Sunday, September 5, 2010
David Round: Betrayed by National
We have just had a visit from a United Nations rapporteur, James Anaya, Human Rights Law professor at the University of Arizona, who after a visit of six days, meeting with government and Maori, ‘as well as with civil society’ ~ (were you there? I received no invitation, saw no publicity, heard of no meeting) ~ has reported to the United Nations Human Rights Council (current members include China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia) that there is an ‘ongoing denial of the human rights of Maori, which must continue to be addressed as a matter of priority’, and that there must be recognition that Treaty principles ‘provide a foundation for Maori self-determination based on a real partnership between Maori and the state [not even, you note, between Maori and the rest of us] within a framework of respect for cross-cultural understanding and the human rights of all citizens’. Who was it who said that someone who visits a country for a week writes a book about it, someone there for a month writes a magazine article and someone there for a year does not write anything at all because he or she realises how complex it all is? Professor Anaya, with his North American Indian background and track record, is a man with preconceived ideas. He is not impartial; he was primed to support the indigenous 100% on every occasion; and he was here for only six days. His conclusions, therefore, which he might as well have written before he arrived ~ and in one sense, did ~ dismay but do not surprise us. It was obvious before he arrived that only one conclusion was possible; but it will be used by Maori as yet another source of grievance and another reason why we should consent to the disintegration of our nation.
The Prime Minister has promised the Maori Party a ‘constitutional review’, which will include consideration of the status of the Treaty. This review will, I understand, be conducted during the life of this Parliament, which of course must end in little more than a year’s time ~ not a great deal of time, one would have thought, for the nation to put its collective thinking cap on and consider and discuss the constitution, its good and bad points, the merits and demerits of changing it, thinking through the implications of change. That is assuming, of course, that the people are actually going to be involved in the review at all. I had assumed that they would be ~ it is not unreasonable, surely, that they might contribute to the debate on how they are governed ~ but I am getting the feeling now that the people will not be involved, that this review will be a private matter quietly done by our political masters behind closed doors. Not only would the politicians prefer that method, so does the liberal intelligentsia. Matthew Palmer, son of the luminous Sir Geoffrey, former professor of law at Victoria and now deputy solicitor-general, has openly written of his desire that the people should not be involved in the shaping of the constitution. You are probably unaware that just about now a high-powered conference on the constitution, with the standard liberal agenda and entitled ‘Reconstituting the Constitution’, is being held in Wellington. You might well have thought that a conference on such fundamental and vital matters affecting us all would be, and should be, accompanied by as much fanfare and publicity as possible, in order to generate public interest and discussion, but you would be wrong. The conference is deliberately being kept quiet. The people cannot be trusted; they would want all the wrong things. The plan is to change the constitution without their input. We can have little faith in a constitution designed by academics and racists who hold the people in contempt, but that is the way things are done these days. Democracy, as I have observed before, is yesterday’s ideal, and it cannot be just coincidence that this constitutional conference is being held at about the same time as National’s constitutional review.
We cannot say, admittedly, what such a review would bring, but many local radicals, as well as Professor Anaya, believe that the Treaty should have ‘constitutional security’, and we can be pretty certain that the pressure will be on to give the Treaty some special status ~ and even if that status is still not everything radical Maori want, it will still be an important first step in that direction. And the first steps are always the hardest. The recently adopted United Nations declaration on the special ‘rights’ of the ‘indigenous’ will be very useful here. And once the Treaty, with its utterly elastic principles which can be interpreted to mean anything at all, is ensconced in a constitution, there is no hope.
Then there is the claim to native plants and animals. The Wai 262 claim, which alleges that Maori fully own all native plants and animals, and that any New Zealand laws purporting to regulate or protect them are breaches of the promise of tino rangatiratanga made to Maori in the Treaty, has been before the Tribunal for years, and one of these days there will be a report. What might be next? 50:50 Maori and general seats in parliament, perhaps, or, even better, a separate Maori house! As we know, some Maori are already claiming that the Treaty requires that ~ what far-sighted prophets and fathers of their people they will turn out to be. The Treaty requires it! Roma locuta est! The Treaty by this time will be pretty much a higher law by now, and in any case will most certainly be worthy of the most profound respect. And then it might be time for some more Treaty claims. True, a deadline has been legally imposed for historic claims, but that does not apply to claims arising out of present grievances; and any good lawyer will be able to argue that something that might seem like an historic claim actually has effects at the present day. And as well as that, a bar on historic claims might well be considered to be a breach of Treaty principles, and so will have to go. There is, after all, no legal impediment to a poor harassed Parliament repealing the bar…..
