Sunday, May 15, 2011

Karl du Fresne: That 'Infamous' Orewa Speech

Sometimes it’s the apparently offhand remark, the casual throwaway line, that gives the game away. A journalist can convey almost as much with one loaded word as with a full-on rant.

In an item on National MP Georgina te Heuheu’s impending retirement last week, TV3 political editor Duncan Garner referred to her falling-out with former National leader Don Brash following Brash’s “now infamous Orewa speech” – Garner’s words – in 2004.

Let’s get this straight. “Infamous” means evil, vile or disgraceful. Brash’s Orewa speech, in which he attacked race-based privilege and advanced the perfectly laudable principle of one law for all, was infamous only in the eyes of Maori radicals, the political Left and much of the parliamentary press gallery.

The media attacks on Brash that followed his speech were some of the most savage I can recall, but his message resonated with the wider public and took a previously down-and-out National Party within a whisker of victory in 2005. That election gave Labour such a fright that it threw its previous fiscal prudence to the wind and embarked on a desperate three-year vote-buying campaign that substantially contributed to the mess we’re in now.

Garner’s use of the word “infamous” suggests that elements of the media are still determined to portray Brash as racist. But if Garner really considers the speech to have been infamous, he’s hopelessly out of touch with what most New Zealanders apparently think.

Nothing new there, of course. Political journalists may be up with the play in Wellington, but they’re ill-equipped to know what people are thinking in places like Dannevirke, Hamilton and Timaru – and don’t believe them when they try to convince you otherwise.

I have noticed in the past that Australian political journalists, who lean overwhelmingly to the Left, are never more vicious in their attacks on centre-Right politicians than when they sense conservative ideas are gaining traction. Perhaps we’re starting to see the same trend here.

On the other hand, maybe we should give Garner the benefit of the doubt. It’s entirely possible that a political editor who can’t pronounce Tuwharetoa (he insisted on inserting an extra syllable into it last night, not once but twice) doesn’t bother to check a dictionary to find out what “infamous” actually means.


Anonymous said...

Isnt it interesting how the media potray a speech about one law for all and no separatism. as being label it as "infamous" though is just irresponsible, and deserves a lawsuit.

Mostly, our mainstream media is in a sad way. It has been hi-jacked by the left, and consequently, their whining is not worth listening too.

Anonymous said...

Quite right - the speech is now famous and part of the history of our political landscape.

Garner is probably using "infamous" loosely, in the context of it being often criticised.

Either way, this is not really a major media transgression and only minor compared to examples of poor reporting, sensationalist reporting, and outright bias to advance an agenda.

Anonymous said...

He probably meant famous. Infamous seems to have developed a meaning of being ultra famous rather than its original meaning.


WAKE UP said...

Most of New Zealand STILL agrees with what Brash said at Orewa.

Peter Calder said...

Fair comment about "infamous". He meant "notorious" though if he had used that it would still have been questionable editorialising. "Controversial" might have been unexceptionable but, having apparently found Brash's speech neither controversial nor exceptionable, you would probably have objected to that, too.
The fact that most journalists misuse words is hardly breaking news: see infer/imply; desultory (routinely misused); disinterested for uninterested; begging the question (a phrase that, like the concept it describes, is virtually lost to us now) etc ad nauseam (or, as journalists prefer, ad nauseum).
What would REALLY interest me, though, would be for Brash - or you, or any of those who have posted anonymously above - to point to some examples of this widely alleged Maori privilege (which the OED defines as "a special advantage, benefit, or favour; an exceptionally rare and fortunate opportunity") because I'll be damned if I can find any anywhere, no matter how hard I look. Anyone who thinks Maori are privileged in this country is in serious need of a reality check.

Anonymous said...

Want some Apartheid? Then come to New Zealand.

Karl du Fresne said...

One example of Maori privilege that comes to mind, straight off the top of my head: full voting rights for non-elected Maori representatives on the new Auckland Council.

Peter Calder said...

That's a bit limp, Karl. It's a highly debatable matter, anyway but do you **really** want to argue that as a privilege? Is that the best you can do? What about those scholarships to university that are available only to Maori? That's racial discrimination, that is. Why isn't there a Ministry of Pakeha Affairs? It's just not fair.
I suppose the NZ Maori rugby team is Maori privilege? And rates of glue ear, drug addiction, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, incarceration, educational failure, alcohol addiction, domestic violence, sexual abuse? Why can't pakeha have the right to enjoy these things too? I suppose that I take a similar view to Brash: I do not want to live in a country where these things are disproportionately enjoyed by brown people and Government policies fail to do anything about it.

Karl du Fresne said...

I’m surprised you so lightly dismiss the provision for non-elected Maori representatives (and I use that term “representatives” loosely, since it’s not clear how they were chosen) to be given full voting rights on Auckland Council committees, as if that were something of no consequence. I can think of few forms of privilege more insidious than the setting aside of basic democratic principles. (Small wonder that Hone Harawira said on Q+A a couple of weeks ago that it didn’t matter that Maori failed to get dedicated seats on the council, since this worked out to be a better deal for them – or words to that effect.) These arrangements are a logical extension of the innumerable legislative provisions enacted over the past few decades that make special provision for Maori, mostly in the form of “consultation”, and of government policies that require departments and state agencies to retain highly paid Maori advisers. You can argue that these may be justifiable (although I probably wouldn’t), but I don’t see how you can deny that they are a form of privilege. And after several decades, I have yet to see these policies making much impact on all the scourges you mention, such as glue ear, cancer, diabetes, drug and alcohol addiction, welfare dependency and so forth, all of which are a blight on all of us.

Basil Walker said...

Tax privelege is a serious advantage which was legislated for Maori through Parliament.

Mike Butler said...

And then there's the Ngati Pahauwera claimant, who is soon to share in the receipt of a $70-million settlement, and who has use of the only treaty land-based property as yet released in Napier for private sector enterprise.