We apparently live in an enlightened era – one in which discrimination on any grounds is forbidden. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment tell us that we can’t hire (or choose not to hire) someone just because of their age, sex or sexual orientation, race, colour or ethnicity, religious or ethical beliefs, disability, marital or family status, or political opinions. To do so would be illegal. If one of these attributes (or lack of) was a necessity of the job, an employer would need to be prepared to prove it in court. Similarly, for landlords offering rental accommodation, it is unlawful to discriminate.
Thus it’s ironic that the public service entity, the Auckland City Council, has the gall to ask a potential supplier whether they consider their organisation to be a “Maori business”. This question is found in the online application for those applying for Council contracts. It is #5 in a list of standard questions on compliance certification, insurance, services, turnover and number of employees.
It difficult to fathom how this race-based question could have any relevance to the products and services required to make a city function, so Auckland Council was asked for an explanation.
The Council’s General Manager Procurement, Jazz Singh, claims that there is no discrimination intended. They want to know if their suppliers’ identified as Maori, just in case, “to ensure we are complying with any policy, contractual and legislative requirements” (− not that there are any currently).
Ms Singh denies that there’d ever be any discrimination in anything the Council did. However, she contradicts herself by writing that “our aim to promote opportunities with Maori businesses is not something we are trying to hide or want to hide”.
But is that not a contradiction? Logic rules that if the Auckland Council is “promoting” one ethnicity, it must definitely be discriminating against all others by not treating them equally. So suppliers could be wrong to assume a level racial playing field when it comes to winning Council contracts, in spite of “the Maori Economy” being worth a healthy $50-plus billion and enjoying the significant advantage of paying less tax (or none at all) than other Kiwi businesses.
Ms Singh justifies Council discrimination with references to “legislation “and “Treaty of Waitangi” but has failed to provide the specific Act of Parliament that requires Councils to favour Maori business. As with the Unitary Plan, the bottom line appears to be that Council employees are subserviently inclined to do whatever the unelected, unaccountable, totally opaque Independent (sic) Maori Statutory Board demands of them. No matter how racist, nonsensical, unsubstantiated, undemocratic or against human rights these demands might be.
As if to balance out the Council’s racial discrimination, Ms Singh provides assurance that the LGBTTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, takatapui and intersex) community aren’t discriminated against. Several departments (and their suppliers) are working towards or are already complying with a “Diversity & Inclusion Audit” and have been awarded The Rainbow Tick. I’m sure that will be a big relief to the business community.
It seems the not-so-super city has a ridiculous amount of control over its constituents. Despite frequent examples of incompetence, waste and superfluous activity, it simply demands more and more money from the people.
But never fear. The Council’s entertainment arm will distract us from the absurdities. They even felt the need to make a lengthy TV/YouTube advertisement, featuring John Kirwan, calling on us to “Love Your Weekend” – as if that’s ever been a problem that needed solving!
Ratepayers can’t rebel for fear of losing their homes or their premises. And on the commercial side, few have the courage to speak out for fear of losing out on lucrative contracts. The conditions that support extravagance, separatism and corruption continue to flourish in Auckland.