Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bruce Moon: 20 constitutional questions

Since the Constitutional Advisory Panel may be holding meeting at a place near you, sometime soon, it would be a good idea to prepare some questions to fire at the visiting panellists. Given that much Nazi-style propaganda about the meaning of the Treaty continues to receive publicity, e.g. that Maoris are a "sovereign Treaty partner" (Danny Keenan, Wanganui Chronicle, March 16, 2013), one question would be whether the panel makes its best efforts to deny such falsehoods at every opportunity, and if not, why not? I have prepared a list of questions which some of you may think worth asking, should opportunities arise. No doubt others would use somewhat different wording. They are in no particular order and for your consideration:

1. Given that a proper understanding of the meaning and intent of the Treaty of Waitangi is of major importance, will the panel make it absolutely clear that:

(a) there is only one Treaty of Waitangi and it is written in the Maori language.

(b) in clarifying and interpreting the meaning of the Treaty, only the meanings of words as understood in 1840 will be employed and all recent documents purporting to state in English what the treaty said but using latter-day meanings (of which there are several) will be discounted and rejected? If not, why not?

2. Will the panel make it clear that the substance of the treaty, as contained in its three articles is:

(a) that the chiefs ceded sovereignty completely and for ever to the Queen? (Article first)

(b) that all Maoris became British subjects with all their rights and privileges (Articles first, by implication and Article third.)

(c) That the right to own property, real and personal, of all the people of New Zealand was affirmed (Implied by Article first and affirmed by Article second.)

That apart from a provision for the sale of land in Article second, soon found to be unworkable, the articles of the Treaty neither contain nor imply any other provisions whatever? If the panel will not act thus to promulgate what the treaty really said, why not?

3. Given that the so-called “principles of the treaty” are a purely modern, undefined concept, neither recognized nor implied in the Treaty of Waitangi, will the panel recommend that they be removed forthwith from all existing legislation and other government material, with a recommendation that they be excluded from legislation and all policy documents henceforth?

4. Given that appointed bodies of any description whose function is to work alongside and make recommendations to elected councils, boards and the like are inappropriate in a democratic society, will the panel recommend that all such existing unelected bodies be abolished forthwith. If not, why not?

5. Given that all apartheid and racist laws, provisions and rules favouring any racial group are abhorrent in a democracy, will the panel recommend that all such be removed forthwith and that they be excluded hereafter in government laws, procedures and policies in New Zealand? If not, why not?

6. Recognizing that in treaty settlements of grievances of Maori tribes, they received substantial amounts in cash and other assets and that those tribes received legal aid, paid for of course by taxpayers, in the presentation of their cases, will the panel recommend that the tribes be required to repay in full from those assets the full amounts of such legal aid and that this be made retrospective so to include all such instances? If not, why not?

7. Recognizing that “top-ups” of treaty payments on reaching certain thresholds are irrational and have no reasonable justification, will the panel recommend that they all cease forthwith? If not, why not?

8. Recognizing that several tribes have received at various times, sometimes repeatedly, “full and final settlements” of grievances, will the panel recommend that that condition be observed rigorously in future and that no further claims whatever for settled grievances be entertained henceforth? If not, why not?

9. Recognizing that many settler families suffered grievous damage to their property and sometimes lost their lives on account of the actions of rebel tribes during the early colonial period, will the panel recommend strongly that the descendants of those injured families be entitled to seek redress though appropriate legal avenues from those responsible and that they be granted legal aid in the pursuit of their claims? If not, why not?

10. Recognizing that the function of the Waitangi Tribunal as constituted is profoundly racist, insofar as it can only hear claims by racially identified citizens, will the panel recommend that it be abolished forthwith. If not, why not?

11. Will the panel recognize that, notwithstanding the irrelevant definition of the United Nations of who is an “indigenous person”, any similar definition of who is a Maori defies commonsense and is profoundly irrational and that if for any reason, a definition of who is a Maori be thought desirable henceforth, it be recommended that it apply only to persons who have reasonable grounds for believing that they are of a minimum of quarter Maori descent? If not, why not?

12. Recognizing that the number of individuals defined as Maoris in the House of Representatives actually exceeds currently the proportion of Maoris in the population as a whole and moreover that MMP provides well for the representation in Parliament of minority groups, will the panel recommend that separate Maori seats in the House be abolished with effect from the next general election? If not, why not?

