Monday, April 15, 2013

Chris Trotter: Not Debating the Constitution

I DON’T GET ANGRY very often. I’ve been around too long, seen history repeat itself too many times, for all that malarkey. Just occasionally, however, I stumble across something that truly infuriates me. Like discussions billed as debates where everybody is actually on the same side. No, I’m not talking about TV3’s “The Vote”. What’s got my dander up is a four-part series being hosted by the NZ Centre for Public Law (NZCPL) entitled “Debating the Constitution”. All four encounters to be broadcast subsequently on Radio NZ National.

And, yes, the series is indeed a response to the Constitutional Review which emerged from the horse-trading between the National and Maori parties following the 2008 General Election.

The same review that has been the occasion for more than a little teeth-gnashing among those Pakeha who have declared themselves perfectly happy with New Zealand’s present constitutional arrangements, thank you very much, and who have voiced deep suspicions of both the motives behind its creation and the outcomes intended by its protagonists.

Now, you might be thinking: Well there’s the opportunity for a genuine, rip-snorting debate! And I’d be the first to agree. There are a host of noisy individuals who would’ve leapt at the opportunity to voice their doubts and suspicions concerning the whole Constitutional Review initiative.

And that’s what has got me all hot under the collar.

I’ve examined the personnel invited to participate in this exercise by the NZCPL and can I find any of the names associated with the political movement that has sprung up to oppose the Constitutional Review?

No, I can’t.

And it’s not as though it would have been at all that difficult for the NZCPL to locate these folk. All it needed to do was send out invitations to the membership of the defiantly christened “Independent Constitutional Review Panel” – a ready-made Negative Team comprising Professors Martin Devlin and James Allan; Associate Professor, Elizabeth Rata; Law Lecturer, David Round; journalist and author, Mike Butler; and the former Act MP, Muriel Newman.

Well, I looked through the list of “Debating the Constitution” participants and not even one member of the Independent Constitutional Review Panel was included.

The names I did see surprised me not at all. Before my eyes was a veritable roll-call of the good and the great; the wise and the just; the righteously indigenous and the guilty descendants of the Maori people’s wicked colonial oppressors.

Here’s a sneak peek at just some of the NZCPL’s line-up: Dame Claudia Orange, Sir Geoffrey and Dr Matthew Palmer, Moana Jackson, Dr Maria Bargh, Professors Margaret Wilson, Elizabeth McLeay and Andrew Geddis, Jim Bolger and Colin James.

Now, don’t get me wrong, every one of these illustrious individuals is capable of contributing mightily to a polite “discussion” of our constitutional arrangements. More than a few of them could also say much that was useful about its origins and political ramifications. But, seriously, do any of them strike you as people likely to hoe into the Review with the passion of its self-identified opponents?

The NZCPL’s list of speakers is not going to generate a debate on this important topic. No, these folk are going to deliver an academic seminar on the exercise to an audience which will almost certainly be comprised of like and equally lofty minds.

It was only after my father was posted to Wellington in 1969 that I encountered the delicious word “twee”. From the moment I heard it used in a sentence I have cherished it. No other word in the English language captures the mixture of exclusivity and effeteness that twee so wonderfully expresses.

And twee is exactly the right word to describe this series of debates-that-aren’t-debates.

What could have been a down-and-dirty verbal slug-fest; a chance for these grand personages to endure a rare encounter with New Zealanders who most emphatically do not share their “sound” views on the Treaty of Waitangi, bi-culturalism and New Zealand history; an opportunity to squeeze all the poisons inflaming the open wound that is New Zealand race relations into public view – has been missed.

And that not only makes me angry, it also makes me sad.

As a people, we used to be more open and courageous than this. When Jack was a good as any snooty professor, and a debate was still a bloody good argument.

Chris Trotter blogs at This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 5 April 2013.


Anonymous said...

Well Chris Trotter, you are dead right on this one.
This is in plain view of all of us and a sector of our govt is orchestrating it.

Mind you, theres probably a "who will make the team' rugby story, or Kardashian reality show far more riveting.
NZers must be a politicians dream to herd and control and they obviously have a very low opinion of us.
So have we, the sheeple of NZ really become that gutless and stupid that we will accept this.... really?

Its hard to believe the lack of protest, (apart from a brave few like the NZCPR team and John Ansell) and that a populus would sit back and just let it happen.

Either we all get bloody angry soon and scream, or this will waltz through, as the perpetraitors (typo intentional) want, and the NZ which generations of all races have built (and we take for granted) , will be stuffed...simple!

Anonymous said...

I'm really interested in this topic but refuse to listen to these 'debates'.

Coming next: the Pope, Archbishop of Canterbury and the Orthodox Patriarch ask if Christianity is a good thing.

Kiwi Dave

Brian said...

This so called but misnamed "debate", would have pleased both Hitler & Stalin, a joy and pleasure to any ruling dictatorship. Economically a waste of RNZ time and "money" and certainly a propaganda exercise that must rank as "The Bias of all Bias"!

History will show hopefully, that the return of Maori tribalism was proceeded by a universal desire of all apathetic New Zealanders. Unaffected in their will to hand over the reins of government to the only true people of the land/sea/air/minerals/etc etc the indigenous people; Maori.

New Zealand is a test case of the United Nations, in just how far that organisation can take the instrument of Indigenous Rights.

In this Land of Appeasement John Key, David Shearer, the Greens stand tall for Race Relations. No doubt laying the foundations for a future careers (tax free with all perks)in that New York white monolithic bureaucracy which rules us all.


