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Marc My Words: The Crimson Tide Is Turning Blue

Marc My Words
By Marc Alexander MP
16 April 2004

The Crimson Tide Is Turning Blue

Politics, like firearms, can either be used to protect people or to enslave them - particularly when it comes to how we live as opposed to how we should live. After a year and a half, I have come to the conclusion that governments are a necessary evil at best - an intolerable blight at worst. At present we are somewhere in the middle.

Since the middle of 2003 there has been a subtle shift in the gravitas of the Labour government. Once filled with an unassailable air of confidence, the mighty sails of the Labour behemoth have imperceptibly lost much of their ability to represent what people actually want. The result has been a plethora of initiatives deeply rooted in ideology.

In the last eighteen months the nation has been the recipient of sweeping changes; allowing legally sanctioned pimping and soliciting with the slimmest of parliamentary margins; a hypocritical anti-smoking legislation that will be an imposition on private business but not on state run prisons; a civil union bill which confers marital status to those for whom marriage cannot have a traditional significance; a Holidays Act and a recent proposal to raise minimum wages which sound great, but will end up hurting the very people it is attempting to benefit, with higher costs, lower employment growth and retarding business confidence; and now the threat to communities up and down the country with the (albeit suspended) closures of three hundred schools! The biggest revelation is that the slide has caught the pundits off guard, including the National Party, which has found itself very much in contention much to the astonishment of its own members.

There is a sense that the ideological drive is running out of puff, with the result that the collective commonsense of the public is finally gaining the currency it deserves. Nevertheless it is difficult to escape the feeling that much will have to be undone by future governments to prevent our children from having to pay for all the consequences of the liberal ideology presently in place.

United Future did not choose to work with Labour because we find Labour's policies irresistible, we simply work with the hand that voters have dealt because we are committed to our country. The alternative was to pass up on our responsibilities, shout from the sidelines with everyone else and abdicate the opportunity to contribute.

The past failures of the National / NZ First and the Labour / Alliance coalitions made us determined that stability must be assured for the good of the country. The result has been a reasonable working relationship demanded by the new MMP realities.

At times our engagement with Labour has been hugely beneficial, as in the passage of the Victims Rights Act, the Families Commission, Criminal Investigations (bodily samples) Amendment Act (which extends DNA testing to exonerate and incriminate), separating BCL from TVNZ (which was our initiative and greatly increases transparency and accountability on broadcast issues), and others. At other times we have parted company in not supporting their initiatives because we believe passionately that they have gone against the interests of this country.

For example, we cannot support ideologically driven policies that discriminate against those who help create our wealth; nor support those in favour of a redistribution of that wealth based on the bankrupt notion of the equality of outcome. We cannot support a political arrogance that diminishes individual choice and consequent responsibility in favour of state sponsored dependence and patronage.

And we cannot support policies where a child who calls himself a New Zealander can be discriminated against because his ethnicity determines his legal, social or political status.

New political winds are blowing in our land, partly I suspect, due to four years of disquiet over the direction this country has been heading, and perhaps also because Kiwis, now materially better off, are acquiring a certain confidence. They want a government that puts its trust in the people, not the other way around.

The public do not want a government that thinks for us. We do not want a government that takes responsibility for our financial futures by burdening every wage and salary earner with an unacceptably high tax; which denies us real choices which are supposed to come as a reward for our work efforts. And we do not want a government telling our kids that some will have rights that others will not, based on their ethnicity.

Where are non-Maori entitlements to customary title? If the French were to claim such rights in Akaroa most would find the idea preposterous. The example is facetious but I raise it to question that something done ten, fifty, or one hundred and sixty years ago is not in itself a reason for its continued observance.

Maori do have reason for legitimate grievance - there was a policy to obliterate their language for example - but a wrong committed many years in the past by perpetrators no longer living, or in any real sense culpable, should not bind a new generation to perpetuating that grievance.

It is unhelpful to speak of Maori as having preferential rights on the basis of being indigenous, if only for the simple reason that they are not; they, like the rest of us have an ancestral heritage from somewhere else. Unlike the native flora and fauna, they came here too (just some time before the rest of us).

Not so long ago Maori and non-Maori stood, bled and died together in the defence of our nation. They did not give up their lives so that our freedom could be torn apart by the very generation they sought to defend. Their sacrifice will have been for nothing if they repelled the enemy from without, only to succumb to the enemy within.

Our children know nothing of ethnic difference until we choose to demonstrate and teach it. And what should we teach? I say we must let our lesson be one of indivisibility as New Zealanders; equal in opportunity, equal in our compassion to address needs, and equal under the Law.

The idea of race as a basis for any political difference is a powerful social force that must be resisted at all costs. Just as honey attracts bees, ethnically based legislation will inevitably attract a cluster of prejudice and ignorance, which will set one people against another in the maintenance of vested interests.

It is important that any legislation about what it means to be a New Zealander should not only elicit overwhelming support in Parliament but that of Kiwis themselves. That means Labour and National must put aside their politicking and place the national interest first with supportive roles from the smaller parties.

This is a time to assert that our common inheritance is not determined by the colour of hair, eyes or skin. It is only when we respect our universal and common bonds, recognizing our equal civil rights, obligations and responsibilities, that we can then all truly be called New Zealanders.


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