13. Recognizing that the function of the panel affects all citizens of New Zealand, whatever their ethnic origins, will the panel desist henceforth from initialling and concluding its proceedings by procedures sourced exclusively from one racial group or alternatively observing similar opening and closing procedures drawn from all cultural backgrounds of New Zealanders? If not, why not?

14. Recognizing that the Treaty of Waitangi served its purpose well at the time it was signed and that its provisions have been observed in substance ever since (with occasional diversions to allow for certain transitional situations), regarding it now as a “living document” is an absurd attitude which should cease to be entertained in legislative or any similar situations. If not, why not?

15. Recognizing that while the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi was a significant event in the history of New Zealand and that it continues to play some part in our informal awareness of what we are as a people – our national identity – does the panel recognize that no useful purpose would be served by including references to it in future legislation or in dealing with any constitutional issues which may arise in future? If not, why not?

16. Given that the word “Aotearoa” does not appear anywhere in the Treaty of Waitangi, will the panel recommend that it be removed forthwith from all official and government-sourced documents? If not, why not?

17. Given that taniwhas, atuas and the like are pure figments of some imaginations, will the panel recommend that legislation or regulations be provided to which any body to which any pressure is applied on account of the alleged existence of such creatures may appeal for summary dismissal of such allegations. If not, why not?

18. Acknowledging that she is married to the person who was principal counsel representing Maori interests in its “water rights” case, should D. Coddington accept that she is in a position with a clear conflict of interests and that she should resign from the panel forthwith? If not, why not?

19. Noting that Sir Tipene (call-me Steve) O'Regan is currently facing civil action from the Financial Markets Authority for his role as director of Hanover Finance, should he not stand down from the panel and his role as its co-chairman until such legal matters are resolved? If not, why not?

20. Being aware that a parliamentary committee under the chairmanship of Peter Dunne recommended only a few years ago that no changes be made to our present constitutional arrangements and recognizing that there have been no changes in circumstances since, will the panel recommend strongly that the conclusions of the Dunne committee be upheld? If not, why not?


Anonymous said...

Hi Bruce
Good points. But Michael Cullen's role also needs to be questioned given his liking for co-governance.
See for example:Hon NANAIA MAHUTA
Ngati Tuwharetoa, Raukawa, and Te Arawa River Iwi Waikato River Bill — Third Reading Ngati Tuwharetoa, Raukawa, and Te Arawa River Iwi Waikato River Bill — Third Reading
"For that, it has to be recognised that both the Hon Dr Michael Cullen, the former Labour Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, and the Hon Chris Finlayson, the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, have indeed shown the fortitude needed to determine a new co-governance and co-management model for the future."

Trina said...

Bruce - you are a saint! Thank you very much for prompting us along with these fantastic questions!

Regarding question 9 - I am pretty sure a number of Taranaki 'out- settler's' were driven off their land in the 1840's after an Inquest by Governor Spain found the Taranaki Province had been brought fairly by the 'New Zealand Land Company'.

Rebels spat the dummy after the findings of this Inquest, and frightened Governor FitzRoy that much he went around the 'out-settlers' ordering them to leave, saying they were on Maori land.

Those poor families, who had brought the land in England from the 'NZ Land Company', and who had busted their backsides breaking the land in, had to pack up their belongings and leave their pretty little cottages, and watch their cleared land turn back into scrub because the Maoris had no use for it.

If anyone reading this wants to understand the Taranaki story I highly recommend you settle down with a cup of coffee and read the two part lecture by Rev. S. Ironside - 16th August 1869, titled "New Zealand - The War and what led to it" by clicking on the following links:

Part one:

Part two:


Anonymous said...

Perhaps a better question would be
Is there anyone on the panel that doesn't have a conflict of interest?

Anna said...

Dear Bruce

I agree with you re: the principles of the Treaty. Why do Maori need the principles when they have the Treaty? Then we can have our lands, fisheries, foreshores, seabeds, minerals resources, not to mention our laws and customs. Thanks Bruce.

BTW: I point to Godwin's Law re: your use of Nazi. It's not really a law either. More of a code of conduct, but whenever anyone breaks it, it does give us a chuckle.