labour will introduce some form of special title, some form of ownership, for Maori. No matter whether that allows public access, I say that's not good enough because one day Maori will want to exercise the same rights of ownership as every other New Zealander can.

So, we stand for one standard of citizenship for all because we don't want a separatist culture for our country. The idea that Maori instincts are quite separate and quite different now permeates public life.

Your local council is now required by law to set up special consultation with Maori.

Does putting people into racial categories predict how everyone in that category will think or behave?

Ask yourselves - do all Maori think the same?

Are they so collective that if you talk to one, you have talked to all?

Does this mean Maori have group rights, not individual rights - and each individual Maori has to accept that?

These racial definitions carry the risk of reinforcing stereotypes because they make assumptions about what Maori think and do. Maori are as variable as any other group, with a whole mixed bag of motives and interests. Too often the Government assumes that Maori even more than the rest of us have nothing better to do than be involved in endless meetings and politics. One effect of all this is that iwi are developing a crucial role with respect to local government.

I would argue that well organised iwi are now almost a form of parallel local government. But iwi don't pretend to represent Maori - just themselves and people with a whakapapa to them. The Treaty is not a strait jacket; it's a starting point. Labour says we signed the Treaty in 1840 and have to stick to it, whether we like it or not.

Michael Cullen says "the Treaty proper exists only in its Maori version" and that this version "takes precedence" over any other version.

He goes on to say the legal rulings on this are quite clear. The Maori version comes first.

Dr Cullen says:

"This is very important. It genuinely makes the Treaty a living document where new applications or implications may arise as circumstances change."

And he concludes that on this basis Maori have rights that other New Zealanders do not have.

How can we possibly limit the potential of our country to a legalistic view of a non-legal document, signed 160 years ago and read according to Maori and Pakeha understandings of the time?

It cannot define our democracy today.

This is the kind of liberal fundamentalism of a generation of Labour politicians, who lost their moral compass in the 'sixties,' for whom the Treaty seems to be the only certainty in life - everything else is relative.

Full citizenship for New Zealanders is a right for everyone. No amount of political correctness will be allowed to deny that right. We are the Party of national unity with one standard of citizenship, and we share a national ambition for strong communities and a strong economy. That's what the next National Government will deliver for you. Thank you

ENDS

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