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Bill English Chapman Lecture – 3 October 2005

4 October 2005

Bill English Chapman Lecture – 3 October 2005

Last week the class photos came home. In one photo there were only three names I would identify as traditional Kiwi names, and they belonged to the only three obviously European faces. The rest, including my Samoan-Italian-Pakeha son, look as if they or their parents could have recently arrived from almost anywhere. These children get on well enough to turn our birthday parties into multinational events. They are not aware of the fact that adults can find it more difficult.

In a few short years culture, race and religion have become overriding issues in liberal democracies across the world and demography will ensure it stays that way. European populations are declining, so developed economies are inexorably drawing people in to fill the gaps.

At the same time populous developing economies are mastering mass education and sustained economic growth, producing people with the skills and the expectations that encourage them to look to opportunities in developed countries. An ageing population will mean a more culturally diverse population.

So we know what the future will look like. Indonesians will care for my generation in our dotage, in rest homes owned by entrepreneurs of Samoan and Chinese descent.

Making cultural diversity work will be a marker of successful nations in the 21st century. Our market economy and liberal democracy produce economic growth and tolerable freedom. But we depend on enough shared culture, including respect for the rule of law, to keep this engine of opportunity and aspiration working.

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The popular media play a vital role in reinforcing and broadening this shared culture. It takes local twists and global turns through BroTown and Desperate Housewifes, Che Fu and the Rolling Stones World Tour, National Radio and The Edge. Popular culture is hugely diverse, eclectic, high volume, and seductive.

But the people who consume it have all been through our education system. What happens and what is taught in our schools, universities and polytechnics will make a difference to how New Zealand deals with cultural diversity.

During the election campaign Dr Brash returned to the subject of his Orewa speech which had brought a long simmering argument into the public arena. He suggested there was a need to change what is taught about the Treaty in our schools. As Opposition spokesman on Education I took more than a passing interest.

The president of the Principals’ Federation, the head of the largest group of senior educators in the country, responded assertively and somewhat typically in the education debate by comparing Dr Brash with Hitler. However, judging by their official documents, the Principals’ Federation is in the grip of what has become conventional public sector wisdom on the Treaty. The President’s reaction is evidence of a prevailing view in education that the Treaty and its implications are beyond debate.

So let me start, then, with a proposition that should not have to be made to educators: that the terms of cultural diversity are open to debate. The status of the Treaty and the relationship of Maori and non-Maori citizens is open to debate – and should be welcomed by people of goodwill. It is neither racist nor narrow minded to question conventional wisdom or to suggest that this is a legitimate subject for genuinely public debate as distinct from specialist debate.

Let’s call conventional wisdom on the Treaty, “Treatyology”.

Treatyology is public doctrine and public policy that refers to the Treaty of Waitangi as an expression of indigenous rights and indigenous law, and purports to be based on and derived from those rights and law. It asserts that the Treaty of Waitangi underpins a contemporary constitutional partnership between Maori and the Crown (or its agents such as this University), and that this partnership will continue to evolve in the direction of a bifurcated state.

Treatyology makes some bold assertions that many New Zealanders do not accept. Firstly, that Maori and the Crown are as distinct now as they were in 1840 when local rules were negotiated with a British official representing the UK Crown in New Zealand. Secondly that non-Maori and the Crown can be conflated together as if they are one and the same thing. Thirdly, that Article Two rights are indigenous rights and that these indigenous rights are quite different from the rights of citizenship referred to in Article Three.

Fourthly, that there is an unbroken continuity between the governing entities represented at the Treaty’s signing and today’s iwi and hapu as governing entities. Fifthly, there is an assumption that those entities can effectively act today as they did in 1840, to secure separate rights for Maori under the Treaty. Finally this argument assumes that the Crown in 1840 and today are the same thing and that it behaves now as it did then.

All of these propositions are debatable. Why then are they so universally accepted by educators?

