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Peters: What A Country Without A Treaty Would Do

14 June 2005

An address by Rt Hon Winston Peters to Opotiki Grey Power on Tuesday, 14 June 2005, 1.30pm, Senior Citizens Hall, King Street, Opotiki

What A Country Without A Treaty Would Do

If there was one issue which illustrates the void in political leadership in New Zealand at the moment it is race relations.

For years now Labour’s patronising and paternalistic approach to Maori has ensured that they have never been able to escape the victimhood mentality that has anchored Maori progress.

How ironic that this approach has now resulted in the formation of a political vehicle based solely on race which seems destined to terminally fracture Labour’s Maori support.

All those years of taking the Maori vote for granted may now result in the permanent loss of a large chunk of Maori support.

Such benign neglect by Labour though is typical of its failed leadership.

Sadly for New Zealand, Parliament’s other tired old party, the National party, offers no valid alternative.

Indeed the lack of direction displayed by the current National party leadership on race relations would suggest that while the rest of us moved out of the 20th century, their thinking is firmly wedded to the 1950s.

It is outdated, out of touch and a long way removed from our 21st century reality.

They are led by a political hitchhiker.

If there was one lesson which can be drawn from the National party leader’s last foray into race relations issues – it is that while he could mimic the words he had heard New Zealand First say, he clearly had no understanding of the issue and what he was actually talking about.

New Zealanders were looking for real solutions and all he offered them was empty rhetoric.

Now I want to create a scenario today which I believe is highly pertinent to the current state of race relations in New Zealand.

I want you to imagine that the Treaty did not exist – that New Zealand had been colonised the same way other settlements had been.

That Waitangi was just another picturesque Bay of Island’s location with no additional significance.

I want you to consider what our race relations would be like had the Treaty never been signed.

Would the rate of inter-marriage between Maori and non-Maori, which now accounts for nearly one in three births in New Zealand, been any different.

I think not.

Would the Maori battalion have fought any less valiantly along with other New Zealand troops in World War Two.

I think not.

Would Maori who travel offshore and who earn considerably more in other countries be earning any less.

I think not.

Would the Maori language and culture still be the Maori language and culture and still worth preserving and show casing to the world.

Absolutely.

Let me put it to you another way.

When the lions tour here they play a range of games including tests against the All Blacks and a game against the Maori.

What is interesting about that is that being Maori has absolutely no bearing on selections for the All Blacks.

We pick the best 15 players, or least what Mr Henry, Mr Smith and Mr Hanson believe to best the best 15 players to take the field.

There will be no quotas for Maori, or any other race for that matter.

It will be team picked on merit.

It contains a few New Zealanders from European extraction, some from Pacific Island extraction and some with Maori ancestry.

The key point is that if we are to put our best team on the field then the individual player’s race simply doesn’t matter.

We will cheer for them, support them (and castigate them if they loose) not based on their race, but on their performance.

Now the Maori team was picked on ethnicity. You must have some Maori heritage to qualify.

What is important here is that simply because a Maori team, proud of both their heritage and their culture exists, it has absolutely no bearing on the selection of the top national team – the All Blacks.

This is a classic example of how Maori culture can be enhanced and promoted, without divisive segregationist policies.

It is not based on the Treaty – and would clearly exist had the Treaty never existed and yet provides a great service to both Maori and the New Zealand rugby public.

There is no special treatment within the mainstream team, just a recognition that those with a particular ethnicity have a clear aptitude playing rugby.

There would be an outcry if we had ethnic quotas for All Black selection.

Indeed, I believe that any Maori selected would be horrified if their selection was based on being Maori not on being the best player in their position.

So I ask this question – why do we tolerate such a divisive approach from the government in the delivery of its policy?

Why would we tolerate Maori or any ethnic group receiving special treatment based on race?

And perhaps the more pertinent question – why has a historical colonising document, the Treaty of Waitangi, be allowed to be become the scapegoat for special treatment based on race.

