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Oral Question: Maori--Multiculturalism

Tuesday 22nd Jun 1999
Ken Shirley
Media Release -- Governance & Constitution

6. Hon. KEN SHIRLEY (Deputy Leader--ACT NZ) to the Minister of Justice: Does he agree with the reported claim by the Minister of Maori Affairs that the Race Relations Conciliator is undermining the position of Maori "by pushing a policy of multiculturalism which devalues the status of Maori"?

Hon. TONY RYALL (Minister of Justice): Maori and the Crown enjoy a direct relationship under the Treaty of Waitangi. The treaty plays an important role in all aspects of Government in New Zealand, including the work of the *Race Relations Office.

Hon. Ken Shirley: Is the Minister prepared to state to the House and publicly that he supports *Dr Prasad's statement that his office is not required to give priority to Maori issues and disagreed publicly with the Minister of Maori Affairs; if not, why not?

Hon. TONY RYALL: The Race Relations office has a statutory independence and operates within its legislative mandate. The Race Relations Conciliator advises me that the treaty plays an important role in the work of his office.

Mr Dover Samuels: Has the Minister inquired whether the Race Relations Conciliator is investigating a complaint against his colleague the Minister of Maori Affairs when he referred to me, and I quote: "I hate to say it, but they just don't like niggers."?

Hon. TONY RYALL: As I said earlier on, the Race Relations Office is statutorily independent. It operates within its legislative mandate and the Race Relations Conciliator does not consult me on the complaints that he receives.

Arthur Anae: What role does the treaty play in the work of the Race Relations Office?

Hon. TONY RYALL: The Race Relations Office has a mandate under the *Human Rights Act to accept complaints of racial discrimination and harassment from all people and to promote racial understanding in New Zealand. In doing so the office is fully aware that the treaty is the founding document of New Zealand and, as such, plays an important role in its work. The office's educational programmes all address treaty issues.

Sandra Lee: Does the Minister accept that the two sets of relationships that exist in New Zealand--the bicultural relationship based on the treaty and the multicultural relationship--require distinct and unique treatment, including by the Race Relations Office; if not, why not?

Hon. TONY RYALL: I think it is most important that the Race Relations Office considers the full breadth of those relationships, but it does accept--and, as the conciliator said, he does accept--that there is an important relationship between the Crown and Maori. Whilst that is important, it should not undervalue the concerns that other New Zealanders may have about race relations in New Zealand.


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