As an intellectual construct, Treatyology is all–encompassing; this tendency was neatly summed up by newly elected MP, Hone Harawira, in a pre-election speech:

“The Treaty is the founding document of our nation. It provides the basis for good relations between all citizens of Aotearoa, it sets out how resources will be managed for the betterment of all and it provides the framework for an ethical and inclusive society.” [NZ Herald, Sept 15 2005-]

I disagree with Mr Harawira. At the very least, this is an ideological statement – and ideologies are always contestable. Good educators must be thoughtful about how to supply their students with better tools to help this country negotiate growing cultural diversity. What you need to hand to your students are the fluencies of citizenship and the uniquely New Zealand civil society that underpins it, not half warmed leftovers of imported post colonialism.

Now let me be clear: I don’t believe any self-respecting government that supports institutional autonomy and professionalism among our teachers should direct what is taught. It should, however, be free to disagree when particular views about the Treaty are regarded as beyond debate.

There is as yet not much sign of critical thinking or robust debate in our tertiary institutions about the history and significance of the Treaty. In fact there is a worrying uniformity among the critics and consciences of society. A quick look at University constitutions shows that all of them, without exception, have bowed elegantly before ‘treaty principles’, and dutifully set up a committee to elaborate these profound matters.

The University’s job is not made easier by the Maori Tertiary Education Framework. I quote, “Commissioned by the Ministry (ministry) the framework explores ways to co-ordinate initiatives as they contribute to the key visions for Maori Education.”

Aren’t you impressed by the unequivocal commitment?

This is the vocabulary of tokenism, protected from critique because it is said to be a Maori strategy. I don’t believe it is a Maori strategy – it displays none of the vision, commitment and vigour of the Maori I meet who believe in a wide variety of self determinations.

I don’t deny it has some merit in stressing responsiveness to Maori. But that in turn begs the question of why education policy shouldn’t be similarly responsive to everyone else.

This sort of half baked goodwill and muddled thinking has become a barrier to the aspirations Maori share with their fellow citizens – the chance to educate themselves and their children according to their own culture and beliefs, the chance to make choices for themselves rather than have the state choose for them, and the opportunity to exercise effective accountability when they don’t like what they are getting.

That there is a need for a new approach comes from no less an authority than our Prime Minister. In a characteristically careful concession she acknowledged that with the public reaction to the Orewa speech an old consensus had been broken and that we need to find a new point of balance. It’s a measure of how far the ground has shifted that the Labour Party felt moved to acknowledge the post-Orewa groundswell rather than fight it.

The education sector needs to engage in this debate rather than ignore it in the hope that it will go away. As my party’s education spokesman I, too, have some views on what should be taught, and I would welcome your response to them.

The direction I propose includes, as a first step, a better understanding of Pakeha history.

I am old enough to remember when this nation seemed too young and too raw to merit a history in the classic sense. However, the last two decades have seen a wide range of new, exciting and digestible writing on New Zealand history, not least from this University. Among the best of it is “Histories Power and Loss” edited by Andrew Sharp, full of genuinely challenging and difficult ideas about New Zealand. I suspect few of those ideas have found their way into the Treaty-related courses taught in polytechnics , universities and the civil service.

I dropped New Zealand history at university because I thought my country must amount to something more complex than the creation of the welfare state and its inextricable connection to the development of the Labour Party. I didn’t like the feeling that someone else owned our history, or the arrogance that lay behind that claim.

I am pleased to be part of a generation now that doesn’t feel it has constantly to keep asserting that New Zealand is New Zealand - a unique and autonomous nation rather than something less than that. New Zealand nationalists of the 1960’s generation felt the need to stress over and over again independence and difference from a disowned past. But at least for my generation, New Zealand possesses a sufficiently mature identity that we can try to understand our past better without feeling that our 21st century identity is threatened by it.

Let me give an example where educators need to give our young people a more complete history to help them understand why we think what we think.

An implication of Treatyology is that citizenship can and should be divided to express a special status for Maori. This notion runs sharply counter to broad public support for the idea of “one law for all”.

Is this attitude the product of ignorance or racism, or is it rooted in something altogether more substantial?

History might tell us why many New Zealanders do not like the concept of differentiated citizenship.