If there is anything left. If the country has not been driven to despair, to poverty and warlords, the flight of all our best, the land in ruins, yet another failed state that found good government just too much effort. The point is, my friends, that we are now at the tipping point. The giving away of our beloved coast, the vast beauty and wealth of the foreshore and seabed ~ this is not even called for by a Treaty claim or recommendation of the Waitangi Tribunal. This is a quantum leap in our generosity ~ not only in the magnificence of the gift, the concession of an entire region of our country ~ but in the nature of the gifts we are now making, and how we are making them. It is difficult to believe that the government can be just so laid back and casual about the gift of so vast a resource. Let me emphasise, we are handing this resource over for no discernible reason. There is no legal necessity for this. There is no legal reason why the present foreshore and seabed law should be changed. Nor, as I say, does the proposal even arise out of a Treaty claim. There can hardly be said even to be a pressing political necessity. Setting aside the theories that the government just has no idea what it is doing, or just does not care ~ these are reasonable possibilities ~ but those aside, the only ‘political’ reason is that National wants to avoid being too closely identified with ACT, and wants to cement a good long-term relationship with its racist neo-Nazi friends in the Maori Party. But this could have been done without any such massive generosity as this, and in any case it is by no means certain that the Maori Party, most of whose supporters are inclined to favour a coalition with Labour, will show any more gratitude than Maori have shown for anything else; and the fury of a substantial part of the rest of the population will surely, come the election, counteract any possible good relationship with the Maori Party. This proposed foreshore and seabed settlement is momentous not just because of the access to vast wealth which it hands over, not just because it gives away so fundamental a portion of our birthright, but also because it is being done, very casually, for no more reason than a narrowly self-interested one. New Zealanders’ fundamental interests are being given away by politicians for no better reason than that they might stay in power. Maori influence has grown to the extent that such a betrayal can be considered, at least in the hot-house atmosphere of Wellington, as something normal and reasonable. That is the reason I say that this deal marks the doom of our country. In Wellington, anyway, and in politically correct circles, Maori have established such a moral ascendancy that they are now able to ask for just about anything they like, and it will be given to them.
This is a disaster for our country ~ just as it would be if any other group were able to have its demands more or less automatically granted. It is a disaster not just for our prosperity and civil peace, but also in what it says about New Zealanders’ relationship with their government. We have enjoyed good government hitherto. We have, despite various things that governments have done in recent years, still been able to believe that they acted in what they, anyway, perceived to be the country’s best interests. I am quite prepared to believe that Mr Muldoon sincerely had the interests of the average joker at heart, and I am even prepared to extend the hand of understanding to more recent more ideological governments. But if this goes through, it will be impossible to believe it any longer. This cannot be interpreted as anything other than the great betrayal. Our hatred and loathing should not be directed at Maori, who are doing no more than taking suckers for a ride, but at a government that has broken its fundamental covenant with the people. It will have utterly forfeited its legitimacy; and so will Labour have, if it should join in this betrayal. And where can we, the people, turn? To ACT? ACT seems to be the only party in Parliament opposing this, and it deserves great credit for its stand; but sadly, for whatever reasons, ACT somehow never seems to resonate with large numbers of voters, and will have a hard job prevailing in this matter. Its future influence or even parliamentary existence must, alas, be a matter of speculation. But if we cannot turn to ACT where can we turn? To some new political party? I cannot see any hope there. After an immense amount of destroying work, it may get seats in the House, but will be drawn into the system, making deals…sooner or later it will be tricked or betrayed. And in any case, ACT or new party, it will by then be far too late. The time to act is now. If this goes through, then we are sunk. If this goes through, it will be a fundamental breach of the contract between government and governed. It will be an open declaration that the government of our country cares nothing for the interests of its citizens and is unanswerable to them. If we believe that government derives from the consent of the governed, if our political system is now being illegitimately abused and our fundamental rights betrayed, and if the system is such as to more or less guarantee the continuation in power of one or the other of these self-perpetuating cliques, then we are entitled to ask just why we tolerate this now rotten system and its corrupt practitioners. The first duty of any state is the protection of the rights of its citizens. The regime that fails to do that forfeits its right to our loyalty. National’s foreshore and seabed proposals are therefore a grievous, and probably fatal wound to our system of government. It has served us well in the past, but it is rapidly becoming clear that it is time to replace it with one that will be more satisfactory. The ancient common law of England, in fact, recognised a right in subjects to ‘unfaith’ themselves ~ to renounce the faith and allegiance they owed to a ruler who was not respecting the fundamental rights of the people. The Boston Tea Party, the Solemn League and Covenant ~ the scaffold in Whitehall ~ are parts of a fine and important tradition. In the north John Hatfield ~ Hone Harawira, as he prefers to be known ~ and his tribe are announcing right now that they do not recognise the sovereignty of the Queen. Well, two can play at that game. There is often an unpleasant bullying strand in the Maori character, and it is now starting to emerge very clearly. We New Zealanders have been too quiet for too long. Perhaps we should take the law, our law, into our own hands, and create a new constitution after all ~ and not one to Hone Harawira’s liking.
 Rapporteur: reporter, stenographer; tell-tale ~ what at school we would call a sneak (or sneke, as Molesworth would spell it).
 Perhaps I should add that a friend if mine who happened to see Professor Anaya on television got the impression that although the professor was mouthing the usual platitudes, in fact he could not actually believe how well-off Maori were. But this is speculation, and does not alter his report and recommendations.
 In his 2008 book, The Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand’s Constitution and Law
 Roma locuta est ~ causa finita est ~ ‘Rome has spoken ~ the matter is settled’. A pronouncement found in the mouths of those defending the Papal authority; but the Treaty is the new religion.
 Did you see the Tom Scott cartoon in which Hone Harawira defended his disapproval of a white boyfriend for any of his daughters, Peter Sharples defended him on the ground that he was just defending his culture, and Hitler, standing beside them, was saying ‘Quite right gentlemen, my point precisely’? Brown people can be neo-Nazis too.
 Known technically as a diffidatio (Latin) or defiance (French) both with the same meaning, of ‘unfaithing’. Such solemn acts preceded the deposition and death of both Edward II and Richard II. But ever since Magna Carta the right of resistance to unjust rulers has been quite clear.
 On which Charles I was executed
at 10:29 AM