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Winston Peters:The Sounds Of Silence in Parliament

02 August 2004

1.30pm on Monday, 2 August 2004 Public Address by the Rt Hon Winston Peters Milford Baptist Church, 1 Dodson Ave, Milford, Northshore


Politics has long been known as a business of secrets including one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets.

However, it is in the interests of democracy and a well informed public that people know what is going on.

People need information to make up their minds.

They need to know what is happening.

And they turn on their radios, their televisions and buy newspapers in the hope of finding out.

Sadly there appears to be something akin to a conspiracy of silence over political non-performance and it could have serious consequences for democracy in this country. Elections are after all about a contest of ideas and personalities so that the voter can establish whether there appears to be an alternative government in waiting.

Of late in Parliament, one of the assumed players in any alternative Government is continually absent from the debating chamber at the key times and that member’s party’s lack of policies disguise the shambles in that organisation and their in fighting.

In the past few weeks two senior National MPs have announced that they will not be seeking re-election.

Roger Sowry and Linda Scott. Both were solid performers on the Opposition benches before Don Brash became leader.

Linda Scott, a doctor who specialised in the care of the elderly, was particularly effective as a health spokesperson.

She frequently had the minister on the ropes over health issues.

Don Brash effectively silenced Dr Scott and Roger Sowry by putting his own bagpeople on the front bench.

If you really want to know what is happening in Parliament, then watch question time on TV and listen to the debates.

You will learn what we all know in politics that Don Brash is rarely in the House.

National Party strategists keep him out of Parliament because they fear the consequences of New Zealanders knowing that he is not performing as a Parliamentary leader, the way every other leader is expected to.

For reasons best known to themselves, the media are not telling the people of New Zealand what is happening, or more importantly, what is not happening.

There is a conspiracy of silence over National’s non-performance – particularly the non-performance and non-appearance of Don Brash.

The media have some explaining to do. They claim to act in the interests of New Zealanders. What is the hidden agenda?

Most of the New Zealand media are owned overseas.

Do the overseas owners want National back?

And what are the few New Zealand owned outlets up to?

Have they been cowered into silence or are they too lazy to notice what is happening? Let me tell you here and now that the National Party have engaged in an exercise in deception and the centre right deserve better.

In Parliament Don Brash is simply not effective. And it cannot be claimed that it is because he is above politics.

He stood for National in the eighties – and was twice defeated by Social credit’s Gary Knapp who stood on a platform of creating funny money.

If Don Brash wants to be Prime Minister he has to be more than an anonymous version of Ruth Richardson in drag – only taller.

He has to have some policies that people understand.

Let me ask you some questions. What is National’s real policy on superannuation? How many extra police will National put on the streets? How big are National’s tax cuts? How will National cut our taxes and solve Auckland’s transport problems in ten years? How can National say it stands for one law for all when the statute books are full of Treaty principles created by National? How can National oppose Crown ownership of the foreshore seabed? How many more state assets will National sell? National never answers these questions.

Because it can’t answer them. Because nobody knows and the media never asks.

And let me tell you something else.

Don Brash is never allowed at any event unless he has been carefully scripted by his minders. The moment he is in a position where he should explain policy he makes comments like …”I’m not comfortable with that”….or “We’ll change our nuclear policy by lunchtime!” There is another topic bubbling away that receives little critical analysis and that is the approach to race relations in this country. No other issue has the potential – if mishandled - to so severely and permanently damage New Zealand’s future. We know that because it has, and is, and promises to be badly handled.

For the first time in the history of this country there is a political party based on race in Parliament and that is the new Maori party.

Until now, political parties have usually been formed by people who share communities of interest.

Race was never an issue – although there was an historic alliance between the Ratana Church and the Labour Party.

The establishment of the new, race based Maori party has been hailed by its supporters as bringing a new dawn for Maori.

It has been seen as a bright shining light in the darkness of New Zealand politics in that it promises to solve all the problems faced by Maori.

Questions have to be asked about the reality of this attitude.

Is the new Maori party, for all its publicised good intentions, more of a blind alley than a beacon of hope for Maori?

Will it lead Maori to the promised land?

Or will it slump into a backwater of political irrelevance because it is based on a flawed premise that since 1840, Maori have been a lost tribe?

Let me make clear a very relevant point.