Pakeha history did not begin in 1840 or even 1770 when Captain Cook first anchored off the South Island. To focus New Zealand history purely on the events since 1840 is to mistake the ship for the sea on which it sails.

Many New Zealanders react badly to the idea of a differentiated citizenship because their political history is a history of overcoming religious and tribal divisions and the struggle to form a democratic citizenship.

As a Member of Parliament I experience every day deeply held assumptions about the relationship between the monarch, Parliament, and the people and how these change over time.

The rituals that will surround the start of the next Parliamentary session are odd, but they hark back over hundreds of years to a time when people fought – and killed - for what we now take for granted: one citizenship under a constrained constitutional monarch.

Our collective memory and traditions go back even further. Magna Carta, still mentioned regularly on talkback, stands removed from us by 790 years. It is as remote from us and our society as the arrival of the first canoes. But it represents a cultural continuity – a living reflex about political arrangements that were already ancient by 1840.

And we still live with the echoes of past battles over matters no longer controversial at all.

When I was a new candidate in 1990 in the seat of Wallace, I was asked more than once the JFK question about my allegiance to the Crown or the Pope. Ours is a political tradition which, through bitter experience, has learnt not to make a window into mens’ souls. We hold at once a fear and a respect for the essence of each other’s beliefs. Our traditions have evolved to contain the power of those beliefs.

I won’t tell you that you are wrong, just don’t bring it up. Let’s talk about something else, we say.

The arguments of the Reformation and Counter Reformation were at the front line of European settlement. Devastated by the Musket Wars, many Maori looked to the Bible and the Crown as sources of Law to replace a broken social order, and this was expressed eloquently in the Treaty.

I can trace my own New Zealand Catholic lineage through the Marist fathers, to James K Baxter to Jerusalem to Mother Aubert to Pompallier, who on the day, told the Maori chiefs not to sign the Treaty. Just last year Pompallier’s bones were returned from France to the Hokianga, a symbol of a deep continuity reaching well beyond the Year Zero version of New Zealand history.

This particular story is one of thousands we all carry that link us through a collective memory. And like the Maori collective memory, the Pakeha collective memory consists of unspoken instincts underpinning a respect for a civil society built up over time. Respect for the dead, the team work ethic, careful neighbourliness, the bond of marriage, protection of minorities, egalitarianism. We do not often self-consciously express these because they are so deeply embedded.

Part of that collective memory is also the ability to merge cultures, and this accounts for the relative success of New Zealand in doing so. Pakeha roots in Great Britain are a tangle of Picts, Danes, Norse, Vikings, Celts and Normans plus all the escapees from continental intolerance over subsequent centuries. Our language is a fusion of Germanic and Latin influences. This is a story that does not lend itself to notions of racial purity.

It is a history of wrestling religious and tribal differences to the ground and struggling towards a universal citizenship.

So all of this has to be unpacked in this land at the end of the world. Not for us the crowded resonance of Europe and the UK where the past stares back at every turn. Instead we have been working it out in the flat bright silences of the empty paddock or the raw new subdivision, against a horizon of bush and tussock ranges rather than cathedral spires.

Suspicion of defining people’s rights by ethnic, gender or religious orientation is deep in our cultural DNA.

So it should be no surprise that Kiwis hold strong views about the nature of citizenship, and it is a mistake to label those views as racist or thoughtless.

It is this tradition and these codes of civil behaviour that lead me to the conclusion that Hone Harawira is wrong when he says the Treaty is the basis of good relations between people in New Zealand.

The Treaty is one source of cohesion, but by no means the only one or the most important.

Both Maori and Pakeha have a turbulent and sometimes violent history. Each society has learned lessons about what constitutes a civil existence. The Treaty is an acknowledgment of these, not an embodiment of them. To rest the good relations between future generations on that document is to rest an office block on a pinhead. Our respective traditions and our growing shared traditions represent a far broader, stronger foundation.

The Treaty did not replace or overwrite what had gone before, and the traditions it represents are more powerful than the Treaty itself.

A genuine, mutual respect for Maori and Pakeha civil society will be a far better basis for any relationship than ever more complex theories about the constitutional relationship between Maori and the Crown.

