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Richard Prebble Speech: Race Relations - The Issue

Richard Prebble Speech: Race Relations - The Issue

Hon Richard Prebble MP Leader ACT NEW ZEALAND

Speech to Auckland Harbour Rotary 7 am Tuesday 10 February 2004 Hyatt Regency, Cnr Waterloo Quadrant and Princes St, Auckland.

I would like to address the real issue facing New Zealand. Where are Labour's Treaty polices taking us?

On our national day we all saw the ugly scenes at Waitangi. Our Prime Minister jostled, the Leader of the Opposition had mud thrown at him, the Police were punched, a disgrace.

No doubt we will have calls for ANZAC day to be our national day, as if that is the reason for the discord.

No doubt Labour MPs will later today claim that Don Brash is some how to blame.

Indeed, I note that Helen Clark is already telling media she is not willing to debate the issues that Don Brash has raised and instead keeps saying he is being divisive. As if in some way Labour's policies were uniting us.

I believe that the successive Treaty policies of both Labour and National governments are at fault. As a country we have gone down a false trail and it is time to stop and strike out on a new course.

The Treaty of Waitangi Commission was a noble idea that we could in some way redress the wrongs of history. I expressed real reservations about how this generation can atone for the acts of another and was told by Koro Wetere that Maori only wanted an acknowledgement, symbolic payment and an apology. The whole process should only take five years.

It was to be like the truth commission in South Africa, a way of setting the past behind us and together moving on.

It has become a grievance industry. Far from uniting us, the Treaty is dividing us. The Maori sense of injustice is growing. The Treaty is now interpreted as a mandate for everything including separate sovereignty.

The question now is, where is Labour taking us?

Last month I would have posed that question as "Where are the two old parties taking us?" Labour and National's Treaty policies were identical and it is still true that National has done more settlements than Labour.

I have a number of issues with the government's Treaty policies. The original aim was laudatory but it is clear it is not working. After 20 years the gap between the races has never been wider.

My second is the timetable. When is this going to end? There are now 792 registered claims in front of the Tribunal.

Maori have not accepted that the settlements are in full and final so what have we achieved?

Where is the democratic mandate for successive government's treaty policy?

What is the goal? What is Labour's agenda? Where are we going? What sort of nation is Labour trying to create?

The pictures on our TV screens said it all. Race relations have never been worse.

Labour has no timetable for closure. This year it is the foreshore and seabed. Next year it will be an even more imaginative claim. There is no limit.

In the rewrite of history, we are not told that in most cases this is not the first settlement. Last year I stunned United MP Murray Smith, who had just told the House that it was a disgrace that parliament had never acknowledged the wrong at Parihaka, by reading out to him a 1940s Hansard where the Minister of Justice acknowledged the wrong, moved compensation that in 1940s money was bigger than Labour's Taranaki settlement and was on top of two earlier settlements. What no one ever says is that no one died at Parihaka. A strange sort of holocaust.

I predict that if we do not change direction, the next generation will face the same claims.

The electorate has never been able to vote on this issue.

One of the reasons the MMP referendum passed was the electorate has been disenfranchised on Treaty issues. Race relations are an issue on which the Wellington establishment believes we are not to have a view. The Treaty is an issue for unelected judges, the two old parties and the civil service.

Labour knows that its views have no support so our taxes are taken to be spent on "treaty education". The left has always believed that any one who opposes them is ignorant

It is arrogant, elitist nonsense.

As Don Brash has discovered, if you question Labour's Maori policy you are branded as a red neck and accused of playing the race card. Welcome to the club. It is a deliberate strategy to prevent intelligent debate.

So what is Labour's goal? Helen Clark, has not made a speech about Labour's policies on race for four years.

Then she said "I want to say a word about the government's commitment to closing the gaps. In the 1980s and the 1990s inequality deepened greatly... unfortunately New Zealand has had the fastest growth in inequality than any other country in the developed world. That is shameful. In our country that inequality has had a unique and unfortunate dimension. There has been growing disparity between the life chances of Maori and other New Zealanders..." The government's own researcher Dr Simon Chapple has produced research to show claims of growing economic gap are false. Inequality is explained by factors such as rural residents being poorer. Labour has changed the name of the policy but not the content. More and more programmes are race based. Apologists for the government still trot out the claims that Maori are disadvantaged because they are Maori. Labour last year even put out research to claim that Maori paid more in taxes than Maori received in benefits. ACT released careful research showing that claim to be false. The Maori tax/benefit gap is five billion. Maori pay 2.3 billion and receive back 7.3 billion.

Helen Clark knows that her claims were wrong and she has never repeated them. So what is the reason for this massive expenditure? An old fashion one, votes..

The media are very reluctant to apply the same scrutiny to this expenditure. Millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent on Maori capacity building with no output measures. Some major media only reported the debate in ACT on whether to release our research on the Maori tax/benefit gap and Helen Clark calling ACT racist. These papers did not report that we had found government funded research was false.

