Soft bigotry of low expectations

May 25, 2009

We like to think race relations in New Zealand are pretty good.

We’re wrong.

They may not be as bad as they are in some other countries, but they’re not nearly as good as they should be and one of the reasons for that is the soft bigotry of low expectations.

The phrase isn’t original – I think it was first used by George Bush – but it encapsulates the danger of support which harms rather than helps.

One sad example of this is the pressure to have Maori seats on the new Auckland council and the reason given: because Maori won’t be represented without them.

That’s rubbish. Democratic elections allow anyone to stand, they allow anyone to support those who stand and once elected the councillors will be bound – legally and ethically –  to represent all the people in their wards and to act in the best interests of them and the wider city.

Democracy isn’t good enough for some people but those who are arguing for special rights aren’t helping Maori, they’re hindering them, the ones who are supposedly supporting Maori are dragging them down.

They’re telling them, and us, that Maori aren’t good enough to foot it in an equal contest, that people who aren’t Maori wouldn’t vote for Maori candidates, and that the people who are elected wouldn’t fulfil their obligations to listen to Maori views.

That’s bigoted and ignorant.

It’s also self defeating because, as Tariana Turia  said in a discussion on the Maori electorates on Agenda last year, the seats didn’t give Maori a voice:

I think what our people are starting to realise though is that when they voted Maori people into Labour they never got a Maori voice, they got a Labour voice and that was the difference, and they’ve only begun to realise it since the Maori Party came into parliament, because it is the first time that they have heard significant Maori issues raised on a daily basis.

If Maori seats didn’t give Maori a voice in parliament, they won’t on the council either.

Rather than wasting their energy demanding special seats, those who want Maori representation should put their efforts in to encouraging and supporting candidates who will give them a voice.

See also:

Jim Hopkins: We’re all in this together

Glenn Jameson on Time to End Racism in New Zealand

Kiwiblog on Hikoi Day

Williams jumped or pushed?

December 7, 2008

John Key said on Agenda this morning that he’d expect out-going Labour president Mike Williams to resign from his government appointed directorships.

Radio NZ  reportsthat he has already done so.

But Mr Williams says he was advised by the agency that oversees Crown owned companies, the Crown Company Monitoring Advisory Unit or CCMAU, that his resignation was expected by ministers in the new government.

Mr Williams says he has now resigned from Genesis Energy, the New Zealand Transport Agency and GNS Science.

In a small country it id difficult to avoid appointing people who share your political affiliations and their ability to do what’s required is the most important thing.

However, there is a strong case for obviously partisan appointees to resign when the government changes and whether he jumped or was pushed Williams was right to stand down.

Key won’t be telling us what to do

December 7, 2008

National has too many urgent priorities to get distracted by social engineering initiatives, John Key said on Agenda this morning.

He used the call to ban smoking in cars as an example of this.

He’s not a smoker, he doesn’t like the habit, he supports the ban on smoking in bars because of the affect on staff and other patrons, but he said he’s not going to get distracted from the important issues with legislation telling people they can’t smoke in their own cars.

I have several vices but tobacco isn’t among them. I’ve always hated smoking, have never tried it and supported Labour’s initiatives to make smoking in enclosed public places illegal. That argument was simple, it was a health and safety issue where smokers’ rights came second to everyone else’s right to clean air.

But smoking is legal and legislating to stop people doing it in private is a step too far.

I listened to the discussion between Jim Mora and his guests on the panel on Friday  and understand the dangers of smoking in vehicles, not just to smokers but also to their passengers some of whom will be chidlren,  but would prefer education to stop it rather than compulsion.

One of the reasons Labour lsos the election was anger at the interference – real or perceived – by the state in the private lives of its citizens and John Key is wise to keep National from the murky waters of social engineering.

Sometimes, in spite of compelling arguments against something, we have to accept that the government can’t and shouldn’t take responsbility for everything we do, especially when it needs to stay focussed on far more pressing problems.

(A transcript of the Agenda interview  will be here soon).

Nat plan hard times package

October 26, 2008

John Key repeated on Agenda what he said on TV 1 news last night, National is planning a package to provide short term relief  for people who lose their jobs in the recession.

It would help cover pressing bills such as mortgage repayments or rent.

Key is not disclosing further details, but it is thought people would be able to apply for an interest-free loan.

He told Agenda there is no question New Zealand is in recession and details of the package would be released next weekend.

A transcript of the interview will be on line here later.

Key would take tourism

October 26, 2008

John Key has just told Agenda that if he’s Prime Minister his intention is to be Minsiter of Tourism too.

He said that’s because of its importance to the country.

Party not seats give Maori voice

October 23, 2008

When she appeared on Agenda in June  Tariana Turia said:

I think what our people are starting to realise though is that when they voted Maori people into Labour they never got a Maori voice, they got a Labour voice and that was the difference, and they’ve only begun to realise it since the Maori Party came into parliament, because it is the first time that they have heard significant Maori issues raised on a daily basis.