In fact it is clear what the Treaty promised was the Maori should get equal treatment – not separate or special treatment.

Now nobody would begrudge Maori or any New Zealander for that matter ever receiving equal treatment on any front.

Every New Zealander must have equal access to health, education, housing, welfare or any other of the range of government services.

But New Zealanders are growing tired of those who receive special treatment.

The Treaty has been abused in this way.

What we must provide is cultural security without special treatment.

It is possible. Now in the past week we have been asking the government’s Minister for Race Relations just how much money has been spent on Treaty and Treaty related courses in the public sector.

Incredibly, he won’t give us an answer – either because he knows the figure is so large there will be public outcry or because he simply doesn’t know.

Either way such obfuscation and dereliction of duty by a Minister is disturbing.

But we will not let up.

We know that hundreds of millions is wasted on meaningless Treaty courses within the public service.

There is no place for it.

No doctor or nurse is going to operate on a patient any differently by attending a Treaty course.

A Treaty course will not aid a teacher teaching maths or science or even woodwork for that matter.

Should the Treaty be taught as party of the history curriculum in our schools – absolutely.

But should it permeate others aspects of the public service – absolutely not.

And removing this will be a key plank of New Zealand First’s Treaty policy to be launched next week.

After all, why waste hundreds of million on bureaucrats learning how to say “kia ora” and “no”, instead of “hello” and “yes”.

One aspect of New Zealand First’s policy platform, which is completely free of race bias as it should be, is our seniors’ policy.

It is a model for how all government policy should operate.

One of our first tasks after the election will be to provide assistance to the senior citizens who have made such a big contribution to this country.

We’re going to give each and every person over the age of 65 a gold card that says you are a valued member of the community – and this is how we value you.

We will raise the level of superannuation from the current rate of 32.5 percent of the Net Average Wage individually for each married superannuitant to 34 percent or 68 percent per couple. This will put nearly $10 a week extra in your pockets.

In the long term our aim is to lift superannuation from 65 percent or below of the Net Average Wage for couples to 72.5 percent.

We will also correct the anomaly related to the non-qualified spouse and bring their rebate rate down from 70 cents to 30 cents in the dollar like other benefits.

Our gold card also includes improved subsidies for healthcare and medicines.

We also intend to:

improve the rates rebate scheme; lower charges for power, gas and telephone; improve access to savings incentives in the form of bonus interest rates on term deposits; and extend transport and other discounts available to seniors.

We propose that the card be developed as a ‘smartcard’ so it can be ‘loaded’ with all of the relevant information associated with the cardholder’s benefits.

For example, when you go to the doctors or the chemist, all the benefits and subsidies you are entitled to will be automatically recorded on the card so you won’t have keep filling out forms.

This will also apply to your lower charges for power, gas and telephone – it will all occur automatically by swiping the card.

The current rates rebate scheme is not accessed by all those eligible because many people are not aware of its existence or how to access it.

It provides too little to too few.

With our plan a swipe of the card will establish eligibility and credit the appropriate amount.

Also included in our policy, but not part of the Golden Age Card, is the need to dramatically increase funding to the eldercare sector and to remove income and asset testing.

The extra money the government put in the Budget on this front is only a fraction of what is required. Most will go on back payments for staff under-funding over the past five years and the rest is at the discretion of DHBs how it is spent.

We will also be looking into the issue of transferability of overseas pensions, particularly sections 19 and 70 of the Social Security Act. We believe there are improvements which can be made here.

This policy is based on a vision of our seniors living a better life, with dignity

You will hear Labour and National come up with umpteen reasons why they can’t afford to treat our seniors with dignity.

We say that we can’t afford not to.

You can gauge a society by the way it treats the elderly. And you can gauge leadership by the way it responds to a challenge. You can choose to continue with the same old same old or you can vote for a party that is on your side.

You can choose parties that make token gestures and are all talk or you can choose a party of action.

A party vote for New Zealand First will secure you strong and effective leadership and give you and your families a better life.

Let New Zealand First be your choice for change.

ENDS


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