Sunday, March 14, 2010
David Round: Axing the Thought Police
Possibly we cannot, although we got on very well for a long time without this particular species of busybody, and in these more enlightened and racism-conscious times it could surely be well argued that such an official is less, not more, necessary than in the past. But anyway, if you read the Human Rights Act 1993 you will see there a description of his duties reflecting our general understanding. It is a description of duties which in principle one cannot really complain too much about. His duty is to promote and protect human rights, to encourage the development of harmonious relations, to promote equal employment opportunities and to provide a dispute resolution service for complaints of discrimination on the grounds of (among other things) colour, race, and ethnic or national origins.
But how different things are in practice. The Commissioner takes a wide view of what these duties involve. He interprets them to justify his lobbying for a change to fundamental constitutional arrangements. He does not just protect such racial variety as exists here; he actively promotes ‘diversity’, as he would call it, which others might well call a loss of our country’s existing character and sense of community and common purpose, and the promotion of destructive tribalisms.
If you want to be bored, infuriated and frightened at the same time you might do worse than dip in to Tui Tui Tuituia, Race Relations in 2009, this year’s report of the Race Relations Commissioner. The very first of his ten priorities for the coming year is ‘reviewing the place of the Treaty in New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements and the future of the Maori seats in Parliament’. There can be little doubt of what his views are on that, or on how he might want to ‘ensure that Maori, Pacific and ethnic communities [note the implication that European New Zealanders are somehow not ‘ethnic’] have a voice in the decisions of the new Auckland super city council’. A third priority is to ‘ensure that the new Auckland super city continues the Treaty of Waitangi relationships, cultural diversity and settlement support programmes established by the outgoing Auckland councils’. Uh huh. The commissioner’s views on these matters are all quite clear ~ he wants to see the Treaty enshrined in a place of honour in a new written constitution, and he wants special racial seats reserved for his favourite ethnic communities. These are all politically charged matters where decent and fair-minded citizens are entitled to disagree with such proposals. Yet here we have an unelected, unaccountable official spending public funds in the promotion of a highly contentious ~ and, we would add, fundamentally divisive and destructive ~ political programme. He even considers the Maori sovereignty flag to be a race relations issue.
Another of the top ten priorities is ‘completing strategies for Maori and Pacific languages, and developing strategies for New Zealand sign language, community languages, translating and interpreting services and languages in schools’. The Maori language of course belongs here; but I can only interpret this clause to mean that the Commissioner does not believe that English (or for that matter even Maori) should be the common language of our country, but that speakers of Pacific and ‘community languages’ (which presumably must mean other languages ), even though by their own choice in a new country, have a ‘human right’ to refuse to integrate into their new society in even this most basic way. The other side of the coin is therefore that it is our duty (for where one has a right, another has a duty) to put up with this and indeed even to provide translation services. And this is to apply even in schools, where there will, accordingly, be no obligation to learn English. This is disintegration with a vengeance. What is a country without a common language, or the expectation that there should be one?
The Report mentions a supermarket where a sign instructed all employees to speak English; the Commissioner disapproved of this sign, and records with obvious satisfaction that the supermarket later withdrew it, explaining that it had been put up in error. I cannot see what is so unreasonable about all employees speaking, and of course understanding, the same language; it is surely not only reasonable but necessary in any common employment that people be able to communicate with each other. Besides, the use of the Maori language is often justified on the somewhat legalistic ground that ‘it is one of our official languages’; well, by the same token, the other languages spoken by supermarket employees will not be official. Does that count for nothing? If Maori may be spoken, even though not understood, because it is ‘official’ what is wrong with the official use of English?
We might also ask, what is a Commissioner whose duty is to deal with race doing promoting the preservation of imported foreign culture? Language, religion and culture are none of his brief; but under the disguise of race he smuggles them in.
Likewise, the report mentions a District Court judge who prevented a Muslim woman with a headscarf from entering a courtroom. This was later acknowledged to be a ‘mistake’, and the Chief District Court judge has since given the Muslim community an assurance that judges are sensitive to the New Zealand Bill of Rights provisions about discrimination. Again, I do not see that this is any of the Commissioner’s business; the matter was not one of race, nor even actually religion (for not all Muslims consider headscarves necessary) but of culture; and judges have valid practical concerns ~ with identification and security ~ about headgear. But even the judges are running scared now, afraid to defend their own decisions when criticised by this architect of this brave new world.
In the introduction to the report the Commissioner openly acknowledges his role in the promotion of diversity ~ including ‘religious, language and media diversity’ He actually considers it a good thing in principle that we speak different languages, worship different gods and generally have less in common with each other. This is the opposite of nation building. It is the opposite of a common national identity. ‘Multiculturalism’, a jumble of imported and rootless bits and pieces, none organically founded in this country’s history and experience, reduces all cultures to worthlessness ~ because one cannot be better than another, all are equally valid and therefore all equally invalid, not rooted in the nature of things. And it also, of course, positively encourages newcomers to stay in their own ghettoes and consider only the interests of their own little group, and never the interests of the greater New Zealand community.
You will be interested, but hardly surprised, to learn that the United Nations Human Rights Council, which the Commissioner quotes with approval, recommends ‘continuing public discussion over the status of the Treaty, with a view to possible entrenchment as a constitutional norm’, ensuring the Treaty is incorporated into domestic legislation where relevant’ and ‘considering granting binding powers to adjudicate Treaty matters to the Waitangi Tribunal’. Heaven help us if that happens.
The Race Relations Commissioner is an unelected official who is promoting a contentious political programme, one which many reasonable people consider to be fundamentally ill-conceived. In doing this he goes well beyond the scope of what was envisaged by his empowering legislation. He goes beyond issues of race to ones of language and culture. He contrives to present opposition to his dubious political and social views as racist and illegal. He promotes a climate of fear by very publicly condemning anyone who even tries to raise these issues for debate and discussion. He is one of the thought police, an enemy of the freedom of thought and debate necessary in any democratic society. It would be of immense benefit to our country if his was one of the offices the government were to axe in its current cost-cutting exercise.
at 7:20 AM