Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Graham Adams: Judith Collins: The lady’s not for turning

Despite a largely hostile media and poor poll results, the Leader of the Opposition is not backing away from her campaign to expose government plans for Maori co-governance. Graham Adams assesses her strategy.

Amid the chorus of media voices crowing that the latest Newshub / Reid Research poll heralds the demise of Judith Collins, most have overlooked one significant result within it. When asked by pollsters if Labour was being “separatist”, 38.7 per cent of respondents said “yes”.

Collins first described the Maori Health Authority as “separatist” in late April, and on May 1 she brought the report He Puapua and its radical constitutional implications to national attention, alleging the government was engaged in a stealthy race-based agenda. The Newshub poll was conducted from May 7-13.

This means that, in a matter of weeks, the Leader of the Opposition succeeded in convincing nearly 40 per cent of respondents that Jacinda Ardern is advocating some system of Maori separatism in the nation’s governance.

It’s true that marginally more of those polled — 43.6 per cent — said Labour wasn’t being separatist but 18 per cent also declared themselves undecided. Therefore, of those who had formed an opinion, Collins had persuaded nearly half that her case had merit.

That’s an impressive achievement given that the media has, almost without exception, dismissed Collins’ claims that the government has a covert programme for establishing Maori co-governance — as expressed in the recommendations in He Puapua as well as in a proposal presented by the Department of Internal Affairs to transfer 50 per cent of publicly owned water assets in the South Island to Ngāi Tahu ownership.

It’s true that Collins’ campaign has done nothing to boost support for National — at least so far — and nor has it kept her from a low ranking as preferred prime minister. But neither of these measures says anything meaningful about popular perception of the issues she has raised around the specific issue of racialised politics.

The lingering question after the weekend’s poll results that media interpreted as showing her “race-baiting” was imperilling her continued leadership was just how vigorously Collins would continue to pursue her campaign or whether she would quietly let it slip.

On Monday, she made it clear she wouldn’t buckle. “I just think most New Zealanders would be appalled if they realised what the government is doing behind their backs. I will call them out. I won’t stop,” she said.

“I’m going to keep on going, and the more that the Māori Party behaves like it does and the Labour Party does and Parliament gets all upset I ask the question, the more I’m going to do it.”

On Tuesday in the House, Collins showed she was as good as her word. Backed by Act leader David Seymour, she harried Ardern over the Ngāi Tahu document, leaving Ardern to wash her hands of it by passing responsibility to accounting giant PWC for commissioning it.

During the 10-minute exchange, Ardern’s loyal lieutenants Chris Hipkins, Nanaia Mahuta and Grant Robertson each rose to their feet to offer respite to their beleaguered leader with easy questions. In fact, Robertson stood twice to give Ardern a much-needed breather.

If nothing else, it must be galling for Labour MPs to see Collins enjoying herself quite so much in pinning their champion to the ropes. And any hopes they may have entertained after the weekend poll that she would tiptoe quietly away from the furore were well and truly dashed.

In short, like her political hero Margaret Thatcher, it is clear that Collins is not intending to back away just because the going is getting tough and some journalists have decided her time is up. As the former UK Prime Minister famously said in 1980: “To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the ‘U’ turn, I have only one thing to say. ‘You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.’”

The fact is, if Collins has already convinced nearly 40 per cent of voters she has a case about Maori sovereignty when much of the media on both the right and left have been hostile to her claims, it’s obvious that — as journalists themselves like to say — this story has legs, and it can go a lot further.

Collins will have plenty of time to explain all the facets of the story and exactly how stealthy and damaging, in her opinion, the government’s plans are. Even her most strident media detractors accept she is unlikely to be rolled for some time as leader — if only because there is no obvious replacement and, even if there were, the party cannot afford another palace coup so soon after the disastrous Todd Muller interregnum last year.

At some point, it may cross voters’ minds to query why Ardern will neither repudiate He Puapua and its recommendations nor strongly back it.

So far, in defending her approach of promoting Maori co-governance, the Prime Minister has relied on little more than appealing to the notion that the Treaty implies a “partnership” between the Crown and iwi.

Although the word has become common in describing the Treaty, most voters will still have no exact idea of what a partnership would mean in practice — not least, of course, because Ardern won’t explicitly tell them. That is the reason Collins has been trying repeatedly to get the Prime Minister to admit the new Maori Health Authority will have a power of veto over a separate authority responsible for the wellbeing of the other 85 per cent of the population.

Ardern will not say the word “veto” because she knows that confirming this fact will be disastrous for her. It is certain that had Newshub’s pollsters posed a question about the fairness of granting a veto to Maori, the numbers opposed would have been high. Most New Zealanders’ understanding of a fair partnership wouldn’t include a power of veto being granted to a minority of 15 per cent of the population to be exercised over the majority.

