Friday, April 8, 2022
Barry Brill: Co-Governance Is Not Affirmative ActionLabels: Barry Brill, David Seymour, Dr Lawrie Knight, Health statistics, Patrick Gower, Tribal co-governance
Our electronic media have thoroughly confused both themselves and their audiences over David Seymour’s speech calling for a referendum on the principle of ‘one law for all’.
Both Patrick Gower and Tova O’Brien quickly lambasted the very idea of a referendum. Although both tirades were mostly ad hominem vitriol, they both found time to laud the virtues of positive discrimination – or “affirmative action” as it is called in the US.
Gower cited the statistical disparity in the life expectancies of New Zealanders of different ethnicities, somehow ascribing this to a lack of Co-Governance.
Of course, he didn’t cite any authorities or even put forward any sort of argument. It was enough to simply disgorge a welter of his own ethnic prejudices and hope there would be lots of Newshub viewers who share his bigotry.
Gower: "The question that David Seymour needs to answer is this: why if a Māori child is born, like in the house next door to me, do they live for seven years less than the child born in this house?"
He clearly implies that this disparity would go away if only some Tribes were given more political power. Not just some more power but the same level of power as all New Zealand voters combined (including Maori).
Supporters of affirmative action usually ask for disproportionate funding or other resources for various ethnic groups that are disadvantaged.
Seymour supports that, but opposes the concept of ‘separate but equal’ health systems. Gower is in the diametrically opposite corner. He doesn’t ask for more funding but he apparently likes the idea of parallel health systems based on race.
Life expectancy refers to the lives of ‘ordinary’ Maori people. The Co-Governance concept offers nothing to them, but instead grants huge power to the already-wealthy Tribal elites. Why does Gower support this? He doesn’t say.
He offers this ineffable gem: “Ultimately to me, co-governance means enhancing the mana of everybody in this country”.
A few minutes later, Gower says “I cannot wait until we start to debate some of the nuts and bolts of [cogovernance]”. Yet, when asked to contribute to the debate, this media lion is reduced to artless dog-whistling.
So, is there any scientific support for the notion that life expectancy is well-correlated with political power in the health sector? None whatsoever. They are chalk and cheese.
About 5 days before Gower’s outburst, NZCPR had published Dr Lawrie Knight’s paper which systematically fact-checks the claim that Maori die seven years earlier than other New Zealanders.
Dr Knight sets out the official ethnic-based data for all people living in New Zealand in 2018. Eight ethnic groups are recorded and the male life expectancies range from 87.2 years (Chinese) to 74.2 years (Maori). European ethnicity, which is presumably relevant to Gower’s house, appears in the lower half of the list.
Genetics generally account for about 25% of longevity variance. Each race has its own genetically determined life expectancy. Nobody suggests that New Zealanders with Chinese ancestry live six years longer than those with European ancestry simply because they have more political power.
Lifestyle issues are another major contributor. Earlier mortality can be expected amongst those New Zealanders who smoke, or are obese, or are heavy users of drugs or alcohol, or those who skip necessary vaccinations or medications. Unfortunately, Maori tend to be heavily over-represented in these statistics.
Access to good health services obviously makes a major difference to longevity figures. The average life expectancy for Fijians and Tongans living in Fiji and Tonga is 8.7 years less than for their compatriots living in New Zealand.
There is no sign of “white racism” in those figures. In fact, they rebut the evidence-free belief that patients do better when cared for by co-ethnic medical providers.
Race or need?
There is little argument that the key social determinants of poor health are poverty, unemployment, low educational level, and poor housing. In short, the poor have poor health.
Both Maori and Pacifica are over-represented in these categories on a percentage basis – but not in terms of absolute numbers. 2020 statistics show that 14.8% of our non-Maori population are living below the poverty line, making this group the largest by far of any disadvantaged group of any ethnicity who have poorer access to health services.
The health statistics of other ethnicities have not even been collected. That is for the perfectly sound reason that their distant ancestry has very little relevance to their current health status or needs – and, as identity groups go, they do not wield much political power.
The obvious solution to low longevity is reduction of poverty, regardless of ethnic backgrounds. That means affirmative action for the poor – all the poor – not political power to Tribes.
If Gower’s real aspiration is to reduce disparities in life expectancy, I would advise him to profile demographic groups that die young, and offer further resources to them.
His proposed method of selecting every person who claims a Maori ancestor is little better than blindfold dart-throwing.
Why would I willingly pay for special healthcare rights for people like Simon Bridges, Kelvin Davis, Cindy Kiro, Winston Peters, Tipene O’Regan, Eddy Durie or Paula Bennett? Or the elites of Maori Tribes that have already amassed $71 billion dollars from Treaty settlements?
Why offer special help to those part-Maori people who live in a region like Marlborough, where there is no race-based disparity. Rather I would try to emulate any practices that seem to endow Marlborough Maoris with excellent health statistics.
How would Newshub explain to a Pacifica family that it wants to see 100% of any special rights given to all those with some New Zealand Maori Polynesian blood (no matter how rich and healthy); and 0% to all those of Cook Island Maori Polynesian blood (no matter how poor and vulnerable)? That is racism, pure and simple.
The group that clearly has the worst longevity statistics is the poor – the New Zealand statistical quintile with the lowest income. Most of them cannot claim a Maori ancestor.
If New Zealand has health resources to spare, why would we not direct them to the most vulnerable in our society? It would seem indefensible to channel funds instead to the hundreds of thousands of Maori who earn the average wage or better.
In fairness, we must remember that ‘urban’ Maori have not asked for any special treatment. I imagine many of them find it quite irritating to be patronised by Gower and his media ilk. Their opinions have not been sought. Nor has anybody else outside the ‘political classes’ had any opportunity to express an opinion – or cast a vote.
It is dispiriting to find that Newshub has comprehensively pre-judged this Co-governance debate, before it has even begun. It is worse when we don’t know why.
People become curious when opinionated and intolerant positions are taken by influential figures, who cannot or will not offer any rational explanation for their chosen stance. Dark suspicions of payoffs are inevitably raised.
Barry Brill OBE JP LL.M(Hons) M.ComLaw is a lawyer and former MP.
at 10:13 AM