The Nation: Don Brash and Louisa Wall
On The Nation: Lisa Owen interviews Don Brash and
Youtube clips from the show are available here.
Don Brash says he wants an end to any special legal constitutional status to “those who happen to have a Maori ancestor.”
Labour MP Louisa Wall says the Hobson’s Pledge lobby group is racist and anti-Maori. “It’s trying to negate history.”
Dr Brash has refused to name the friend who he says brought him the idea to found Hobson’s pledge.
Lisa Owen: It’s
been more than a decade since the former National Party
leader Don Brash made his infamous Orewa speech, calling out
what he called race-based privilege. Now he’s back with a
new group called Hobson’s Pledge, and they seem to be
calling for, well, the same thing. He joins me now along
with Labour MP Louisa Wall. Welcome to you both. Mr Brash,
if I can start with you, you were rejected at the polls 10
years ago when you were touting these ideas, so I’m
wondering what’s changed.
Don Brash: Hold on a second. In 2005, the National Party got its highest share of the vote in any election since 1990, and we won the party vote in almost every single provincial electorate, because people related to what I said in 2004. So it was a popular policy then, and it’s still a popular policy. But what we’re saying is this government, and indeed both Labour and National, particularly this government, have been creating co-governance all over the place. The good example right now is the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill — the bill to change the RMA — which would require local governments within 30 days of election to invite all the tribes in their area into so-called iwi participation agreements. Now, we think that’s nuts. Why give a special legal constitutional status to those who happen to have a Maori ancestor?
Is that the worst example that you believe is—?
Brash: No, there are lots of them. Take the Taranaki bill, which is before the House right now, which will require the Taranaki Regional Council to appoint six iwi representatives to voting positions on the council unelected. Hawke’s Bay’s done the same. Hauraki Gulf Forum proposes a structure where eight of the 16 members of that forum would be iwi appointees. Now, that’s entirely undemocratic and inconsistent with a colour-blind society which most New Zealanders want.
Right, let’s bring Louisa Wall in here. Is he right? Is it privilege enshrined in legislation, and is he right that he’s got the support?
Louisa Wall: I think he’s right that it is a constitutional issue, and I think that the treaty settlement process has, in fact, endowed Maori because of their constitutional right and their statutory obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi on to certain committees, but those committees aren’t for Maori; they’re for specific iwi groups. It’s actually about the status as mana whenua. And if we bring up Taranaki, for example, because obviously there was an opportunity for a third reading to be had, that would have enabled, as you’ve said, six iwi to be represented on the Taranaki Regional Council and to join Federated Farmers in terms of the management of the resources, the land. Since 2009, in fact, the Resource Management Act has tried to bring all the necessary players around the table to stop litigation, because people were going to the Environment Court. So, you know, Maori now are a $40 billion contributor to our economy, and I think it’s really important that everybody is around the table so that we can make pragmatic decisions for our country. So from my perspective, this is about going forward. That’s what the treaty settlement process is all about — our truth and reconciliation. So to deny our history and to deny the status of Maori as our indigenous people, as tangata whenua, I think is incredibly regressive, and we need to be future focused.
Brash: The treaty settlement process, we have never objected to. That’s about righting perceived wrongs in the past, okay?
Wall: Absolutely. That’s right.
Brash: We agree with that. But the treaty says, and Governor Hobson said when Maori chiefs signed that treaty, we are now one people. There’s no justification at all for a constitutional preference for those with a Maori ancestor.
Wall: But that’s where the constitutional and statutory obligations have emanated from. It is in fact the resolution of the treaty settlements, because as you will know, Maori were the original sovereign of the land. We are the indigenous people—
Brash: And they surrendered that sovereignty in 1840, and in return Governor Hobson said, the treaty says, we will guarantee your property rights—
Wall: Exactly. And then we know they were all taken away from us. Our lands were stripped from us. Our language, our culture.
Brash: Most of the land was sold, and we are now—
Wall: No. Confiscated. Raupatu.
Brash: Most of the land was sold, and that which was confiscated, compensation has been paid.
Wall: It’s been paid. So 50-plus iwi have now been through a settlement process—
Brash: I’m not contesting that.
Mr Brash, I’m just wondering, you’re talking about a colour-blind society —you repeat that phrase — and you want equality, but I’ve looked at your website extensively. It only singles our Maori.
Brash: Well, it’s only Maori that the government is giving a constitutional preference to. They’re not giving it to Pacific Islanders or Asians or anyone else. They’re saying Maori will have a constitutional preference. Let’s take the Maori electorates for a second.
So it is about Maori, then, isn’t it? You say it’s not about Maori on the one hand, but it is.
Brash: It is about Maori, of course, but not about some kind of favouritism. I’m saying there’s a constitutional preference being written in to the law all over the place. Let’s just got back to—
Wall: And, actually, I’m agreeing with you, because it’s about the status of Maori as the indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, the seats that were created in 1867 were specific to Maori, they limited our ability to participate democratically by giving us four seats.
