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One law for all --- Richard Prebble

One law for all
Wednesday 25th Aug 1999
Richard Prebble

Speech -- Governance & Constitution

Extract of speech to Indian community

Gandhi Centre, cnr New North Rd & Virginia Ave, Auckland, 7.30 pm Wed 25 August

One law for all

Hon Richard Prebble CBE, Leader ACT New Zealand

The ACT Party is raising an issue where all the other parties have virtually the same policies and none have a mandate. That is our present Waitangi settlement process. Neither Labour who started it, nor National who is continuing with the policy, have ever sought a mandate from the electorate.

The policy is roaring out of control. We now have claims for the electromagnetic spectrum, for the water in our rivers and for the flora and fauna of New Zealand. It has become a cargo cult. But it has gone further - government departments, without any mandate from Parliament, are now issuing mission statements declaring New Zealand to be bicultural.

This raises an interesting question - where does that leave ethnic communities like the New Zealand Indian community? Which one of the two cultures does the government say you are? Alternatively, is government perhaps saying your culture does not exist? Where did they receive authority to make such statements?

Where does it say that we are bicultural in the Treaty? Where does it say we are bicultural in any Act of Parliament? You may think it is harmless window dressing, but it's not.

Last year I spoke to the NZ Sikh Association. Afterwards I was having a cup of tea and one member challenged me: "What special measures will you promise for us Sikhs?"

"Nothing. I promise you'll get no more and no less than any other New Zealander."

He pressed me. "We've had MPs from Labour and the Alliance. They have given us a promise of a new ethnic ministry. Why doesn't ACT?"

I held my ground. "I won't promise you preferment because one person's positive discrimination must mean another person was discriminated against. I believe in equal opportunity for all."

He then said, "How can I join ACT?"

"Why the change of heart?" I asked?

"My son wants to be a doctor," he told me. "He was dux of his school. He applied to the Auckland Medical School and was declined. They said that New Zealand has too many Indian doctors."

I made inquiries with a friend who has been on the interviewing panel of the Medical School. At first he said this couldn't have happened, but after a 20 minute conversation he admitted it could have.

When I was growing up in the '50s, I was taught at school that what the Treaty meant was that we are all New Zealanders, with equal rights as citizens. Since then they've gone and changed it.

I say the original meaning of the Treaty as intended by Governor Hobson and the chiefs who signed it was that Maori were getting the same citizenship rights as everyone else.

I also say that New Zealanders of Indian descent deserve the same citizenship rights as all others.

I do say to you that there is no such thing positive discrimination. Whenever there is someone receiving preferential treatment, that means some other New Zealander is being negatively discriminated against.

The ACT Party stands foursquare for equal opportunity and we're absolutely opposed to privilege and discrimination of any kind. In many ways I believe this is the most important issue of this election. I invite you to decide whether you are prepared to tolerate discrimination by government agencies that by implication are saying that your culture and your citizenship rights are in some way less valuable and less entitled to respect than others. If we don't stop this nonsense now, it may later prove impossible to stop.

The ACT Party does not say - and never has - that Maori have not suffered real grievances or we shouldn't address them. ACT says let's deal with genuine grievances - not made-up ones.

You don't have to be a lawyer, Sir Douglas, to know that Treaty claims for sunlight or the electromagnetic spectrum are bogus. Nor do you have to be a lawyer to know that unless Parliament sets a timetable and a cut-off date for claims and clearly states all claims must be fair, full and final, then this grievance industry which the Waitangi process has become, will just keep on going.

New Zealand deserves better. We are a multi-cultural and multi-racial people and we want a level playing field and one law for all. [end]


For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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