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The Brash Report: Ratana To Waitangi Via Orewa

Don Brash Writes No. 22
11 February 2004
Ratana to Waitangi via Orewa

Just over two weeks ago, I was welcomed onto the marae at Ratana as part of the celebrations to mark the birthday of the founder of the Ratana church. I gave only a brief speech, as was appropriate, but mentioned my concern about the dangerous drift to racial separatism which I saw all around me.

Last Thursday, I was keen to visit the Te Tii Marae in Waitangi, but felt I had to decline to do so when it was confirmed that, while Maori media would be allowed to accompany me onto the marae, mainstream media would not be allowed to do so - or rather, could accompany me only if they left their cameras and recorders outside.

At the entrance to the marae, I was on the receiving end of some stuff making it clear that I was not the most popular guy present.

And of course between those dates I gave a speech to the Orewa Rotary Club, which has been attacked by Labour Party ministers and some in the media as being racist, divisive, and Maori-bashing.

Some have suggested the speech seeks to set race relations in New Zealand back by 100 years.

But the speech has also attracted a huge amount of support, with literally hundreds of emails and phone calls flooding into the National Party, many of them coming to me personally.

Some of the emails were from non-Maori people providing examples of the "reverse racism" of much current practice.

One man said that he had been a member of the National Council of the National Heart Foundation.

Until a few years ago, the constitution made it clear that the services of the Foundation were available to all New Zealanders according to their need. "But then it was proposed that a new clause be added to the constitution: that the Foundation would observe the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi etc. This was imposed upon the Foundation by politically correct apparatchiks in government who were responsible for allocating funds. To my mind, the addition adulterated the constitution and, in effect, said that, where choices might have to be made about need, Maori would come first."

Another man wrote that "at Auckland University Law School, if I didn't get an A bursary as a white person I would be denied entry to the course, but if the colour of my skin were different then I may still be able to get in. The Science department has a maths help room for everyone else and a separate room for Maori students."

A third man wrote: "Towards the end of my time in the Political Studies Department of the University of Otago, most departments in the Humanities Division had been pressured into giving extra points to Maori students. The Head of Department refused to bow to this pressure, and there were heated staff meetings, though with most staff supporting the HOD. Somehow, there was a leak, and we were branded fascists for insisting upon treating all students exactly the same. This event was a factor in my decision to take early retirement. George Orwell would understand the logic of 'positive discrimination'."

And another: "Recently I worked in an environment where the pandering to Maori was ridiculous. There was a Director, and a Director Maori, as well as other parallel positions where Maori had a bureaucracy running parallel to those of everyone else. The non-Maori staff were unable to act without Maori permission! Eventually, the Maori Director decided that the non-Maori staff were not being supportive, so decided to institute 'education classes' for all staff! Maori staff took extended leave for tangi while non-Maori had a hard time getting leave for the afternoon of a funeral."

One woman said that she and her husband had two children, one of whom had married a Maori. She felt deeply hurt that two of her four grand-children would have advantages denied to the other two simplybecause they had a part-Maori parent.

And there were emails from Maori offering support for the views expressed in the speech, some in very strong terms. That was no great surprise given the results of the poll published by the Christchurch Press on 31 January, showing a substantial majority of the Maori surveyed were in agreement with the basic thrust of the speech.

To be sure, I received a small number of critical emails, from both non-Maori and Maori. But either most New Zealanders agree with the thrust of the speech or those who disagree were less inclined to write than those who agreed.

And that should be no surprise either. To argue that the government should deal with all New Zealanders on the basis of need not race is hardly racist. To argue that Maori are part of the community, and therefore do not warrant special status in the Local Government Act, is hardly Maori-bashing. To argue that, some 140 years after they were first introduced on a temporary basis, there is no longer need for separate Maori electorates is hardly divisive.

I was not, as some have suggested, arguing that Maori language and culture should be "assimilated", though I did say that two centuries of inter-marriage was blurring the distinction between Maori and non-Maori.

And I did not "sack Georgina" in a precipitate or ill-considered way. I have a high regard for Georgina te Heuheu, and am delighted she continues to be a member of our Caucus. But in discussion with me, she made it clear that she did not feel able to support our policy in this area, and in those circumstances it was quiteuntenable for me to ask her to advocate that policy.

In that respect, we are quite unlike the Labour Party, which allows Tariana Turia to publicly reject the Government's seabed and foreshore policy and still retain a ministerial warrant.

Can you imagine Helen Clark allowing, say, Steve Maharey to abstain from voting in Parliament on a fundamental aspect of Government policy? It is a classic illustration of one of the points I was making at Orewa:the Government has one policy for its Maori members and quite another for non-Maori ministers. In the National Party, we do not.

Gerry Brownlee is not a Maori. So what? Most Maori would agree that some of the best ministers involved in Maori issues in the last 30 years were non-Maori, such as Duncan McIntyre and Sir Douglas Graham. I have no doubt that Gerry will do an outstanding job also.

Yesterday, we launched a campaign to highlight the fact that the Labour Government is being dishonest about its policy on the foreshore and seabed (www.foreshore.co.nz). It is saying to Maori that that policy will give Maori the power of veto over who can use and have access to the foreshore and seabed (as confirmed by the Solicitor General just a few days ago) - and this may be the real reason why Tariana Turia will abstain on the issue rather than vote against it, as she had earlier suggested she would do - but is trying to convince non-Maori that their access to the foreshore and seabed will be essentially unaffected. That kind of deception is a recipe for disaster, with Maori already angry and non-Maori likely to get angry very soon when they understand what the Government is proposing.

We need a National Government, and we need it soon!

Don Brash


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