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Why Freedom Allows Diversity And Fosters Tolerance

Why Freedom Allows Diversity And Fosters Tolerance

Rodney Hide Speech to ACT members and supporters; ACT Leader's Lunch; Chateau on the Park, Christchurch; Sunday July 4, 2004.

When we were children we were colour blind.

We looked past the colour of a person's skin to the real person beneath.

We judged each other by what we did not by the racial group to which we belonged.

And then we grew up.

And suddenly, to think like that was somehow a great and noble ideal.

Well, call it what you will. It's the way I think. It's the way ACT thinks.

And it's the way most New Zealanders think.

It's not just little Kiwis who are colour blind. We all are.

We don't care about skin colour or ethnicity.

But we have one small problem.

We have a government that does.

We have a government that thinks education and health should be doled out on the basis of the colour of someone's skin.

Well, that's not how I think. It's not how ACT thinks. And I really don't believe its how grown up Kiwis think.

Of course, it's easy to be tribal about your ethnic group. This is my group. This is the group I am comfortable with. We are used to our own culture and ways of doing things. But we should not confuse culture with ethnicity.

Ethnicity is something that you are born with. Culture is something you are born into. You can shift into a new culture. You can't shift your ethnicity.

I am pleased that New Zealand is now more diverse and more multicultural. It is more interesting, more fun and more dynamic than it was. It has not always been easy. There have been tensions. It has required that we become more tolerant of different lifestyles and ways of living.

And that brings me to what our government can and should do to foster diversity and promote tolerance. A government that allows people the freedom to live as they choose is the government that best provides for diversity and tolerance.

A pro-freedom government makes for a tolerant society because no one can force their beliefs and customs on others. That gives us the freedom to live as we choose and also allows us to appreciate and enjoy cultural diversity. Other people's views don't threaten us.

We are then free to practise our own beliefs and customs. Safe and secure in the knowledge no one can force their beliefs and customs on us.

That's the essence of liberalism.

I am proud to declare the ACT party is the only truly liberal party in New Zealand.

The only party that regards and treats all New Zealanders equally.

The crucial thing is freedom.

It's freedom that fosters tolerance and diversity. And crucial to that freedom is that our government be colour blind.

We can't be free if one race enjoys rights and privileges that no other race does. That means that either one race is being denied freedom through not enjoying the full rights of citizenship or another race is being forced to supply goods and services to people based on race.

Either way, freedom is lost.

It's not just freedom that gets eaten up by race-based preferences. It's tolerance and diversity.

There is nothing that is more unjust or more likely to inflame intolerance than government setting a racial pecking order.

Once a government uses its power to put one race ahead of another it immediately creates a society of insiders and outsiders, it divides us, and it divides us by a line over which we have no say or control.

It offends us deeply when state power is used to put down a racial group. Apartheid was repugnant. The old Jim Crow laws of the American South were repugnant. New Zealand laws that treated Chinese as second-class citizens were repugnant.

We opposed such laws because we believed that our government should be for us all equally and should be blind to a person's skin colour.

But we have today turned the colour-blind ideal inside out and upside down.

We now find that the law requires us to have regard to a person's skin colour and racial origin. By Law!

The aim is not to suppress a race but rather to promote and support one. The intention is well-meaning. But does a well-meaning intention justify abandoning a great and noble ideal? I don't think so.

Just how topsy-turvy it's become is that the term "racist" is now used to dismiss calls for our government to treat all races equally. But opposition to race-based preferences has always been the clarion call of those who opposed racism.

Today to advocate "one law for law", "one standard of citizenship" and "equal treatment" is to stand accused of "Maori bashing", "popularism" and of inciting "racial hatred".

The meaning of words has been politically reversed as the ideal of a colour-blind government has been turned on its head.

To help Maori, many of our universities operate Maori quota. For example, the University of Canterbury reserves ten places at second-year law for students of Maori descent. These are students who otherwise would not qualify for the course.

University administrators must now take account of a student's race because their entry criteria are race-based.