Helen said...

I absolutely agree with Chris Trotter. It is very worrying and this won't be a debate at all. Its conclusion is already obvious.

This country is going to go down the gurgler big time if the Sheeple don't wake up as to what's really going on.

I'm disgusted that no members of the Independent Constitutional Review panel are included. This says it all for me. Another devious conclusion manipulated by our weak appeasing Government. The sooner they are gone the better but what on earth do we replace them with?

Dave said...

I remember MP Nathan Guy asking me after National were first elected into parliament under John Key, ' was I happy' my answer was no, I said John Key is weak, is only interested in appeasing anyone at all to stay in power and the National party will deeply regret the day it formed a coalition with the Maori Party. History I'm afraid will prove me right. I can't see a lot changing because we have a naive brainwashed population, a similar Media and our schools infiltrated by lefty PC teachers.
The Majority of Kiwis either don't know or don't care, until it will be to late. This is the same people who voted for MMP that got us into this mess in the first place.
As a 5th generation white New Zealander I fear the future for my children and grandchildren. I openly hear similar thinking Kiwis now talking of armed revolution in the not to distant future, hope I'm wrong but history proves that when a power decides on privileges and rights solely based on race and greed then its inevitable.

Malcolm said...

If you listen to RNZ in the mornings you will here a programme that is racially biased and anti (National) government. So why expect something independent from them?

Anonymous said...

In “Preferential Policies: An International Perspective” Black American academic, Thomas Sowell records the downstream effect of government-sponsored identity politics. Touted as promoting inter-group harmony, Sowell found that wherever such policies had been tried, they invariably expanded over time in scale and scope, benefited already advantaged members of the preference group (those with the smarts to work the system), and led to increased rather than decreased inter-group polarisation. In many places they have brought about decades-long civil wars.

In the 1860s, the USA was rent by ruinous civil war fought between those who wanted America to live up to its Constitutional premise that "all men are created equal" and those who were benefitting from the ongoing maintenance of slavery.

Racism (not to be confused with simple prejudice) is systemic, state-sponsored racial preferment. No society can long be peaceful under such a system. The best guarantee of social cohesion is one in which each and every sovereign individual enjoys equality in citizenship.

Collectivism leads ultimately to alienation and violence. And racism is racism, whatever the skin colour of its beneficiaries.

Mike said...

Helen - who do we replace this treachorous National lot with?" Obvious - vote Conservative. They will not let this racist bunch win, if they get the chance. I agree with Johyn Key, and cannot unnderstyand why a wealthy individual should proceed to sell us down the river merely to stay in power. Unfortunately, that is what is happening, and none of my friends can see it!

Anonymous said...

A bit like a "Democracy Review". Two wolves sit down with the lambs to decide what will be for lunch.
In this case though removing the opposition even before the discussion starts.

Anonymous said...

I don't always agree with Chris Trotter but he's got it 100% right on this particular issue! The apathy of the majority of New Zealanders over this matter results from either ignorance or complacency, and this sad state of affairs is, without doubt, due largely to the disgraceful way in which the Constitutional "debate" is being handled and presented to the public by the Government. It's past high time for apathetic, "she'll be right", couldn't give a sh*t "kiwis" to wake up and get really angry over this most serious of developments.

Anonymous said...

Chris you are fight on the money.
This so called constitutional debate is a joke. Sadly it is a setup to enshrine the treaty into a constitution that will divide the country on racial grounds. there is only one constitution that will give a viable New Zealand in the future and that is enshrining equality of opportunity not equality of outcome.
Deregister all references to the treaty of Waitangi and let us all get on with life.4317

Tony R said...


Interesting this B/S that continues to go on and on

I did an Official Information Act request asking when a person would CEASE being Maori

ie 1/16th 1/32th 1/64 1/256th etc

Logic would suggest that it would SHOULD end at some point - wouldnt it?


we have to post the NZCPR links to all on our data base and wake the sheeple up - or if it goes in a way that i fear - Tonga sounds good - and they will have won...

Anonymous said...

Chris, I have just finished reading a post on "Bowalley Road" under "Not Debating the Constitution" from a gentleman called Morgan Godfery. I have to say that Mr Godfery's comments "take the cake" for patronising, snobbish and insulting nonsense. He describes three members of the Independent Constitutional Review Panel, Dr Muriel Newman,Dr Elizabeth Rata and David Round as "bush lawyers","backyard historians" and "tool shed philosophers". He then goes on to call them, and other with whom he disagrees on Treaty matters, racists. His arrogance is breathtaking. "Decent" constitutional scholars such as Claudia Orange and Geoffrey Palmer and their colleagues and supporters (including himself, presumably)are the only people Mr Godfery considers suitably qualified to deliberate on matters involving the Treaty and any possible future written New Zealand constitution. What an undemocratic, one-eyed load of tosh! As a retired, 4th generation New Zealander in my 70s, of mixed race, (irrelevant) who has paid taxes for over 50 years, has never been convicted of an offence, holds a tertiary qualification (as do my four children - doctor, psychologist, engineer and banker) I am deeply insulted by Mr Godfery's view that, whilst I am entitled to an opinion in the constitutional debate, it would carry no weight whatsever (and should therefore be ignored) as I am not one of his select group of approved "decent constitutional scholars". At this point, words fail me. There I go again, foolishly thinking that I live in a democratic country!