That’s a pretty damning indictment on the dedicated electorates because she’s saying it’s not  the Maori seats but the Maori Party which give Maori a voice.

Given that, do we need the seats?

Dr Lachy Paterson  says we do:

However, any moves to abolish the Maori seats are likely to provoke an outcry from Maoridom. The fact that all the main parties select Maori for electable seats is irrelevant.

Maori now have their own effective and independent voice within parliament, and the thought of all its representatives returning to the control of Pakeha-dominated parties would be galling.

Maori also see the Maori seats, and the Maori Party, as an expression of tino rangatiratanga, of embodying their tangata whenua status. Perceived attacks on Maori as a whole, such as the fiscal envelope or the Foreshore and Seabed Act, have galvanised Maori opposition in the past and abolishing the Maori seats would no doubt provoke a similar response.

The Maori Party MPs have, for the most part, been moderate and effective representatives.

Their presence in parliament, providing a Maori voice, has defused much of the anger and protest previously expressed by Maori who felt marginalised within the political system and society’s institutions.

Philip Temple, disagrees:

What would most likely happen to the Maori Party if the Maori seats were abolished? Dr Paterson believes that those currently on the Maori roll would vote for Labour with both their votes.

What is much more likely is that their voting pattern would reverse: ex-Maori rollers would give their electorate vote to a Labour candidate and their party vote to the Maori Party.

Even if I am no more than half right, the number of ex-Maori roll voters who would support the Maori Party would almost certainly carry it over the 5% threshold, giving it six or seven seats.

So there would be no fewer Maori Party MPs and possibly several more than they are likely to get while keeping the seats without significantly increasing the party vote.

. . . The number of Maori seats is based on the number of people on the Maori roll.

After the last Maori roll option in 2006, the number of seats did not increase.

Maori leaders expressed disappointment that more Maori had not shifted across from the general roll, despite heavy promotion.

Many Maori roll voters shifted the other way, cancelling out about half the Maori roll increase.

The number of Maori seats is unlikely, therefore, to increase in the future, and certainly not by more than another one or two.

Given that these will almost always be split between the Maori Party and Labour, it is severely limiting for the Maori Party to depend on the Maori seats alone.

In other words, they are shooting themselves in their collective foot.

They should be aiming to take pakeha with them, not remain planted in a fortified political pa shouting threats of civil disobedience across the palisade in response to calls to come out.

Dr Paterson’s thinking seems to be rooted in 19th and 20th-century resentment.

No other country with similar democratic traditions – Australia, UK, Canada, USA – uses race-based separate rolls and electorates for elections to their national parliament.

The MMP electoral system has increased Maori representation in Parliament regardless of the separate Maori seats.

It was one of the key arguments for having MMP in the first place.

It is now entirely legitimate to ask why there should continue to be a separate Maori roll and electorates that distort MMPs democratic and proportional representation.

It is no longer appropriate or fair in the 21st century to sustain racially separate electorates established in the entirely different political, social and demographic circumstances of the 19th century.

Nor is it appropriate to leave the decision on the future of the seats up to Maori.

Whether they stay or go is a constitutional matter which affects us all so any decision on their future should be a matter for us all.

 No group of people speaks with a single voice, but the Maori Party does speak for many of what Tariana Turia calls “her people”.

So when she admits it’s not the seats but her party which give Maori a voice, she’s effectively sabotaging any arguments in favour of keeping them.

Attack advertising misleads

October 20, 2008

I got a message from an irate National Party member this morning about Labour Party advertising that screened on TV3 at the weekend.

I didn’t see the ads but gather they start looking as if they might be for National then put the knife in and are apparently following the example of ads used in the USA.

I told my caller that as long as they weren’t lying there’s was nothing we could do and reminded him dirt sticks to the hand that throws it.

However, Gerry Brownlee says that Labour has admitted the ads are misleading:

“Labour and its mates have been running around the country telling New Zealanders that National was borrowing for tax cuts. But yesterday on TVNZ, Michael Cullen admitted that was not true.”

In August the fair-weather Finance Minister was asked about National’s sensible plan to slightly raise borrowing to build much-needed infrastructure and stimulate growth. He described it as borrowing for tax cuts.

Yesterday he admitted that was wrong, defending himself by saying ‘at that stage they appeared to be engaged in sort of magic mirrors trick to borrow for tax cuts’. – (AGENDA – 19 Oct)

“Helen Clark and Labour always knew their claims were cynical election-year rhetoric. Their only election strategy is to once again try to scare people away from voting National, and they are prepared to tell outrageous lies to do it.”

“Now that her Finance Minister has admitted their claims are untrue, Helen Clark should withdraw her false advertising immediately.”

Can we trust them to do that?

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