Does it help Maori? I doubt it. Sure there are ten Maori students who get into law school who otherwise would miss out. They are helped. But they are helped at the expense of ten better-qualified students who miss out.

That makes for bitterness and intolerance. Students who miss out naturally feel aggrieved. And that's a lot more than ten students. Many students who miss out can and will blame the Maori quota for their lack of success.

Maori students who gain entry on their merits feel cheated. They are viewed as "quota" students even though they are not. The quota system makes them feel second-rate. That sense can carry on into their professional lives.

And what exactly is the University saying? That Maori students can't foot it with everyone else? I don't believe that's true. Or are they saying that Maori have been somehow disadvantaged and now need "positive" discrimination to overcome that disadvantage? Maybe.

But there are a lot of students, not just Maori, who have been disadvantaged. Why not target disadvantage instead of race? And why not target the problems that cause disadvantage rather than simply lowering the entry criteria into university courses.

It's not obvious that the ten individual Maori students who make it into the class through the quota are disadvantaged at all. They could come from professional, well-heeled families but qualify simply because they have a Maori forebear.

I believe that such a racial pecking order is asking for trouble. We should help people to succeed. We should try to overcome disadvantage. But we should do so irrespective of a person's race.

The same occurs in health funding. Our government provides a 20 percent loading for doctor's visits if more than 50 percent of the population enrolled with that Primary Health Organisation are Maori.

The government argues vociferously that this is "needs" based funding because Maori have greater health needs. That's double-speak. The extra funding is determined entirely on race not need. It's true that statistically Maori have poor health and higher needs, but it doesn't follow that just because someone is Maori that they have poor health and higher needs. Some Maori are very healthy and very well off. Likewise, it doesn't follow that someone who isn't Maori isn't in need.

The health funding formula is race-based. It is wrong. It should be stopped.

I am all for Maori having more say and control over how resources are used and spent. That's because I am in favour of every New Zealander having more say and control.

The Resource Management Act allows Maori to play a trumping card in the resource consent process. Everyone must "recognise and provide" for the "relationship of Maori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands, water, sites, waahi tapu, and other taonga". That places Maori in a powerful position for any development that needs resource consent.

The result is legitimised extortion. Developers increasingly find they must pay for "cultural audits" and the like to avoid being stymied for years. The government itself forked out $1.3 million consulting Maori over the Spring Hill Prison.

That was because of the requirements of the Resource Management Act.

I think the Resource Management Act is a nonsense. It overturns private property in favour of local government and every busy-body in the country having a say over what you can and can't do with what is yours.

It's a double nonsense that Maori and Maori spiritual values get special status and privilege. That special status and privilege breeds intolerance and conflict.

And what of the Maori seats in our Parliament? They are an anachronism. They serve no good purpose.

But we are now reserving more and more places for Maori on more boards, councils and government agencies. The Labour government recently reserved seats for Maori on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. That's wrong. It's divisive and it's racist.

ACT is New Zealand's only liberal party. We base our policies on the pillars of individual freedom and personal responsibility.

We have opposed race-based preferences from Day One.

The National party started the drift in an ad-hoc way into policies that gave Maori special legal privilege and separate funding. We consistently opposed National over their drift into dividing the country racially.

Helen Clark has made race-based preferences a central feature of her administration and our government. We have consistently opposed her government's entrenchment of racial preference right through our government and our law.

We have had some considerable success. In his now famous Orewa speech Don Brash stated firmly and clearly a National Party under his leadership has reversed its policy drift and will now never sponsor race-based funding or race-based preferences.

I am proud of ACT's victory in shifting National's view.

ACT and National are now at one on this policy.

We now must work to defeat the Labour government that is splitting and dividing our country according to race. We must stop the racial division before it gets any worse. Otherwise, it can only end in bitterness and tears.

Together w can achieve a free and prosperous New Zealand. Together we can achieve a fair and tolerant New Zealand.

I want New Zealanders to give ACT their party vote because of our principles and our policies. And I want them to give ACT their party vote so that Prime Minister Don Brash never has to compromise.

Vote ACT and race-based preferences will be gone by lunchtime. I promise.

Thank you.

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