“The Unprincipled Treaty”
15 October 2004
An address by Rt Hon Winston Peters at 12.30pm Friday 15 October 2004 Cafler Suites at Forum North, Rust Avenue, Whangarei
“The Unprincipled Treaty”
There is an important historical site less than an hour’s drive from here.
It’s nearly 165 years ago, that an important Treaty was signed between the British Crown and Maori leaders of the time at Waitangi.
The Treaty, signed at Waitangi, has become a source of division in modern society.
Instead of binding us as a nation of peoples with equal rights it is creating bitterness and a “them and us” mentality amongst some sections of the community.
Today I want to debunk some myths and correct some of the irksome consequences of some of the failings of our democracy.
I will also explain New Zealand First’s solutions to the problems created.
But first let’s look back at what actually happened at Waitangi and set the scene.
New Zealand is a colonial nation, colonised in several waves from the earliest Maori settlers more than a thousand years ago through to more recent immigrant arrivals.
With each successive wave has come change and adaptation.
The most significant of these changes occurred with the arrival of the British in the early 1800s.
New Zealand was unique in the colonising process, probably because its isolation meant it was among the last of several annexations to the various European powers of the time.
The key difference between New Zealand and the colonising experiences for Australia, the Americas, African and Asian nations, was the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Historians debate the just how widely accepted the actual Treaty was by the British, and constitutional experts can debate its relative merits in both law and government, but no one can dispute that it was signed and was part of a series of events which culminated in the nation we have today.
This point is important to make – the Treaty itself is not a myth, it was signed, and it still does exist.
Its existence means we must deal with it. It cannot be brushed under the carpet in the hope it will go away.
This brings me to the first of the myths I want to address today and that is the insertion of so called ‘principles of the Treaty’ into legislation.
These principles were not part of the original Treaty.
They were inserted by a meddling and paternalistic government in 1986.
Maori did not ask for them, in fact nobody asked for them.
Geoffrey Palmer just slipped them into the1986 State Owned Enterprises Act and several subsequent pieces of legislation.
This leads me to the second myth we must address – the meaning of these so called principles.
Now If Mr Palmer made a mistake placing these principles into legislation, he made an even bigger mistake in not defining them.
Let me remind you what happened occurred as a consequence.
Immediately upon the inclusion of references to these principles, certain Maori (namely one Mr Graham Lattimer) took upon themselves to take the Government to court to find out what they were entitled to.
Two things happened as a result of this.
First, a pattern of endless litigation started at huge expense to the taxpayer and with no benefit to any but a few exclusive Maori and lawyers.
The gravy train had now left the station.
Second, activist judges were left to define these principles and as activist judges sometimes are want to do, they took a radical path.
Suddenly, Lord Cooke decided, at the Court of Appeal following the original rulings on the 1986 legislation, that he should deal with the “spirit” rather than the actual text of the Treaty.
This has become the root of all the problems surrounding these principles today.
They are not based on the original text but one judge’s – learned though he may be – view of the “spirit’ of the Treaty.
From this spirit we suddenly were told the Treaty is about partnership and a duty to act in good faith.
Cooke decreed that the Crown must be allowed to govern, but had a duty of ‘active protection’. He also added that the Crown had to consult Maori.
Now I don’t want to seem disrespectful to Lord Cooke’s views – but he opened Pandora’s box with absolutely no thought for how it could be closed again.
And this is why.
Parliament, never accepted these definitions and even legal scholars (including the Dean of the law school at Victoria University Matthew Palmer the son of Geoffrey Palmer) never accepted them as definitive or binding.
These bodies accept, what we have maintained all along, that they haven’t been defined because they can’t be.
No one can definitively say what these noble intentions actually mean in every day life.
And here is what is worse.
We now have the ludicrous situation of every single government body, from schools through to hospitals and the public service deciding for themselves what they mean.
This insidious process has been allowed to get in the way of the settlement of legitimate historical claims.
Now New Zealand First is a party of solutions and a party of action.
We had been led to believe that this government was going to hold a commission of inquiry into the status of the Treaty, but the months have passed and still nothing happened.
This is not a satisfactory state of affairs, at it required leadership and action.
So we produced a policy than contains the answer to many of the problems I have just raised.
