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Why The Principles Of The Treaty Must Go

5 May 2005

A seminar by Rt Hon Winston Peters to Maori & Political Students at the University of Auckland at 10.00am on Thursday, 5 May 2005

“Why The Principles Of The Treaty Must Go”

The key difference between New Zealand and the colonising experiences of 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 does exist.

Its existence means we must deal with it. It cannot be brushed under the carpet in the hope it will go away.

Over the past twenty years the Treaty has mutated as a result of political interference, brown radicalism and judicial activism.

Instead of binding us as the founding document of this once great nation, the Treaty now divides, polarises and separates us.

So it is entirely appropriate at this stage to ask this question.

Whose interests does the re-invented Treaty now serve?

Who gains most from the way the Treaty has stopped being the basis for shared and solid citizenship and instead become a trough for the greedy to feed from?

Who profits from the so-called “Treaty principles” that are continually being re-invented to serve whatever cause or issue the Treaty industry can dream up?

Just how does it serve the interests of ordinary Kiwis, including those who are Maori, to use the Treaty as a form of cultural blackmail to extract bounty?

The Treaty as it has become is now a source of disarray not unity.

It is no longer a citizenship code – it is being purveyed rather as a curse.

I want to address today the insertion of so called ‘principles of the Treaty’ into legislation.

Remember, 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.

So what is the meaning of these so-called principles?

Well, nobody knows.

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 wont 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 the principles 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.

We have 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.

The Treaty is a landmark – a point of reference – a statement of values like the Magna Carta or the Gettysburg Address.

It is a uniquely New Zealand accord.

In its own way it was brilliant – even inspired – but it is not a blueprint for running New Zealand in 2005.

Had those who met in 1840 wanted to, the Treaty could have said many things.

If it was about division of the spoils it could have allocated territorial areas.

Instead it provided some basic ground rules for how our society could develop in harmony.

And until it was hijacked by a bunch of charlatans the Treaty served generations of New Zealanders very well.

The Treaty Industry is using it to drive modern New Zealand into all sorts of strange decisions.

Those who think we can solve the social and economic challenges facing us today by some mystical process of divination applied to the Treaty are deluded.

But the notion has got around that if you invoke the Treaty you are beyond challenge – beyond critical thinking – beyond rationality.

In short, it is on the path to becoming totally discredited.

The Treaty Industry is a bottomless pit – it will never be satisfied – because the only limitation is in the imagination of the free loaders.

The Treaty is one area where New Zealand has become dangerously divorced from reality.

This country faces significant challenges.

We do not have the time or the resources to endlessly indulge in obsessional navel gazing over the Treaty.

There are real problems to be fixed – not false ones being manufactured by the Treaty Industry.

Domestically there is no shortage of issues – as anyone who has read the recent research into child poverty in New Zealand can attest.

Maori face real challenges in lifting educational standards, health outcomes and employment prospects.

The principles of the Treaty are no substitute for sound education policies leading to better socio-economic outcomes.

This is where real progress is made.

Internationally, New Zealand is facing major competitive challenges.

As you will be aware New Zealand is not immune to the wholesale shift of manufacturing industries to China and India.

Remember these are mostly Maori jobs which will be lost in these industries.

In this area, as in so many others, New Zealand First is the only party that is doing anything to alert New Zealanders to what is happening.

It is Maori who will soon be overtaken by Asians in population numbers – and others, including the Maori party, say nothing.

We confront the real issues, while others deal with romantic daydreams.

There is no future in adhering to fabled principles – only in concrete policies grounded in the real world.

Maori cannot progress while they are trapped in the past under the shroud of the Treaty.

The mystical “principles” will not deliver progress. It is time to move on .


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