Ardern’s secondary line of defence for her policies is even weaker. It relies on making a huge leap from the fact that Maori on average have worse health outcomes than non-Maori under our present system to justify setting up a radically different one.

As she told Parliament plaintively in response to questioning by Collins earlier this month about a Maori veto: “We have tried the process of having a consultation style of approach. It hasn’t worked… so we’re seeking joint agreement.”

Given the fact that Maori are currently dying earlier than non-Maori, Ardern says, her government’s only viable option is working in an equal co-governance partnership.

This seems suspiciously like the claim There Is No Alternative made by the Fourth Labour government of Roger Douglas and David Lange to justify its overturning of the existing economic system. Of course there always is an alternative. With respect to health, the most obvious is to improve the present set-up without creating a separate overarching authority for Maori.

And as many commenters on social media have pointed out, men — both Maori and non-Maori — die on average much earlier than women but no one is proposing a separate health authority for them.

So far most journalists have obligingly run cover for Ardern on whatever plans she has for encouraging co-governance — in much the same way they uncritically backed her last year during her management of Covid and shouted down any dissenters

However, if Collins continues to raise public interest in the topic, journalists will be forced, sooner or later, to demand answers from Ardern to harder questions — of the kind the Prime Minister is obviously so keen to avoid answering in Parliament.

Graham Adams is a journalist, columnist and reviewer who has written for many of the country’s media outlets including Metro, North & South, Noted, The Spinoff and Newsroom.


DeeM said...

Let's hope Collins sticks to her guns because the longer she and Seymour persist in harrying the government on these issues the harder it will be for the public to shrug it off. Some may even feel moved to do some digging on their own, independent of our "independent" media. They will certainly find "something nasty in the wood shed".

Fred H said...

Ardern is underhand, untrustworthy, deceitful and dangerous to democracy. She relies on the apathy of the vast majority of New Zealanders to pursue misconceived beliefs. Judith Collins must keep attacking this government's goal of divisiveness. I am pretty sure that a lot of Labour MPs as well as Labour voters do not agree with Ardern's policy of apartheid.

Anonymous said...

Radical [part-] Maori “brown neck” supremacists and their post-colonial-guilt-tripping white liberals claim most New Zealanders see nothing wrong with [part-] Maori privilege; and that only a handful of benighted “racists” object to it.


Some poll results:

-91% No to making Matariki a public holiday (BFD poll 9 September 2020)
-82% No to compulsory Maori language in schools (Yahoo Xtra poll).
-96% of non-Maori students of Year 9 and above do NOT learn Maori despite it being an available option in many schools (NZ Herald, 23 July 2014).
-85% No to special Maori housing (Bay of Plenty Times, 20 April 2013).
-81% No to “Maori are special” (Close Up poll, July 2011).
-81% No to Maori names for North Island and South Island (Stuff poll, 2 April 2013).
-82% No to “h” in Wanganui (Referendum conducted by Wanganui District Council, 2006).
-79% No to a special Maori voice on the committees of Rotorua Council (Rotorua Daily Post, 9 May 2014).
-82% No to special Maori wards on New Plymouth Council (Taranaki Daily News, 15 May 2015).
-80% No to Maori wards, Hauraki District Council, May 2013.
-79% No to Maori wards, Waikato District Council, April 2012.
-79% No to Maori wards, Nelson District Council, May 2012.
-70% No to Aotearoa or Aotearoa-New Zealand (Research NZ poll, November 2020).
-52% No to Maori wards, Wairoa District Council, March 2012 (high proportion of [part-] Maori voters).
-68% No to Maori wards, Far North District Council, March 2015 (high proportion of [part-] Maori voters).
-70% want Maori wards in local government abolished (Consumerlink, Colmar Brunton poll, March 2012).
-68% want the Waitangi Tribunal abolished.

On average, around 20% of New Zealanders think [part-] Maori should have special privileges. Around 80% do not. This, of course, includes many New Zealanders of Maori descent.

But it is the 20% that have captured the public debate, with their false narrative of “victimhood” and “oppression,” their lying revisionist version of “history,” and their mob shouting down all opposition, no matter how reasoned and principled, as “racist” and “bigoted.”

Anonymous said...

Most of the 80% who privately disagree with Maori privilege won’t say so publicly, since all the noise in the public square leads them to believe a majority agrees with Maori privilege. They’re cowed into silence by fear of social marginalisation for not holding group-approved attitudes.

But they’re not alone. They’re a substantial majority, though they have yet to realise it. Some of us have been doing this a long time. We will help the silent majority to see that people are prepared to stand up and be counted. We will not be silenced, and we will eventually win the day.

