An email arrived yesterday saying: I gave a speech this evening to the Orewa branch of the National Party. Because the electorate chair had made it clear that it was open to the media, several journalists now have copies of it, so I am sending it to a wider group of friends so that you know what I actually said, not just what the media say I said!
It came from Don Brash and when I read the Herald on Sunday this morning I can see why he did that.
The headline says: Brash attacks Maori again.
The intro says:
Former National leader Don Brash attacked Maori in a provocative speech to party faithful at Orewa last night – returning to the issues that propelled him to the leadership six years ago.
Titled Return to Orewa, Brash said Maori have no special rights and there was no grounds for a separate Maori political party.
Further down he is quoted directly:
“The whole concept of a racially based political party would be seen as grossly inappropriate if wanted by any other race than Maori,” he said. “What would be the reaction if a group of New Zealanders of European background decided to set up a ‘European New Zealanders’ Party’?
“There would be outcry, and rightly so.”
Brash said general legislation, such as the Resource Management Act, which requires local councils to consult their communities and Maori separately, should be “insulting” and “patronising” to Maori people.
“The Maori electorates were established for a five-year period in 1867. There is no logic for them at all 143 years later.”
The headline and intro are opinion which in my view misconstrue what he said and the story does not give context to his remarks with this:
National campaigned in at least the last three elections on the principle that all New Zealanders are equal before the law. That principle was enshrined in Article III of the Treaty of Waitangi, which guaranteed that all New Zealanders would have the rights and privileges of British subjects.
Let me say to avoid the slightest ambiguity that I have always supported the Treaty settlement process. I still do. There were clearly gross injustices committed historically, and where those can be established beyond reasonable doubt, compensation should be paid to the descendants of those affected. One can debate how big those settlements should be, but I don’t think any fair person can object to the principle of compensation, provided of course that it is both fair and final.
But there is absolutely no case that I can see for treating Maori people differently in general legislation, as is done for example in the Resource Management Act, which enjoins local councils to consult with their communities and with Maori. If I were Maori, I would find that grossly insulting language, patronizing, and implying as it does that Maori are not part of the community.
Nor are there any grounds for separate Maori political representation, in Parliament or anywhere else. The Maori electorates were established for a five year period in 1867. There is no logic for them at all 143 years later. Maori are absolutely capable of being elected to Parliament on their own merits, and when I was in Parliament there were 21 Members of Parliament with Maori ancestry, only seven of them elected in the separate Maori electorates.
And of course, the same principle applies to local government. Here in Auckland at the recent election, and without any special legislation, Maori achieved the proportion of elected representatives on the new Council that their numbers warrant.
You can agree of not with what he said but those views are not an attack on Maori.
He is not suggesting they have fewer rights than any other New Zealanders, he is criticising legislation which gives them more.
A European, or any other racially based party would be seen as grossly inappropriate.
It could be seen as insulting and patronising that Maori have to be consulted separately because it suggests they don’t have the same rights and abilities as anyone else.
The Maori seats were established for a five-year period more than 100 years ago, there is no longer any logic for them and the Commission which designed MMP recommended that they went when MMP was introduced.
Like Don I support the settlement of past grievances. Some appalling things were done in the past and while individually no-one today is responsible for that, as a country we do have a responsibility to make amends and pay compensation.
The Maori culture must be respected and protected – if we don’t do it here it won’t be done anywhere else.
The the over representation of Maori in negative statistics and under representation in positive ones must be addressed.
It would be racist to say Maori are not New Zealanders or treat them as anything but New Zealanders. It is racist to treat any group of New Zealanders as anything other than New Zealanders.
Regardless of what happened in the past and any problems there are now, we have to be very, very careful about treating any group as special or different. Special or different for supposedly positive reasons can very easily become special and different for negative ones.