There is too much emphasis in our educational institutions on the Treaty as a constitution. To be fair, the thinking has been influenced by the Courts and in particular Lord Cooke’s judgment in the Lands case . The public have not learned to breathe the rarefied air of constitutional debate on the mountaintops of the judiciary and Parliament. And it is thin air. Lord Cooke’s inventiveness in the Lands case has not stood the test of time or politics. At the time it served a purpose in requiring the Crown to consider the effects of its own actions on the ability to make future treaty settlements But the Court of Appeal’s handiwork has not delivered the foundation for a new view of nationhood. Parliament has sown the ‘Principles of the Treaty’ randomly through legislation without regard to what crop it might produce.

Huge judicial and intellectual energy has been expended trying to make the facts fit the theory. But fifteen years on we must judge the attempt to transform the Treaty into a constitution to have failed.

One can argue that the Treaty was once a constitution of sorts. But, like the 1853 Constitution Act, it failed. The Treaty order lasted about 30 years, and crashed in a war whose consequences we still live with. During that time territorial self-government by Maori might have been possible, but that world has vanished

The traditional New Zealand fondness for an active role for the state is another reason why this project must fail. Whatever the historical version of the Crown, the modern state is rather different. New Zealanders expect a cohesive, stable and effective state. It makes sense given our small size and isolation. If government didn’t matter to New Zealanders, they wouldn’t care much what it looked like. But it does matter to us.

Another further reason it will fail is because the consequences can be odd to say the least. Let me dwell for a moment on Te Wananga o Aotearoa - an entity that has had more profile, more controversy and more money in recent times than any other education institution.

Here we have a contemporary Treaty claim of national significance that demonstrates both the failure of Treaty ideology and the potential for a new way forward.

Interests associated with Te Wananga o Aotearoa (TWOA) lodged a claim in the Waitangi tribunal to prevent the government enforcing its policy that the Wananga should have only Maori students by 2008 - a 100% Maori quota. Behind this claim was an argument over the terms of a previous Treaty claim.

Currently about 50% of the Wananga’s students are Maori. The non-Maori students include Pakeha, Pacifika and recent migrants.

The Government believes it is enforcing the conditions of a settlement made according to the Treaty.

The Wananga believes it can and has to use the Treaty to protect the rights of non-Maori students who choose the Wananga for their education.

Was the treaty meant to protect the rights of non-Maori against the Crown? Could the non-Maori students lodge a claim against the Crown, to stop the enforcement of the quota?

And it begs the question as to why the Government believes it is compelled by Treaty principles to enforce a Maori quota on a Maori institution that wants to be inclusive of all New Zealanders.

And who benefits if the Government succeeds in enforcing a 100% Maori quota? Certainly, thousands of migrants and generally lower income Pakeha who choose the wananga will simply lose their opportunity for further education.

The Government is trying to force the TWOA back into the constitutionally inspired model of the bifurcated state. Wananga have been set up as public Maori education institutions, parallel to public polytechnics and universities. But legislation written just 10 years ago, under a National government, is already out of date. TWOA has forced the issue. Intentionally or not, Government has funded TWOA far beyond the original concept of a Maori only institution.

The wananga can be seen as the constitutional product of a living Treaty; or it can be seen as a civic organisation of considerable influence, with its own stories and aspirations, teaching students in whom other public institutions have no interest.

The Treaty claim makes it plain that the Wananga wants to be seen as just another provider in the marketplace and to be treated on the same basis as everyone else.

The Wananga is right. Its future is much brighter if it is free of the Treaty and dated ideas about what it means. It can compete in the market with its own kaupapa which is clearly attractive to all sorts of people. What the Wananga needs to demonstrate is not ethnic purity or constitutional correctness, but accountability for taxpayers’ money and sound educational standards.

Let me give you another illustration. In the 1990’s, the government of which I was a part was instrumental in encouraging the growth of Maori health care providers. Good primary health care requires a fine-grained understanding of the way people live and these providers often did an outstanding job of meeting needs no one else met. We did not discuss their constitutional status, we offered them funding and a contract if they could do the job. And they have done it.

