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Treaty education, information or propaganda?

Don Brash MP National Party Leader

19 April 2004

Treaty education, information or propaganda?

A National Government would scrap the multimillion-dollar taxpayer-funded Treaty promotional campaign launched by the Government today.

“First it was an education package, then it became an information package. I’m calling it $6.5 million worth of taxpayer-funded propaganda,” says National Party Leader Don Brash.

“National would scrap the Treaty website, because it does not provide anything which isn’t already available from other reliable sources.

“This is an unadulterated sop to Helen Clark’s Maori caucus. It was first floated in 1999 and it’s only now surfacing as part of a bid to help repair the divisions within the Government over the foreshore and seabed issue.

“The spending has to be questioned in light of a recent Massey University study which found that three quarters of the public felt the Treaty of Waitangi creates division among New Zealanders,” notes Dr Brash.

“It’s laughable to suggest, as this site does, that ‘it does not aim to change public attitudes to the Treaty’.

“Despite the Beehive ‘spin’, it’s clear this is all about ‘educating’ New Zealanders. The site confirms as much with politically correct phrases like the intention being to ‘facilitate improved understanding and greater public knowledge’ of the Treaty.

“In a draft Budget bid during 2001 for ‘Treaty Education’, the Ministry of Justice said there was a risk that ‘it was liable to be seen as social engineering’.

“At the time, the Ministry was also warning that the campaign would ‘duplicate existing resources’, and that it may create a ‘public backlash’. Although that Budget bid was later abandoned, the warnings are still relevant.

“At first the Government will be careful about what material it features on this Treaty website, but the test will be how it changes over the coming months. That’s particularly significant because there are already indications that further material will be added to the site dealing with controversial issues.

“When schools and hospitals are struggling to make ends meet surely the Government could be spending our money where it will make a real difference, “ says Dr Brash.


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