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Letter Sent To The Vice Chancellor Of AUT From Don Brash

Dear Vice Chancellor Damon Salesa,

I write to you on behalf of the more than 130,000 supporters of Hobson’s Pledge.

We are a group of New Zealanders whose primary objective is to fight for equality under the law and advance the vision Governor William Hobson expressed at Waitangi in 1840.

He is said to have spoken the following words to each of the chiefs after they took their turn signing the Treaty:

He Iwi Tahi Tātou / We are now one people

Given our goal to see a unified New Zealand, it was with dismay that I read the comments of Auckland University of Technology’s Dean of Law Khylee Quince about Gary Judd KC. Calling him a “racist dinosaur” and saying he can “go die quietly in the corner” is juvenile and abusive.

Mr Judd has had a career of nearly 30 years appearing many times in front of the Supreme Court and the Privy Council. He is entitled to, at the very least, collegial respect from Dean Quince even if she disagrees with his stance on tikanga’s role in law.

The law by nature is adversarial, pitting people, ideas, and legislation against each other. That is why a standard of behaviour and the tacit agreement to “play the ball, not the man” is so crucial to the practice. Expectations of how lawyers should handle themselves are written in legislation, by the Law Society, and informally in every chambers in the country. Dean Quince has fallen well short of all these standards.

In a role such as the Dean of Law, Khylee Quince has the additional burden of role-modelling to the nation’s future lawyers. This is why her comments are of such great concern to Hobson’s Pledge supporters. New Zealand is currently finding its way through challenging discussions about race relations, tikanga, and the role of the Treaty. Rather than fuelling the fires of division, our leaders, including legal and academic leaders, should be facilitating respectful and productive discussions. It is unacceptable that a Dean of Law would be contributing to the toxicity instead.

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The purpose of this letter is to urge you to remind Dean Quince of her obligations and the privileged position she is in. But most importantly, I ask you to make a public statement affirming that AUT’s Law School does not take political positions relating to race, but rather it teaches the law that pertains to the matters. Making it clear that Dean Quince does not speak for the University and that her remarks were inappropriate and unacceptable for someone in her position is critical to present and future law students and the confidence they can have in their education at AUT.

The matter of the role of tikanga in law is an active debate and no one should be discouraged from engaging in it. Dean Quince’s comments, given her position, will likely have a chilling effect, dissuading any student for questioning or arguing a position different to her own.

All the best,

Don Brash

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