As Edmund Burke reminds us: “Because half-a-dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field; that of course they are many in number; or that, after all, they are other than the little shriveled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour.”

In social psychology, “pluralistic ignorance” describes a situation where a majority of group members privately reject a received norm, but wrongly assume it is widely held, and pretend conformity so as not to appear out of step with everyone else.

Most people, whatever their level of intelligence, want to hold “correct” beliefs and attitudes. Their overriding drive is to belong and conform. To do so, many will internalise received dogma without applying intellectual scrutiny to it.

Hans Christian Andersen’s story of The Emperor’s New Clothes warns us against buying into group-think for social approval.

A vain Emperor who cares only for appearances hires two swindlers who promise to make him the world’s finest suit of clothes cut from a cloth invisible to anyone who is stupid or unfit for his position.

The fraudsters pretend to weave the fabric to make the suit. Invited to admire the cloth as it is being woven, the Emperor’s ministers can see nothing, but pretend to see looms full of beautiful fabric taking shape for fear of appearing unfit for their positions. On his own inspection visit, the Emperor does the same.

Finally, the swindlers announce that the suit is finished. They pretend to dress the Emperor in it and he marches before his subjects at the head of a grand procession. Behind him, his courtiers pretend to be holding up the train of a non-existent cloak, so as not to be seen by others as unfit for their positions.

Not wanting to appear stupid, the townsfolk also play along with the pretence. Then a child in the crowd, too young to understand the need for the charade, loudly blurts out the Emperor has nothing on.

Others take up the cry, until everyone is saying the same thing. The Emperor cringes, suspecting the crowd is right, but continues to pretend otherwise because backing down would be to own up to his own stupidity.

Our day will come, and those who would marginalise the majority will be bashed back to the mediocrity and opprobrium they deserve. These ethnocentric haters and wreckers (and their West-hating Socialist traitor enablers) are filth on the face of our country.

Jenny said...

Judith Collins may yet prove to be New Zealand's Iron Lady.

Gary Judd said...

Perhaps the reason for the apparent disconnect is that it was ACT which raised the issue. As Graham Adams reported elsewhere, "On April 14, Act leader David Seymour held up a copy of He Puapua in Parliament before asking the Prime Minister why she hadn’t announced her government’s plans to follow its recommendations.

More specifically, Seymour wanted to know if the government would rule out the “Treaty-based constitution” the report calls for." "

Gary Judd

Rob said...

Of ongoing concern is respect of Judith Collins and her leadership of what’s actually left of the National Party, is that behind the scenes she still seems to want to ingratiate herself to Maori and the Political opportunity that this represents. The only effective opposition that we presently have in NZ is David Seymour and the Act Party.
Both the Nats and Act need to clearly tell the electorate at large what exactly they are going to do to actually overturn or reverse the racially separatist policies and initiatives that is now being implemented or promulgated by the woke left wing loonies that currently hold the reins of power here in NZ.
Criticism by Judith Collins at the political level achieves little, unless there is some substance behind it . Anyone can criticise.. it is what you are going to do about it that makes the difference!
This needs to happen before the next election so there is a clear mandate for any incoming centre right Government or Coalition to initiate the changes necessary to once again restore true democratic freedoms to the New Zealand People. Such an agenda should in fact form an integral part of the manifesto of both the Nats and Act, because I believe that these issues will very much determine who governs NZ after the next election.
New Zealand is a multicultural society with many hardworking people of various ethnicities (including many Maori) who contribute a hell of a lot to our society as a whole. In promulgating a “Maori minority/ the rest of NZ” governance model, Maori could in fact wind up being more socially marginalised than ever, with many non-Maori New Zealanders asking seriously questions about the overtly racist nature of such an agenda, and others of less moderate disposition actually beginning to express a strong dislike of Maori in general as a consequence of this.
The sad thing about the non-democratic assignation of racially based power and control to the Tribal elite and Iwi organisations such as Ngai Tahu et al is that the actual trickle down benefits to those within Maori who actually need them most tends to be somewhat minimal, and disaffection amongst the poorest and most socially disadvantaged Maori will inevitably continue.
Maori in New Zealand enjoy the same rights, freedoms, and privileges as anyone else (and rightly so) , and perhaps they need to look a little bit more introspectively at the problems they face, rather than trying to blame everyone else for these.

Bill . said...

Our team of 4 million must get this PUSHBACK rolling.Our beaches,water, place names ,town names ,even our language ,,,all under attack.

Auntie Podes said...

Judith Collins is beginning to open the ill-concealed cracks in Commissar Ardern's policies and lack of performance. Given the bias in the media this is a remarkable achievement. Keep it up, Judith, you well deserve the inroads you are making. It is showing in the ugly grimacing retorts as Ardern's image shows she is worried..