Soft bigotry of low expectations


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?


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


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


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


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


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


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?

Cullen apologises to farmers


Most maiden speeches sink without a trace but Michael Cullen’s is still remembered in farming circles because of a jibe he made and yesterday on Agenda he apologised for it:

As the new MP for St Kilda, Dr Cullen said: “I’m proud of the fact that my secondary education was not paid for by the taxpayers of New Zealand but by the farmers of Canterbury and Hawkes Bay [he was given a scholarship to Christ’s College]. I ripped them off for five years then, and I shall get stuck into them again in the next few years.”

Dr Cullen told Agenda: “Oh, don’t go back to that, that was one of the most embarrassing … I want to apologise for that because what happened there was that somebody broke a longstanding convention, interjected on me one minute into my maiden speech, which was pretty unfair.

“I was wound up like a wire. This is my maiden speech in Parliament, you could have twanged me and I’d have played a whole concerto.”

“I want to apologise”  is hardly fulsome, although to be fair Agenda wasn’t the time or place for that.

However, the damage was done long ago and the fact it’s taken him this long to acknowledge he shouldn’t have said it means the suspicion he meant it will continue.

Good policy doesn’t come in sound bites


A lot of the criticism of the economic package National annoucned this week has been rooted in what’s-in-it-for-me?

But, as Bill English said on Agenda today, good government is about much more than that:

 . . . I think there’s a misjudgement where people are looking for nice sounding ideas but our job is the prudent and responsible management of incentives and the prospects for growth across the board and that’s why much as people don’t regard it as sexy. Further investment in infrastructure doing more sooner affects every single business every single household and that’s why we’ve given ourselves the room to do it. Labour say it’s reckless, we don’t, we believe it’s vital and actually it’ll help soak up a lot of the unemployment that’s coming out of the construction sector which is – you know parts of which have just simply gone dead. Another pervasive policy here is around regulation, we’ve developed these complicated overlays of regulation from good times under a government who thought there was a rule for everything.

. . . It’s simply not good enough to say these things done matter, they do, they affect every single business and some rinky dink scheme that might sound good on the news isn’t going to help the business who is dealing with the challenges of the Building Act, the Resource Management Act, you know the rules that have got as silly as telling us what kind of shower heads we can have in our homes.

He also spoke about the importance of growth.

Well we’re not comfortable with the opening of the books and bear in mind they were opened last Monday we produced a package on Wednesday and as we said then we’d made a start which is a lot better than our political opponents who have known about this for months, accused National of being reckless for proposing a bit of borrowing and then turn up with a 50% increase in government borrowing, I mean how can you trust people like that? So we’ve made a start, if we become the government we would want to pull those deficits back, but I have to say from the history of governments coming out of government books and recessions the thing that has the most impact on the government’s books is actually the rate of growth coming out of the recession, and the Treasury forecasts around that aren’t that good and we would need to work hard to lift that rate of growth because that is the thing that’ll have the most impact alongside controlling government expenditure.

The full transcript of the interview is here.

Head to head on Eye to Eye


It’s a sad commentary on the importance of current affairs in the intellectual wasteland of television that Agenda and Eye to Eye are lost in the programming no man’s land of Sunday morning.

But this morning’s Eye to Eye is a head to head between Matthew Hooton and Winston Peters which will get an audience in spite of when it’s screened.

Roarprawn has the background part 1 here, part II here and part III here.

Matthew Hooton tells his story here.

And the NZ Herald says the temperature got so high during filming that recording was stopped and a lwayer was called in.

Has UF been sensible?


Matthew Hooton  reckons that United Future’s dismal poll ratings might be reflected in support for leader Peter Dunne in Oahriu where National list MP Katrina Shanks is competing with him for the seat.

When Dunne was interviewed on Agenda on June 8 he said his party had paid back more than half the amount they owed parliamentary services after illegally spending public money on their 2005 campaign.

I wonder if they’ve done the sensible thing and paid the rest back? If not, like WInston Peters and NZ First, every cent they’re spending on their campaigns is a cent they owe us. And that would tell us they think getting re-elected is more important than paying back their debts.

Hat Tip: Roarprawn

Fact Finder doesn’t show all the facts


Agenda has a new feature – Fact Finder  which is a joint venture with post-grad political science students from Auckland University.

Their mission is to check claims made by politicians and candidates for accuracy.

Today they had the results of three checks.

The first showed that Lockwood Smith was only half right in his claims about  the number of people leaving New Zealand because he didn’t take into account those who weren’t kiwis and those who returned.

The second found that David Parker was only paritally right in claiming they’d doubled compensation to forestry owners because they’d only increased it by 50%.

The third check was on Nick Smith’s claim that the first policy Labour released was National’s. The Fact Finders found this was 100% accurate and Labour has still released no policy.

The  Agenda website reports on the first finding and not the other two which show Labour in a bad light. I’d like to think that doesn’t show any political bias.

P.S. I’m on very dangerous ground here because I type faster than I spell which means I’m throwing stones from a glass house but: the headline says: AGENDA REVEALS THE REAL FACTS ABOUT IMMIGRATION FIGURES. Lockwood Smith was talking about immigration policy but the figures he used were referring to people leaving so shouldn’t that be emigration?

Hat Tip Kiwiblog

Maori Party want ag in ETS earlier


Tariana Turia said in an Agenda interview that the Maori Party wants agriculture brought in to the emissions Trading Scheme earlier than requried by legislation before parliament at the moment.

Has she considered the impact of that on Maori farmers, farm workers, rural contractors, shearers and freezing workers; and the impact of higher prices  which would follow for Maori who buy dairy products, meat and wool?

Feeling the heat


Kathryn Ryan wore a sleeveless dress on Agenda  this morning while I  watched, still feeling cold in three layers of merino clothing.

Is it really that hot under the lights in a TV studio, or could TVNZ turn down the heating and save enough power to let the rest of us choose our own lightbulbs?

Paying it back would be sensible


Rawdon Christie  has just asked Peter Dunne when United Future is going to pay back the taxpayers’ money they wrongly (and illegally until Labour, United, The Greens and NZ First changed the law to make what was illegal, legal) spent before the 2005 election.

His answer was that they were paying it back as fast as they can and after pushing by Christie admitted they’d paid back back more than half what they owe.

A Google serach found that in March Dunne told Gavin Kinght : to date, over half [of the approximately $63,000] has been repaid, and we are making regular payments to the Parliamentary Service to clear the balance as soon as possible”

That is remarkedly similar to Dunne’s answer on Agenda today. If we take him at his word, and I have no reason not to, then United must now owe about $30,000 or less. So why don’t they just pay it all back? 

 This is a really bad look for any political party, it is especially bad for one led by the Minister of Revenue. 

A party has to have a minimum of 500 members to be registered so even if that’s all United has it would be $60 a member. The Party has has two MPs, Dunne and Judy Turner who could follow Labour’s example and dip in to their own pockets (as they may have already done for what has been repaid so far). Whether they get the money from members the MPs or fundraising, it would be sensible to repay it all now. 

If they don’t, every cent they spend on their campaign will be a cent they owe to the taxpayer thereby compounding their original wrong doing. It also gives rise to the question: why would anyone vote for a party which believes spending its money getting back into parliament is more important than paying back what it owes to the taxpayer?

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