In searching for an answer to these dilemmas we realised that the starting point was that Parliament created these problems and therefore Parliament must fix them.
So clearly our first call must be to remove from legislation all of the vexatious references to the “principles” of the Treaty.
It is simple and straight forward and when we do this, almost all of the loony tune and radical fringe claims to the air space and everything in between will disappear because the Treaty travellers will have nothing to hang their claims on.
And that is the key point – take away the principles of the Treaty and its nutty interpretations and you are left with the legitimate claims related to property alienation.
Now let me be clear, our policy is just as serious about settling those legitimate claims as it is about removing the nonsense of the principles.
We will close the Waitangi Tribunal and replace it with a true commission of inquiry, which is what it was intended to be.
The Tribunal has become a politicised advocacy body which is betraying Maori as well as the people of New Zealand with some of its outrageous report findings.
The new Commission will be limited to just establishing the facts regarding claims of land alienation.
Our policy will see the other agencies associated with the claims process, such as the Office of Treaty Settlements and the Crown Forestry Rental Trust working in symmetry with the Commission, not against it.
We have set timelines for the lodging of claims by 2010 with all claims to be settled by 2015.
This is ambitious but achievable.
We have removed the conflict of interest that exists of the Chief Judge of the Maori Land Court also acting as the Tribunal chairman. At the new Commission these roles would be separate.
Many of the old Tribunal members may not have a place on the new Commission, but those committed to this new programme and not the grievance industry will have a future.
The new Commission will be restructured and refocused and legitimate claims will be settled.
Now there is much more to this policy.
It is a telling document and will be an important part of our election platform next year and of the next government which is formed.
You can find the full policy on our website.
But I want to address a few other issues in the time I have remaining.
These issues are inseparably wedded to our present political situation and serve to highlight the failings of our democracy I alluded to earlier.
The first failing relates to the state of our media.
On the day we released our policy, the most fundamentally sound policy on the Treaty in Parliament, some of the media decided it was more important to highlight the Greens attempts to legalise cannabis and other drugs.
That is an outrage.
Where is the balanced media in this country, where is the journalistic integrity to do their homework and highlight what really matters?
Legalising dope or solving our race relations crisis?
Now, they think they can subvert New Zealand First but we are taking this to the people directly.
It is too important for me not to. The media may choose not to report it, but I am telling them and you here today that it we have to go from one end of this country to the other to get the message of this policy out we will.
What better place to start than close to Waitangi – starting at the top so to speak.
The second failing of our democracy relates to the ludicrous situation we face in Parliament of a so called leader of the opposition, who is nothing of the sort.
Now we offered to debate with the Orewa oracle, Don Brash, on this policy.
He could bring his borrowed speech and we would bring our policy.
The country deserves to know who will stand up to this government of control freaks full of dangerous politically correct nonsense.
Now Dr Brash says he will only debate with the Prime Minister.
We have a warning for him. Helen Clark is not the greatest debater around, and she frequently makes some grave political mistakes as the Tamihere case will show, but she will eat Brash alive because she is tougher and politically smarter.
If Dr Brash and his National think tank (it’s really more like a think sink) believe his poor parliamentary performance can be masked by hiding him away, just wait until the election comes round – and it’s not that far away.
Now we wanted to give Dr Brash a chance to show he was more than a one trick pony – and a borrowed trick at that.
But he ran away.
Amazing, when was the last leader of the National party scared to debate the issues?
Even Jenny Shipley would have tried to respond to the challenge.
But this National leader just gets more timid every day.
On the same day he declined to debate with me, he said he would not be debating the economy.
Now this guy is meant to have a PHD or something in economics and he won’t debate the economy with the government.
Well if he won’t that is fine. New Zealand First is prepared to and will.
Time does not permit today, but I could spend hours outlining the government’s shortcomings in its economic management.
My point is this.
Where else in the western world would any opposition leader of any merit opt out of debating the economy?
It is an affront to our democracy.
But let me conclude with this assurance.
Someone must take this government on.
Dr Brash is clearly too weak and inexperienced to do so.
I give you my word, we will have policy, as we have done with the Treaty, that will solve New Zealand ills.
We were serious when we said we would fix it.
This government will have a fight on its hands in 2005.
It won’t be from a feeble and poorly led National, but a surging New Zealand First . And I hope you are part of it.