Brash: But now that’s gone.
Wall: No, but we have a Maori electoral option. So Maori get to choose now whether they are on the Maori roll or on the general roll.
Do you think these ideas that Hobson’s Pledge are promoting, do you think they’re racist?
Wall: He iwi kotahi tatou — we are one people. Absolutely not. I think that’s what we want to be, going forward as equal New Zealanders.
I mean Hobson’s Pledge as in this group.
Wall: Oh, as in what this group’s trying to do? It’s absolutely anti-Maori. It’s trying to negate history. You’re actually in denial of our history.
Brash: Racism means a person who wants to prefer their status. That’s what Maori people are arguing for — preferred status.
Wall: No, we’re actually fighting for our rightful place as the indigenous peoples of Aotearoa. We are the mana whenua.
Brash: You signed away those rights in the Treaty of Waitangi.
Wall: But those rights were then breached. That’s what the treaty settlement process is all about.
Can I just interrupt here? Let’s look at equality in this country, or inequality in this country. Why do you think, Mr Brash, that Maori are over-represented in poor health, education, life expectancy and wealth statistics?
Brash: Well, there are a range of reasons for that. Undoubtedly Apirana Ngata said the welfare state would produce this outcome, and he was right. But we’re not debating that question.
If you’re interested in equality, Mr Brash, you’ve got to be interested in that too, don’t you?
Brash: We’re saying the state should assist people on the basis of their need. It’s patronising to say all Maori need some special preference.
But Maori are over-represented. If we’re addressing need, Maori are over-represented in those statistics, aren’t they?
Brash: But you still look after people because of their need, not because of their ancestor. It’s patronising to suggest that if you happen to have a Maori ancestor, you somehow by definition need some special assistance.
Wall: No, but it’s also patronising to deny that the results that we’re seeing and the outcomes for Maori today aren’t related to the fact that our lands were taken from us and that there were—
Brash: They were mainly sold.
Wall: No, it was not. The raupatu in the Waikato was not about land being sold. The Crown actively took the land.
Brash: That’s correct.
Wall: By taking the land, they also took our opportunity to live communally, so we lost our language, we lost our culture. So the treaty settlement process is about resolving those.
Brash: In the 1860s rebellion resulted in land being confiscated. In the 1860s that’s what happened.
Wall: That’s right.
Brash: That’s right.
Wall: So how are you supposed to—?
Brash: Tainui’s been paid compensation.
Wall: They have, and now Tainui’s a billion-dollar tribe contributing incredibly well to our economy.
Brash: Have you heard me objecting to that?
I just want to ask you about this financial offer that you’re making to support political parties, because we’re running out of time. So if a political party supports this policy, you’re going to give them some cash. What do they have to do to qualify for that?
Brash: Well, that’s a question to be judged in the future. We don’t know that. But a party which is committed to treaty—
You don’t know that? You’re offering that, though. General parameters — what are you expecting?
Brash: A party which is committed, for example, to scrapping separate Maori electorates — there’s no longer logic for those at all. More than—
Wall: We have a mechanism for that, Mr Brash.
Brash: Wait a minute, I was asked a question. There are more than 23 Maori in Parliament. Only seven elected Maori electorates. Maori have proved again and again perfectly able to win in general electorates. We don’t need separate—
Wall: You’re missing the point. The point is we have a specific Maori voice. The representatives of the Maori electorates have connections to iwi and hapu.
If you look on the Parliamentary website, there are actually 14 MPs that officially identify as Maori. According to the information on the website.
Brash: The definition of Maori— I don’t know what the definition is there.
That’s self-selecting. They identify themselves as that.
Brash: 23 of them have Maori ancestry.
Okay, well, back to this financial offer. How much are you offering?
Brash: We certainly can’t specify that at this point. We don’t know. We don’t know yet what kind of financial support we will attract.
Do you think there will be any takers, Louisa, of that? Any of the parties?
Wall: Possibly. But my question to you, Mr Brash — are you going to fight for Federated Farmers to be removed from the policy and planning committee of Taranaki Regional Council, given that they’re not elected members? And if you’re not, why not? Why are you specifically denying the right of Taranaki iwi to represent the interests of iwi on that particular committee?
Brash: I want no appointments of any organisation being based on race. I want nothing based on race.
Just before we go, I want to know — this idea was brought to you by a friend. Who was that friend?
Brash: I’m not prepared to name him.
Why? Why not? Is he ashamed or embarrassed by these ideas?
Brash: He’s not. But it’s nothing to do with the public at all.
Well, it is. You’re mounting a public campaign, Mr Brash.
Brash: There are 15 people who have identified themselves as supporting, including, I might say, two Maori — two Maori!
That individual person is too, what, ashamed or embarrassed to come forward?
Brash: I’m not explaining why he’s not willing to sign up to it, but he is very supportive of this organisation and is very happy with its performance to date.
But not prepared to be named in public.