- David Miles, The Tribes of Britain, 2005, p.178
The current active discussion on policy for selection of entrants to the University of Otago Medical School reveals much of the accelerating racism which blights our once fair democracy of New Zealand.
That policy as it stands grants preferential entry to students who claim Maori or Pasifica ancestry and the first question that it raises is just what in fact that qualification may be?
Who, in short, is a Maori?
I recall seeing in the fairly recent past a photograph of a group of Otago graduates in medicine at a special graduation ceremony for students of Maori descent. (Why they should have been granted this privilege by such a racist criterion is another question to address.) All had names from the British Isles. Several were blondes. Typically Maori features were hard to distinguish in any of them. That outcomes are better for people of more significant Maori descent from treatment by such practitioners rather than those with no Maori ancestry is at best, I suggest, a very dubious conclusion though no doubt there are people who claim it to be true.
Now race-based preferential entry inevitably implies that students’ other attributes are weaker to some extent than those of others competing for entry places. The corollary must be – though I have no direct evidence to support it – that they remain amongst the weaker students proceeding through their course of study and ultimately graduating. Who amongst us would consciously seek to consult a medical practitioner who was palpably not one of the best? Moreover, if such be true, it is distinctly unfair to all other practitioners who possess some Maori descent but have achieved entry solely on their merits, who will be inevitably associated with them.
Professor Peter Crampton, prominent in these discussions,[i] “urges the university to act in good faith ... as part of Te Tiriti o Waitangi” and Race Relations Commissioner, Meng Foon chimes in with “the university to ensure the policy is tiriti-based.”[ii] Peddling such nonsense with “Te Tiriti” allegedly promising almost anything one wants must immediately raise suspicions about the validity of their arguments. In fact any such preference would be wholly contrary to Article third of the Treaty which conferred the same rights on Maoris as on other British subjects, a major point on which Messrs Crampton and Meng are evidently blatantly ignorant.
And again, supposing their arguments have some substance, why are not similar moves being made on behalf of other considerable minority groups – Indians and Chinese and other Asians who make up a substantial part of New Zealand’s population today but who do not have fake “tiriti-based” arguments to back their claims for consideration? After all Jacinda Ardern[iii] in joining in this debate offers her opinion that the “diversity” of the medical profession must reflect that of the population as a whole.
A diverse range of medical practitioners will enable medicine, as a profession, to deliver the best it can to society. We may recall the nor-so-distant past when to have women doctors was unheard of. However diversity based on tokenism not related to ability and suitability will ultimately serve only to destroy confidence in the profession, a profound loss to all including those who do deliver outcomes with skill and dedication.
I myself have been treated in Vanuatu by a Papuan doctor and in India by medical practitioners there (of whom I formed a very high opinion) and in no instance was their – or my – ethnicity of any relevance.
My conclusion is that in this instance we have yet another example of the tide of Maori preference and similar racism which is sweeping the country with far-reaching consequences which the rest of us sooner or later may well have cause to regret.
I am myself a member of a family with medical graduates from the University of Otago in three generations. A graduate myself, not in medicine, my undergraduate room-mate for three years was a lad of part-Maori descent, again not in medicine, who succeeded solely on his own merits with his Maori ancestry never a factor in it.
I report further that I am not unacquainted with the topic of predicting performance at university. With my late colleague, W.E. Davis, I was able to show that the practice in 1976-9 of awarding bursaries to sixth form leavers on the basis of assessed university entrance grades was of dubious value at best.[iv] The wisdom of Solomon would be a better guide.
[i] Jody O’Callaghan,”stuff”, 11 September 2020
[iii] Thomas Coughlan, “stuff”, 4 September 2020
[iv] W.E Davis and B.A.M.Moon, “The Performance of Sixth-From School Leavers at University”, NZJEdStud,14,2, November 1979, pp 164-171
Bruce Moon is a retired computer pioneer who wrote "Real Treaty; False Treaty - The True Waitangi Story".