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Don Brash MP - Speech to: Kotahitanga Trust

Don Brash MP

Speech to: Kotahitanga Community Trust, Papakura 9am Friday, 23 April 2004

Thank you for your warm welcome.

Judith Collins and I are honoured to have been invited to meet you.

I am particularly pleased to have received your invitation because it gives me a good opportunity to hear what problems your trust faces, and to make several points which I have been keen to make for some weeks.

First, since I gave my speech to the Orewa Rotary Club at the end of January, some people - usually those who haven't read the speech - have accused me of being anti-Maori and racist.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

My quarrel is not with Maori but with the present Government, whose policies are ineffective in solving health, education, and other problems facing the Maori community, and which cause anger and resentment on the part of non-Maori, and are patronising to Maori themselves.

And there can be little doubt that much of what we are hearing about is indeed a systematic patronisation of the Maori people. Some of the scandalously second-rate courses offered by polytechnics to young Maori, the hip-hop tours, and the consultation hui are an abuse of public funding and a tragic selling-short of young Maori people who, like everybody else, should be offered an excellent education, not some 21st century version of blankets and beads for land.

Second, my quoting Hobson's words - He iwi tahi tatou - We are one people - in the Orewa speech led some people to claim that I was promoting an assimilationist view of New Zealand's future, a future where all New Zealanders had to be like me, in behaviour if not in appearance, with a common culture and common view of the world.

Again, nothing could be further from the truth.

The National Party has no interest in trying to make everybody the same, or in pretending that one day we will be the same.

I am reminded of the TV1 commercial which recalls how different we all are - different views about where we want to live; about how much education we want for ourselves; about what kind of house we want to live in; different ethnic backgrounds; different views about politics; and different views about religion.

Some New Zealanders will always want to celebrate their Maori ancestry and traditions, some their European ancestry and traditions, some their Asian ancestry and traditions, and some will celebrate the fact that they can claim ancestors of several cultures and traditions.

And those differences should be acknowledged and celebrated. But we are all also New Zealanders, with a great many hopes and aspirations in common, and that too we should celebrate.

Third, I want to challenge the way in which government interacts with the Maori people.

Our attempt to deal with late 20th and now early 21st century issues via the tribal organisational structures of the 19th century was always going to be problematic, but for major Treaty settlements there was no easy alternative.

But the plain fact of the matter is that most ordinary working Maori have not yet seen any benefit from the settlement process, as you know only too well, and regard it as hijacked by lawyers and a small elite group within the Maori world. More than 80% of Maori now live in urban areas, they are substantially intermarried with European and other ethnic groups, and many have little tribal affiliation or identification.

Many, like your own Community Trust, have been formed in an urban environment, taking the initiative to set up modern structures that meet the needs of urban Maori. I applaud that.

A core value of the National Party is choice, not compulsion. The next National Government will seek to expand and encourage the ability of people - all people - to effectively exercise choice in the institutions that deliver health, education and other services. We are in favour of competition, not state monopoly, with government funding based on need and not on race.

Finally, I want to say that I left the Reserve Bank and entered Parliament under the National Party banner because I believe very strongly that the National Party is promoting the policies which are the best hope for all New Zealanders - whether they be Maori or non-Maori, urban or rural, young or old.

We believe government should provide a safety net for all those who fall on hard times, but we also believe that the safety net has to be constructed in a way which helps people pick themselves up, which gives them dignity, and which encourages them to become self-supporting again.

We believe in policies which give all young people - whether the children of gang leaders or surgeons - the opportunity to succeed through getting a good education.

We believe in policies which encourage stable, nurturing families as they are the building blocks of a stable, nurturing society.

We believe in policies that promote a strong economy, offering plenty of well-paying jobs.

Sadly, too many of the policies of the present Government are having precisely the opposite effect:

-Education policies which leave too many of our young people coming out of school barely literate and barely numerate, with little or no prospect of getting a well-paid job.

-Social welfare policies which allow people to subsist for year after year, in some cases decade after decade, on the smell of an oily rag.

-Health policies which discriminate arbitrarily on the basis of ethnicity and the average income level of the district, rather than the needs of individual patients.

-Economic policies which slowly but surely eat away at the capacity of businesses to grow and prosper, to the enormous detriment of both the owners and their staff.

-Treaty policies which imply that Maori are in some way inherently and indefinitely in need of special help and support, which give iwi an ability to extract rent from the rest of the community by threatening to block almost any kind of development, and which exacerbate resentment and anger.

If we win the election next year - dare I say when we win the election next year! - we pledge to reverse those policies, to allow you and all other New Zealanders to achieve the kind of goals to which we all aspire.


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