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Will We Dump the Name or the Treaty?

Will We Dump the Name or the Treaty?

Sunday 6 Feb 2005

Stephen Franks - Speeches - Other

Stephen Franks, Maori Affairs spokesman, ACT New Zealand - Waitangi Day Address; Backbencher Pub, Molesworth Street, Wellington; 1.15pm, Sunday 6 February 2005.

I usually like the discipline of Waitangi Day. It reminds me each year to do a stock-take of the Treaty industry. But this year I'll be doing that anyway as a member of Parliament's new constitution review committee

The day never leaves me feeling proud. I resent having to choose words carefully when asked to celebrate my country. I resent the invention of a mythical racial trump card from a practical and straightforward document.

And this year I feel the letdown after yesterday at the rugby sevens. All in the line of duty you understand, I am our sports and recreation spokesman.

The Sevens celebrated national spirit. It was a feast of generous patriotism. Just behind us were Indian New Zealanders. It turned out we knew them through our children's hockey. On one side was a brave Pom, waving his cross of St George. In front was a line of Maori women, who shared their cooling fan, and in return we sprayed them with our water. All around were semi drunk Kiwis in costumes mocking occupations, nationalities, genders and persuasions of all kinds.

The Scots teams was adopted by the crowd, because they were not English, the Kenyans because they danced for us.

I mention the Sevens, because I doubt that anyone of the 30,000 there was wrestling to discover his or her sense of national identity. The Kiwi team showed the customary dominance of Polynesia's genes. We cheered them unreservedly. The Indians, my English born wife, the hoon from Temuka, all cheered as New Zealanders.

If the Kiwi team had failed we would not have bayed to dump the Maori component, or the pakeha element. We would have followed Kiwi custom and bayed for the coach's blood. And that's as it should be. If there's strife where there should be harmony, look first at the leadership.

We recognise the genetic contribution to the size and strength in that team. We appreciate the cultures that contribute ferocious physical courage. We can each feel family pride in our peoples' history. But that does not mean we are still those peoples just happening to live side by side uneasily sharing some geography.

"He iwi tahi tatou", now we are one people, Capt Hobson said 164 years ago. He may have been a bit premature but that was what the Treaty meant. And that is what has been achieved despite the best efforts at re-tribalising us by three decades of calculating politicians, naive politicians, and opportunistic politicians, both Maori and pakeha.

Last Thursday evening I spoke at an Otago University seminar to celebrate the Treaty. The stated intention was to explore the Treaty's place in a written constitution

It was well organised and enjoyable. The chairman, Tahu Potiki Chief Executive of Ngai Tahu, as sponsor, introduced each speaker with a gentle and perceptive roasting, capturing the risible features of each party represented, including Metiria Turei for the Greens, and Tariana Turia of the Maori Party.

And how did it go? A well-known Dunedin intellectual, by no means an Act supporter, sent me this comment by e-mail.

"To the older woman who spoke at the end, you will always be the wife-beater whom she can't divorce".

That referred to a woman who asked me what I would do given that the Treaty was a partnership, a marriage between Maori and pakeha, and now Maori wanted a divorce.

I said I did not accept the marriage analogy or the mythical partnership, but even if I did, I knew of no society where a few great-great-grandchildren who have decided they don't like each other's attitude, can dissolve the marriage of their forebears who've been dead a hundred years.

On the other hand a delighted man and his daughter, with American accents, came up to praise the good humour and courtesy of the evening. They said it felt like watching a half affectionate family squabble between two generations who are never going to agree, but know they remain family.

I agree with them. I don't think we'll have to be carefully choosing our words on many more Waitangi Days.

That is not only because of Peter Dunne's Bill to restore to it the name of New Zealand Day. That is candyfloss law, giving the impression of concern without really committing to anything or doing anything, like that United Future triumph, the Families Commission.

It is because his Bill is actually doing something else.

Peter Dunne may not have realised it, but the Bill really records that the Treaty mania has passed.

The fever has broken and the sun has begun to set on the Treaty industry. It may not look like it with a public service, education system and media still soaked in Treaty worship, but their confidence has gone.

All the arguments for dropping the name "Waitangi Day" are actually arguments to say that the Treaty itself has lost its spell. It's not the name. The day has become a national embarrassment because invoking "the Treaty" can no longer draw us together, or inspire us, or act as a proud symbol. Instead the day reminds us why we are sick of it.

The legions of consultants and the pious sermons remind us why we are sick of it. The Human Rights Commission can spend $6 million on telling us all how wrong we are, but it's too late. No amount of Labour political re-education can put this Humpty Dumpty together again.

The submission to greedy demands by bleeding heart leaders, the whining and accusations have finally worn out New Zealanders' tolerance. Abuse of privilege, nepotism and corruption and waste by the few, in the name of the many are so commonplace they are scarcely reported, but the memories accumulate. Well-meaning people can defend it no more.

As Tinkerbelle warned, when enough people say they don't believe in fairies, even privately, the fairies at the bottom of the garden die.

Just ask anyone in Wellington's ballooning public service, what their shell-shocked office cultural safety enforcer is doing. Nothing! They haven't been sacked. Treaty Commissars still have their job descriptions. But no one else is listening. They're trying to work out what Trevor Mallard's inspection teams really want.

The Minister For Pretending We Were Never Really Fostering and Exploiting Race Difference in the First Place says they must hunt through and re-label all policies and programmes as needs based instead of race-based. But race privilege doesn't work when need is the criterion. And who wants to be caught holding the file when the public find out what "capacity building" for Maori really means, and what $240million has not achieved.

So sycophants still prudently mouth the dogma, but everyone now knows it is lip service. Labour's inability to say what the so-called Treaty principles are, has exposed them as spurious inventions

But the ticking crocodile never sleeps. Now that the people don't wither at the mere mention of the Treaty's name, we can expect greater efforts to see false so-called "interpretations" locked into law, where the judges can enforce them.

Helen Clark, Michael Cullen and Margaret Wilson, Labour's heavyweight constitutional experts, all say the Treaty gives Maori special rights other New Zealanders can never share. They never spell them out, because that would cause uproar. But they need that excuse to pass law after law cementing in race distinctions, and to spend million after discriminatory million to keep their useless Maori MPs on board.

Others, like the Greens, want the Treaty entrenched in a written constitution.

I don't think it would hurt, as long as it was the actual words of the Treaty.

Article 1 is spent. There's no doubt we are one democratic people with power residing in majority democracy.

The first half of Article 2 is admirable. We have no other promise of secure property rights.

The second half of Article 2 is also spent. I hear no Maori now asking the Crown to reassert its exclusive pre-emptive right to be the only buyer and price setter for Maori land.

Article 3, with its promise of the equality before the law for all citizens would do no harm though it means little until it is applied in practice, in the detail.

I am wary, however of a written constitution which trumps other law. That simply hands powers to unelected judges. To protect democracy we voters would need a power to remove judges.

I think most of us sense that constitution crafting would become a noisy scuffle for the drafter's pen. Every crank in the country wants to entrench his pet cause. Every lobby group wants their own constitutional overdrive button on the gear lever of power.

Every society has sleeping dogs, which should be left sleeping. Constitutions emerge from crisis, revolution or a necessity. A threat is needed, preferably external, to force contending leaders to focus on the values they share and what they need to share, instead of what divides them.

In the prosperity we've inherited we would instead spend our time kicking sleeping dogs, and each other.

I'd rather go to the Sevens, and so would nearly every sane New Zealander.

Ends

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