Hone Harawira makes this point in the same speech I referred to earlier. He says:

“The threat to abolish race based funding is dangerous and centred on ignorance and the blind acceptance of the ability of state agencies to cater for Maori needs.”

I agree with Mr Harawira that many New Zealanders including Maori get a second-rate deal because of a “blind acceptance of the ability of state agencies to cater for their needs.”

Maori who are involved in providing services may well see their organisations as expressions of rangatiratianga in the same way that the Catholic Church saw maintaining its own schools as an expression of independence and of its own beliefs and culture. Those motives should not be belittled. They are powerful forces for cohesion in our community. These institutions give people meaning and direction independent of the State, so they should be respected and accommodated by the Government, not manipulated.

To date, when the Government has insisted that only public institutions can deliver services, Maori have used the leverage of the Treaty to prise open access to service delivery on their terms. But surely this should be open to all New Zealanders? The Government’s tawdry treatment of elderly care organisations, private schools and Private Training Establishments (PTE’s) shows that in the absence of Treaty obligations they will go the extra mile to make life hard for institutions offering an alternative to state provision.

Now I salute Maori success in challenging the State. But I can’t justify that freedom being made exclusively available to them on the basis of a specious constitutional theory.

Lets imagine a different world, where peoples’ culture and beliefs are respected, where the state concedes to communities the right to provide education different from the standard public recipe, and where the state promotes and respects those choices.

In this world, what Maori ambitions will not be realised?

Clearly, those Maori who entertain the ambition of a parallel state health or education system would be disappointed. But that’s not an ambition harboured by most Maori. More importantly, in such a world, Maori do not need the Treaty to get what they want. They need the same tools as other citizens.

In this respect there is much common ground between Pakeha and Maori. Education, work and intact families are the recipe for social and cultural success. Maori and non-Maori have a common interest in working out principles of public policy to achieve these things.

Too often, people generalise about what people of different races think about the Government. For many Maori, the Crown is as abstract a concept as it is for Pakeha. Pakeha and Maori views on the role of Government range from fawning belief in the merit of everything public through to deep scepticism.

For New Zealand’s sake, Maori and Pakeha need to resolve this ambivalent struggle with the State in favour of their own customs and traditions, their own civil society which stands worthy of respect on its own merits, their own right as citizens to make choices.

The custom and the practise of the people, and private enterprise offer a much more flexible and dynamic path ahead than endless debate over the status of theTreaty.

Increasingly the economic success of Maori organisations and assets deserves recognition. We see this success as more Maori experience the benefits of Treaty settlements. The Hui Taumata last year demonstrated a strong determination for Maori to make their own way, fed up with the verbosity and inertia of the Crown.

This new found economic confidence might be the basis for rebuilding other aspects of Maori society. The truth is that the strongest day-to-day link between too many Maori and the Crown used to be through the Department of Social Welfare, and that is not the expression of rangatirantanga. For all the talk of whanau and renaissance, the state still finances a large proportion of Maori children into single parent homes where the risks are higher. Every New Zealander benefits from the economic success more Maori enjoy. A social renaissance would be as beneficial as the economic renaissance, a revival of the social and family pressure for parental responsibility, and restraint on violence and promiscuity.

Parents owe it to the wider society to look after children, feed them and educate them. This is an obligation of citizenship. And the Crown has to grapple with developing policies which reward responsibility and respect, and the civil order these virtues create.

Indeed, Maori social progress is reliant on more momentum in the crucial transition from a constitutional to a civil and economic focus.

But we all need a new language. Blame, debt, separation and guilt are not a recipe for harmonious relationships anywhere, anytime. This language has been a catalyst for the Treaty settlements. But now a new language must be built on the foundation of justice that has been so painfully dug in these soils.

And it is time that our conversation on these matters, our dialogue, is de-mystified.

Conflict is integral to social cohesion. It’s the way we become cohesive. There will be tension where there are differences. We should not be scared of those tensions. Rather, we should ensure that we have the right tools to hand for resolving them, and then be prepared to use them again and again. There are no single-shot solutions. We have to try out and live with the consequences of what we advocate, and if it doesn’t work we have to be prepared to try again.

