Interviewing Hone Harawira on Morning Report this morning about the police decision to shut down iwi checkpoints on highways in the Far North, she seemed at pains to avoid even the remotest hint that the checkpoints weren’t legitimate in the first place.
I would have been content if she had asked Harawira just one crucial question – namely, by what authority did he and his fellow activists set up the checkpoints? Harawira holds no public office and is accountable to no one. He has no public mandate. On the contrary, Maori voters in Te Tai Tokerau rejected him in the 2014 and 2017 general elections. He leads a far-left political splinter group called the Mana Movement, which won a resounding 0.1 per cent of the party vote in the last election it contested. So who or what gives Harawira the right to stop traffic on public roads?
My beef, however, isn’t with Harawira. He’s a seasoned political opportunist who will seize every chance to assert Maori autonomy, which is what the checkpoints are about. He owes the public nothing.
Ferguson, on the other hand, occupies a position of public influence and authority which she regularly abuses. This morning she ingratiated herself with Harawira by asking soft, leading questions (for example, “Are you concerned that the government is making decisions that are not in the best interests of Maori as regards this current outbreak?”, to which there was only going to be one answer) and murmuring assent to his replies.
The crucial question raised by unauthorised iwi checkpoints is this: either New Zealand is a society based on the rule of law, in which authority is exercised by people who are publicly accountable, or it’s a free-for-all where anyone with sufficient audacity (which Harawira has by the bucketload) can claim rights not available to others, such as pulling motorists over and disrupting traffic on the pretext that they want to give people information that’s freely available elsewhere. But Morning Report and Susie Ferguson delicately tiptoe around such inconvenient issues.
■ Duncan Greive, founder and managing editor of the left-wing news and commentary site The Spinoff, has unblushingly outed himself as an enemy of free speech.
In a commentary on John Banks’ sacking by Magic Talk, Greive suggests the station’s boss, former Air New Zealand executive Cam Wallace, should either restrain Magic Talk’s other conservative talkback hosts – he names Peter Williams and Sean Plunket – or “ease them out”. The problem, evidently, is that they express and invite right-wing opinions, which makes Magic Talk something of an outlier in an otherwise overwhelmingly woke media environment.
Greive then goes on to say: “… This is not just a question for Wallace and his board. It’s a question for us, for New Zealand. Because the views espoused by Banks and his caller, dismal as they are, remain out there and available on any number of platforms. His axing doesn’t change that.”
Translation: New Zealand will never achieve ideological purity until it’s purged of dissenting conservative opinions. Greive laments that such opinions persist, but there’s a remedy: the spittle-flecked, drooling knuckle-draggers who hold them should be denied a public platform. How very open and inclusive.
He goes on to sneer not only at talkback audiences but writers of letters to the editor as well, observing that such people are “older and further from the centre of society’s gravity than they once were”. Translation: old people should shut up and stand aside in favour of younger, wiser heads.
Well, at least we now know exactly where we stand with Greive and The Spinoff. He wishes to assert the right of free speech for himself but deny it to others.
■ Wellington’s abject humiliation continues. Earlier this week, sewage flowed in the central city after an ancient pipe burst. Yesterday a geyser erupted in the Aro Valley; same cause.
Interviewed by Corin Dann on Morning Report this morning, mayor Andy Foster made a valiant effort to sound confident and in command, but he’s not fooling anyone. He talks as if the city’s epidemic of failing pipes took everyone by surprise, but hang on; Foster has been on the council since 1992, so can hardly plead ignorance of the city’s decay. What was he doing all that time?
Ageing infrastructure isn’t Wellington’s only problem. The city is burdened with an ineffectual mayor struggling to assert control over a fractious council dominated by shrill, woke harpies. Its finest public buildings lie empty and its most ambitious projects (the Shelly Bay development and the laughingly named Let’s Get Wellington Moving initiative) are bogged down by indecision, sclerosis and litigation.
How long will it be, I wonder, before the city’s long-suffering citizens – especially those old enough to remember prouder times – stage an insurrection?
Karl du Fresne, a freelance journalist, is the former editor of The Dominion newspaper. He blogs at karldufresne.blogspot.co.nz.