On the odd occasion when I have found myself in a TV studio with Shane Te Pou, I have always found him a likeable and reasonable kind of person but he completely lost me in his Herald on Sunday article, "Shane Te Pou asks Christopher Luxon to stop playing the race card and put national interest first" on 2 July.
The article is written as if addressed to the Leader of the National Party, Christopher Luxon, and notes that there are probably many policy areas in which the two are in agreement, though Mr Te Pou makes no secret of his leaning to the Left.
But then he writes:
“I do not believe you [Christopher Luxon] share David Seymour’s amoral willingness to say anything on race, no matter how incendiary, for the meagre return of a punchy news cycle, or that you got into politics to inflame racial animus. And yet, Mr Luxon, I fear your lack of political experience, along with what I perceive as a reluctance on your part to push back against racist elements among your base, has contributed to bringing race relations to the worst point since Don Brash’s Orewa speech [in 2004].”
David Seymour is of course perfectly capable of defending his own position, though when I have heard him speak on race issues he has always been absolutely true to the principles on which this nation was founded, namely that all citizens have exactly the same “rights and responsibilities”. How equal citizenship has now been defined as racist is something which only those living in an Orwellian world would comprehend.
But in referencing my Orewa speech, Mr Te Pou implicitly accuses me of having deliberately fostered racism when I was Leader of the National Party. Nothing could be further from the truth, as any objective reading of that speech would confirm.
The speech spoke about the context in which the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, and the crucial importance of recognizing that all citizens must have equal rights if there is to be any hope of a peaceful future. At the time, I did not see myself breaking any new ground.
The National Party’s constitution has long highlighted “equal citizenship” as one of the Party’s fundamental values. My predecessor, Bill English, had campaigned on the slogan “one law for all” and in 2003 committed the next National Government to scrapping separate Maori electorates, as the Royal Commission on the Electoral System had recommended in 1986 if New Zealand adopted the MMP electoral system. I made the same commitment in the context of the 2005 election campaign, as did John Key in the 2008 campaign.
Mr Te Pou notes that “the greatest political achievement of my lifetime is the bipartisan political consensus we managed to forge on Treaty settlements”. But nobody is disputing the importance of those settlements – not Christopher Luxon, not David Seymour, and certainly not me. Those settlements flow from the fact that in the past some New Zealand governments played fast and loose with the property rights which all New Zealanders had been guaranteed in Article II of the Treaty.
But what David Seymour and I, and I hope Christopher Luxon, are pushing back against is the radical reinterpretation of the Treaty to mean something far removed from what the words of the Treaty actually mean, and the speeches made by many chiefs at the time of its signing (and again at the Kohimaramara conference in 1860) show that most of them understood full well what the Treaty meant.
And that radical reinterpretation is increasingly being promoted by the three left-wing parties, and in particular by some Maori members of their respective caucuses. They argue that, contrary to the view held by the vast majority of scholars and political leaders of all stripes throughout most of our history, the Maori chiefs did not cede sovereignty to the Crown in signing the Treaty but rather entered into a “partnership” with Queen Victoria – thus entitling their descendants to as much say in running the country as the rest of the population combined.
I’m not aware of any pushback from any responsible member of either National or ACT wanting to repudiate Treaty settlements, though some of us are getting impatient at the length of time these negotiations have dragged on.
But what I am sure David Seymour is saying, and I think Christopher Luxon is saying, is that the agenda of the Maori radicals is totally inconsistent with any reasonable concept of democracy where all adults have equal rights.
How can anybody justify separate Maori representation on, for example, Environment Canterbury; or giving 50% of the representation on the bodies which are to control the water infrastructure of the entire country to tribal representatives; or giving the right to issue directives to those water entities to Maori New Zealanders only; or denying the right to citizens to decide whether they want Maori wards in local government; or giving preferential access to surgery to Maori citizens; or having a separate Maori health authority?
Unless we collectively push back against this nonsense, in short order we will find our democracy gone and we will have entrenched a deeply divided society: one where Maori have political authority out of all proportion to their numbers as envisaged by the authors of He Puapua. The irony was that when He Puapua was written by a small coterie of radical Maori in 2019, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party was Maori, the Leader and Deputy Leader of New Zealand First were Maori, the Co-Leader of the Greens was Maori, the Leader and Deputy Leader of the National Party were Maori, and the Leader of ACT was Maori. So much for Maori being excluded from political power!
2 July 2023