The marae is the right metaphor for this discussion, and on the marae there are sharp distinctions between people by background and status. Yet these distinctions do not limit what can be said, whether hospitable or combative.

In our direct and now finely tuned democracy, there is no mandate without open discussion. The Treaty debate has gone on between the Crown and Maori down behind an old shed, instead of on the marae. And it has been kept secret because the Crown has feared that it can’t explain what it has been up to.

When the Government had the chance to explain after Dr Brash’s Orewa speech, it chose not to. It has to get over that. The people will not accept the conclusion of an argument in which they have not taken part.

And on the marae discussion is direct. Being elliptical or evasive has its place if the goal is to avoid engagement. But mutual respect demands engagement and negotiation. If it’s heated it’s still better than resentment and appeasement.

New Zealanders have an inherited instinct for the preservation of the authoritative democratic State. They will recognise the status of Maori as first settlers. They are happy to see social innovation work at its own pace – the Rugby Union deciding the anthem should be sung in two languages, schools teaching their children Maori vocabulary and so on. But they don’t want a differentiated citizenship. That, they rightly believe, will be the root of division.

New Zealanders do not want to be suffocated by a constitutional theory; they want to be liberated to participate in the evolution of this still young nation through the daily exercise of mutual respect and social innovation.

This mindset will help us to successfully deal with cultural diversity.

I want our young people to understand we are a young nation with old traditions that reach back across 20 centuries or more and half of the world. What is new is the working out of these traditions by our people in this place. And this place has had a profound affect on those who have come here, as my friend Simon Upton has spoken and written about more eloquently than most.

The story of two settler traditions, is at the root of our national story so far. To these two traditions, more are added as we speak. It’s just a matter of time before they will add to the national story. Our shared experience of the Treaty has given us the cultural know- how to make room for newcomers. And won’t we need it in this place where
Asian, Polynesian, European and Maori meet globalisation at the end of the world?

Treatyology has been State-sponsored nation building. The State can recognise and describe traditions we have in the gracious and moving return of the Unknown Soldier. But it will fail if it tries to take over those traditions and direct them. Both the Crown and Maori would do better if they didn’t try so hard. In the end the nation will do what it does.

New Zealanders are generally quite secure about who they are and they get frustrated to be told they are wrong, or that they don’t know their history, though their instinctive grasp of the issues is sound. The public can distinguish between the cause of justice and the cause of separatism. They can sense the difference between negotiation and appeasement. They know Maori have a special place and they are almost universally happy to see it recognised in popular culture. Equally, they are almost universally unhappy about having it pushed on them by the Government.

It’s a simple formula – recognition for Maori, their unique place in our history and in what it means to be a New Zealander, and citizenship for everyone.

I believe this university, and other tertiary institutions are better placed than a Government to manage the tensions and trade-offs. Auckland University has thousands of international students and its part of a global flow of people, funding and knowledge. It also has a relationship with Ngati Whatua. Two long standing civil traditions intersect here. The idea of the University is at least as old as Ngati Whatua. Young New Zealanders can thrive here where global influences meet a particular localised history.

The students and staff here make connections and relationships that fortunately cannot be prescribed or restricted by clumsy Government planning processes.

And because New Zealand is isolated, the University of all places should be a sceptical force in the face of those who pedal the idea that we are uniquely troubled in dealing with cultural differences. We have done a better job of sorting out who owns Tamaki than others who have to sort out, say, who owns the Temple Mount.

So it makes no sense for the University to suspend its critical capacity or limit its inquiry into the intellectual history of the Treaty.

The education sector can be part of the debate that builds the nation that is emerging here; or it can bury its head in the sand and timidly accept the conventional wisdom. It can produce young people who are good citizens because they understand the fullness of New Zealand citizenship, or they can produce young people who know only how to recite a formula.

I would expect to see healthy debate and disagreement in this place that regards itself as the critic and conscience of society.

That is the best contribution you can make to our shared nationhood.


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