Maori are no more of one view, one mind and one outlook than are other New Zealanders. In that sense they are no different to anyone else!

And Maori are quite capable of making their own judgements on what party best represents their interests.

Most of them know that they cannot be separated from the fate of New Zealand as a whole – any more than vital organs can be cut from the human body.

The new party is saying, in effect, that it “owns” Maori and that it knows what is best for Maori. But what does this mean and what does it spell out for the future of race relations in this country?

Remember that the leadership of the Maori Party has likened the colonisation of New Zealand to the Holocaust and has described non-Maori as aliens and foreigners!

It is hard to understand why the leadership of the Maori party wants Maori to take a giant leap backwards to 1840. Living under the shroud of the Treaty of Waitangi and its mystical principles is the most serious problem facing the Maori who still live in this country.

Australia is full of examples of Maori who have prospered and succeeded when they have thrown off their Treaty shackles.

Many Maori are moving forward in this country as well.

They belong to their culture and traditions but they are not held back by a certain view of history and they accept that they are part of a pluralist society.

There are still a number of unanswered questions about the new party. Who will really be pulling the strings? Who will the real puppet masters be? Who will be working behind the scenes? Will they be “born again” Maori intent on creating their new world order in New Zealand or just something else?

Soon after the launch of the new party, the Mongrel Mob turned up as potential supporters. This is the same Mongrel Mob that is heavily involved in helping young Maori by selling them drugs such as methamphetamine.

Why would any Maori leader seek to legitimise these gangs by embracing them into the fold of a political movement?

Another question - will the formation of the new party encourage our society to divide into different camps and distinct communities? Let’s take the argument further. If Maori have their own party why stop there?

Why not a party for those of Asian ethnicity? Or a party for Pacific peoples? A party for those with Scottish ancestry? The Dutch, the Croats, the Serbians, Poles, and Hungarians? The list is endless.

A Maori party is consistent with the fragmentation of our society about which New Zealand First has been warning for many years. It is ironic is it not, that whilst the black people of the United States, through their drive for civil rights sought to break down the barriers of access to the best white universities, but here in New Zealand, we have those who would advocate a separatist education system. The results of which are predictable.

Of course there are issues facing Maori. But there are issues facing our young people - the elderly – working mothers – farmers – diabetics - the list is endless.

And many issues cut across racial lines.

If you can chop New Zealand society into a hundred pieces you are no longer dealing with society.

If we start to base our political system on parts of society the result can only be division and antagonism – and possibly much worse. Any society that works, works because the parts function together in some kind of harmony. The great common sense of ordinary New Zealanders – of whatever background - is what makes this country function. Despite their differences, people recognise that what they share is overwhelmingly greater – and more important - than what divides them. When we call the plumber - the breakdown service – or we visit an optician or the doctor, their ancestry does not matter. The only thing that counts is their competence. In contrast - the Maori party views politics through one lens, and that is race.

The Maori party is based purely on racial identity – being Maori.

Or should I say being part Maori because the party is led by people whose racial heritage is more non-Maori than Maori. Things have plainly gone mad in New Zealand when in the space of two nights last week one Minister claimed he is indigenous because he lived in Wainuiomata and another one said that it was okay to be male and blob out on the couch. Needless to say a number of moronic commentators thought this was insightful intellectual discussion. What planet do these people actually live on?

At heart the Maori party repudiates everything that this nation has always stood for. It puts tribalism ahead of talent.

That road will lead not to the future but back to the past. And that is what is inherently wrong with many Maori today. They are prisoners of the past. In contrast New Zealand First stands for every New Zealander being able to make the most of their abilities and gifts, unencumbered by a racial label.

The supreme irony is that the new Maori party is headed by a politician who has made a career out of shouting racism at every opportunity.

To the leaders of the Maori party, race matters above all other issues and they want to institutionalise their racial view into our political system. The deliberate attempt to foster the idea that there are two nations in New Zealand will not serve the interests of ordinary Maori.

Right now the situation is that every political party worthy of the name should acknowledge and address the particular needs of Maori.

But those needs are employment, education, health and housing, not some invented grievances based on some spurious re-creation of history. The time has come to take careful stock of who we are and what we stand for. We can only do that if we know what is happening in our society and our Parliament. Don’t accept the crumbs of information dropping from the tables of the media moguls. Remain vigilant and alert to what is happening. Look for the truth. Nothing else matters.


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