Friday, April 8, 2022

Barry Brill: Co-Governance Is Not Affirmative Action

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.

Longevity data

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.

Why Maori?

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.


Anonymous said...

Gower missed a couple more:
* The question that David Seymour needs to answer is this: why if an Asian (Specifically Chinese) child is born, like in the house next door to me, do they live longer than the child born in this house?
* The question that David Seymour needs to answer is this: why if a girl is born, like in the house next door to me, do they live longer than the boy born in this house?

Janine said...

Who would have thought we would come to the point where referendums are considered unnecessary? Obviously these people know they won't win the battle if they go to the people...let alone the war. So What do they do? They ignore 85% of the population and forge ahead anyway.

Statistics and facts no longer matter as per Lawrie Knights excellent summary. No one can surely doubt the track we are now heading down? We have one, lovely, young neighboring family heading to Queensland to live.Others contemplating moving. So sad for us as a country. Its okay for our wealthy parliamentarians as they can swan off to Hawaii if necessary and escape the consequences.

Terry Morrissey said...

No surprises that Gower and O'Brien are so opinionated, they listen only to the labour cult for their information. Not at all surprised that they haven't taken into account Dr Lawrie Knight's summary as they are journalist and must be able to read or write but not necessarily both. It is probably also covered by their contract with the PIJF.
Sorry, absolutely no trust at all in the MSM since the change in government.

Richard Treadgold said...

Terrific exposition, Barry. You most adroitly extract intentions from convoluted threads of apparently obscure remarks. I am most envious. I like your observation that urban Maori haven't been asked their opinion, and you remind us that, actually, nobody has had a chance to have their say, or vote. Which is a deep black mark against our socialist government. Plus, you highlight the greater number of poor and disadvantaged who are not Maori but white. Yet who are putting their case in the Parliament?

Unknown said...

The flaw in the argument that Maori have shorter lifespans and therefore deserve special treatment is that life spans are calculated at the time of birth. As Barry rightly points out lifespan has many influences, often personal life choices.
To test the validity of Maori deserving earlier pensions is to calculate the lifespan of Maori at a specific age and compare that to the general population. I would suggest 55 years of age as a good starting point. I strongly suspect an actuary might be able to predict that a Maori of that age has a similar life expectancy to all others.

Empathic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I had to stop watching TV3 news when Tova O'Brien was spouting forth her personal opinion in the guise of professional journalism. She was behaving like a rabid dog, ready to sink her teeth into anyone to score political points. Her claim to fame, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Empathic said...

Great piece Barry. Sadly our government policies including in health are becoming less scientific, less evidence-based and less rational by the day. Reasoning counts for little in the face of ideological blinkers with a good dose of greed. Feminism is also based largely on falsehood, propaganda and corruption of human science but that movement's political sway has hardly been touched by any amount of good research or pointing out that the expensive and socially destructive solutions imposed now for decades have been largely ineffective because they were based on faulty understanding of the problems. We now see the same process happening regarding woke racism. The failure of racist initiatives to achieve promised outcomes will be ignored.

A good example of the brave new world was highlighted in 'Breaking Views' on 08/04/22 concerning a science-based plan to reduce fog disrupting the operation of Wellington Airport: "Mr Mahika says kohu or fog acts as an important mediator between Rangi and Papa at this time of year, with an Uenuku, a rainbow being a sign of harmony. Rereata Makiha is this year’s KiwiBank Senior New Zealander of the Year for his contributions to mātauranga Māori.....".

Matariki, while perhaps deserving a holiday as much as European folklore did, seems to be little more than astrology but it seems we will now be required to treat all such superstitions as truth.