Some commenter are scared of being labeled racist. Others in the fourth estate think that they need to censor what they report on Treaty issues because they think we are not to be trusted with the facts so as to form our own views.

Repeated polls show the average Kiwi is enlightened. People want good race relations and are willing to support policies that will bring us together. There has always been support for policies like improving literacy, which voters know will most benefit Maori. Rural health has always enjoyed strong support in the cities even though people realize Maori will be the major beneficiary. Even settling historic grievances has support provided it is not going to create a grievance industry

I do trust the New Zealand public.

One reason why successive government's Treaty policies have failed is because they have lacked a buy-in from the public and, just as important, from Maori. A majority of Maori have never accepted the premises of the race-based policies, that Maori can not succeed with out special assistance. The view of most Maori is the same as their fellow citizens - to be given equal, not special, treatment.

The lack of a say on government policy is why Don Brash's speech last month was so important.

For the first time there is a clear choice. Don Brash put forward a vision of New Zealand where every citizen is treated on the basis of need not race.

For those who say - "ACT has been saying this for years", this is true. So has Winston Peters. Until National changed its policy it was not realistic to expect a real change.

Now voters know that if the center-right wins the next election there will be a new direction.

The policy change is so fundamental, so important that the way we vote next election will determine our nation's future.

We have polling that indicates the electorate realises the importance of the issue and this will decide the party choice of many voters.

You are right to give this issue high priority.

Over human history, societies have found the dilemma of co-existing with other races, religions and differing political beliefs, to be an insolvable problem. In nations like Iraq, it is still insolvable.

We are fortunate that the nation that has come up with a workable solution - Britain -founded this nation. The English answer that goes back to the principles of Magna Carta is equality before the law. The rule of law is the principle behind that great liberal charter the US Constitution.

No other answer has ever worked.

We should not be surprised at the failure of Labour's policy. Race-based law has never worked. It is for those who advocate racial laws to cite an example of its success.

I think it is no accident that Don Brash, Winston Peters and Richard Prebble all make a stand on this issue. None of our children are white. For our families this is not some after dinner discussion. We all want the best for our children. A colour blind government is the best we can hope for.

I know what I do not want, what we have now.

We like to mock America where the first question the health system asks is "Have you got health insurance?" Here in New Zealand the first question is "Are you New Zealand Maori? Cook Island Maori? New Zealand European? European? And then that list of races ending with other....

Well, my children were born in New Zealand. Their mother is a wonderful mixture of Solomon Islander, German, Fijian and Indian. A combination no bureaucrat has considered. Their choice is "Other" and they write in " New Zealander". ACT's deputy leader, a fourth generation New Zealander, puts down he is a Pacific Islander.

A government that can demand to know your race can discriminate.

There is no such thing as positive discrimination. For every one positively discriminated in favour there was someone negatively discriminated against. I say the life chances of a child of a skinhead from Christchurch are just as tough as a Maori child from East Cape.

I had a staff member whose mother was a motorbike gang member's partner. He had it real tough. Mother's partner and older brother in jail. When he got to Waikato University he found Margaret Wilson the Dean of the Law school and he was discriminated against for something he had no say about. He was white.

This is an issue that goes to the heart of what we want to be as a nation.

So what is my solution?

Let me quote from an ACT 1996 pamphlet: "Fair, full and final settlement of all legitimate Treaty claims achieved by a time limit on claims" I think after 20 years it's legitimate to say "no more claims" and to set five year final settlement..

Then, ACT says, lets go through the statute book and remove all racial discrimination - beginning with the Maori seats. Separate Maori representation has not served anyone well.

Let me say though (and my critics will not admit it) I am not saying that equality before the law means we all have to be the same. I welcome the revival of the Maori language and the fact that my children's pronunciation is excellent. The Maori renaissance in the arts is enriching this nation and is in no way threatened by what I say. ACT enjoys support from the growing Maori professional class and Maori who own their own business. It is those who make their living from the grievance industry who will fight with every weapon they have got. It has been my experience that those who have privileges, whether they are MPs, import license holders or Treaty lawyers quickly decide their privileges are theirs by right and fight bitterly to keep them..

I believe we will win. The media asks me `Am I concerned that National has taken ACT's policy?" Of course not. ACT is a new sort of party. We see our role as keeping the other parties honest, and to come up with fresh ideas to old problems like the Treaty issue. We are a party that seeks to lead public opinion. To be a party of influence. Getting a major party to adopt our ideas is the strategy.

Our polling shows that our voters, the nation's most intelligent, share the strategy. At the moment, far from abandoning the party as we succeed, they are feeling pleased and justified in their stand.

Unlike New Zealand First, ACT has never been a one issue party and our commitment for the rule of law is a natural position for a party that believes in free enterprise, property rights, choice and personal responsibility.

So you can see my MPs and I are looking forward to the parliamentary session that starts this afternoon, and to making this an issue in the next election.

© Scoop Media

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