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The Brash-Report - No. 24, 25 February 2004

The Brash Report
No. 24, 25 February 2004
Dr Don Brash – National Party Leader

Since my last newsletter on 11 February, we have seen the Prime Minister behaving indecisively in the face of clear evidence that her Minister of Immigration, Lianne Dalziel, had lied to the media, with questions asked about whether this could be related to the involvement of Helen Clark's own electoral office in the whole sordid affair.

And we have seen the Government's totally inadequate response to the worst storm to hit New Zealand in many years.

But what has continued to dominate my own mail are the letters, phone calls and emails about my Orewa speech, and related media coverage.

Because I have been accused of not only being racist and divisive, but also of grossly exaggerating the extent of the problem, let me quote a few more of the examples offered to me over the last 10 days:


"I am a primary school principal of a U3 school in ---- Legislation requires us to identify all our Maori students, consult with their parents and put in place a programme specifically designed for them. There is no other legal requirement to racially target any other group of children like this... It has only been the Labour Government that has legislatively forced us to target Maori students over and above other students.... In the Primary Teachers and Principals contract we have been allocated 75 full time study awards. After stating this, the contract has the following clause: 'At least 20 of those are available nationally only to teachers or principals who are Maori'."


"I am a Caucasian parent of a part-Maori daughter. Upon enrolling her into the local primary school, I was asked on the enrolment form what her ethnic background is. I asked what relevance this has, to be told that the more Maori students, the more funding the school gets. I declined to answer, as my daughter is being raised in an all-Caucasian family and shouldn't get special privileges in education when my two older daughters do not."


"I'd just like to draw your attention to an article in Wednesday's Bay of Plenty Times. It's about a sick woman in a so-called predominantly Maori ward being asked to go to another ward because she didn't look Maori enough... She was asked to change wards by two different nurses on two different occasions."


"I am a third year student at ---- University studying for a Bachelor of Commerce in management and finance. I support the stand you have taken on the current race problems we are facing in New Zealand. Although I am of predominantly Pakeha descent, I am also a small part Ngai Tahu Maori, thus entitling me to the annual scholarships provided for all Maori studying at a tertiary centre. I am currently flatting with four other boys. Two of us are of Maori descent, while the other three are not. Although my other Maori flatmate and I are from by far the wealthiest families in the flat, in 2003 the Government provided us both with over $1000 worth of funding while my other three 'non-Maori' and financially struggling flatmates had to fight along by themselves. All three boys showed much resentment towards these scholarships... It is about time a party decided to confront these problems and make a stand for financial assistance for New Zealanders based on need and not race."


One email drew my attention to a document prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, dealing with a proposed closer economic partnership with Thailand, which included a statement that "As in other CEP negotiations, New Zealand will seek provision to adopt measures to accord more favourable treatment to Maori, including in fulfilment of obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi."


And from a scientist in a Crown Research Institute: "Doing science is very difficult if we have to abide by Treaty principles before we think about applying for research funding. It has become totally crazy in that adherence to 'Treaty principles' (vague and undefined) is becoming more important than the potential benefit to all New Zealand citizens. Even proposed research in the energy sector (now critically important for New Zealand's future) requires, or is more likely to succeed with, proof of hapu/iwi support or involvement. The relevant FRST application forms are available on their website.... My view is that real science of benefit to all NZ citizens has been damaged by demands to adhere to these 'Treaty principles'."


"For the last three years I have been tutoring to lowly qualified school leavers, and this has been a pretty good place to watch a biased funding system in action. My general observations are that to artificially create different rules for one particular group of citizens immediately creates a grievance elsewhere. Those with the same need do not get the same deal. Some miss out altogether. In a general sense, any programme which targets assistance on the basis of race just widens the very divisions that it seeks to bridge."


And a very long email, which lamented that the writer's daughter needed to achieve an average of 77.2% in bursary exams to get into the Auckland Medical School, whereas Maori students needed to attain only a 60% average; which noted that, on starting the second year of Med School, his daughter noticed that "all Maori students received a manual which contained all the tests and exams for the last three years. Non-Maori students in her class were not allowed access to this. When my daughter asked why she and her non-Maori colleagues were not able to have such manual, she was told 'they are only available to Maori students'. Non-Maori students were not allowed access to past copies of any tests during the year."


The same writer noted that "my wife and I, who live in ----, have to pay $50 per GP visit, although I am chronically ill. My eldest daughter and son-in-law, who are both GPs in ----, charge their patients only $10 per visit. There are as many rich people where my daughter and her husband practise as where my wife and I live. But the difference is that there are more Maori where my daughter and her husband practise, so the PHOs attract a higher subsidy." He went on to give an example of the very poor educational standard achieved by somebody with whom he had had contact who had a "degree" from a prominent wananga.

Little wonder that Dr Rajen Prasad, the Race Relations Conciliator in 2000, warned Helen Clark's Government that affirmative-action policies targeting Maori, such as hepatitis B programmes, diabetes testing, smoking cessation and free contraception advice, were divisive. In a submission on the Health and Disability Bill late in 2000, he said he also wanted the Treaty of Waitangi clause in the Bill removed because he said it was open to interpretation and could be seen as giving privileges to Maori. He said he had received complaints from people who had been turned away from hepatitis B testing caravans because they were not Maori. One complainant said Maori children were able to access the services but their Pakeha parent was not. He cited the case of two neighbours, one Maori, one Pakeha, who had the same health needs but the Maori was able to access a mobile service down the street, whereas the Pakeha person, who needed the same service, had to catch a bus and travel 30 or 40 kms. (Reported in the New Zealand Herald, 26 October 2000.) It is clear that that Race Relations Conciliator had a good deal more courage than the current politically correct person occupying that role!

And let's be clear. While some Maori imagine that the special status accorded to Maori assists their cause, a great many others recognise that it actually harms the interests of Maori. How can it help to be constantly told that you need special assistance to foot it with others?

A few days ago, I was handed a stunning excerpt from a passage written by Joe Paterno of Penn State University in the United States, talking of the affirmative action programmes common in that country. Unfortunately, the photo-copied page provided no indication of the book from which it came, but let me quote a part of the text, which is directly relevant to the situation facing Maori in New Zealand:

"People who sympathise (not truly empathise) with black kids in schools have helped create one of the worst and most perplexing problems those kids have to carry on their backs: all the special help they get as students. Necessary as much of it may be to make up for previous deprivations, every bit of special help adds to the constant drumbeat of a message that they're not as good as the next kid. On equal terms, says the message, nobody expects them to make it. So a kid sits in a class scared to death to open his mouth - not because he isn't smart, but because he's not a hundred percent convinced he can make it. All those legal protections and special helps reinforce the doubts of his teachers as well as his own....

"When we create special regulations to help minority students, we do it to help, and the feeling of helping makes us feel good. But the more I live intimately and daily with these kids and their lack of confidence, the more I see the sources of that lack... And the more I think that no matter how we think we're helping these kids by giving them special help and protection, in the long run we're probably doing more harm than good."

I think that many Maori New Zealanders recognise this, which is no doubt why a great many want policies based on race to end. The next National Government is committed to that objective.

By the way, my Orewa speech continues to be available on the National Party website, and was reprinted in full in the first edition of The Opinion newspaper.

Don Brash

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