Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Graham Adams: Co-governance debate descends into a slugfest

Act leader David Seymour certainly thrust the cat among the pigeons a fortnight ago by announcing that if a National-Act government is elected next year, he would want it to pass a law defining the principles of the Treaty.

Like the End of Life Choice Act, the law would come into effect only once a referendum had ratified it, with Seymour suggesting that take place at the 2026 general election.

Seymour says the “Treaty Principles Act” would be “short but decisive”:

• All citizens of New Zealand have the same political rights and duties;

• All political authority comes from the people by democratic means including universal suffrage, regular and free elections with a secret ballot;

• New Zealand is a multi-ethnic liberal democracy where discrimination based on ethnicity is illegal.

He added: “For the avoidance of doubt, these principles prevail over any contradictory enactment by Parliament, or finding on the matter of Treaty Principles by the Courts.”

Unsurprisingly, his proposal to counter the relentless push by Ardern’s administration for co-governance with iwi — in areas as diverse as health, education, local government, the conservation estate, water infrastructure and the RMA — has been met with a barrage of outrage. And amongst the flying feathers have come some unforgettable responses. Chief among them has to be that of Willie Jackson, the Minister for Māori Development, who challenged Seymour to a debate — wherever he wants one.

A week ago Jackson said: “I’ll debate you anywhere you like, David — every town hall, RSA, marae, school hall, university, techs, union venues, tea rooms and knitting circles from Cape Reinga to Stewart Island.”

The reason Jackson is so bullish about winning such a contest, he said, is because he has “no fear debating the arguments around co-governance because I believe in the innate goodness of Kiwis”.

That can’t be the same Willie Jackson, surely, who approved of keeping the separatist report He Puapua hidden not only from the public but also from Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and his NZ First Cabinet colleagues before the 2020 election? He obviously didn’t believe quite so deeply in the “innate goodness of Kiwis” just 18 months ago as the election rolled around.

As Jackson said last June about He Puapua, the not-so-secret manifesto of co-governance:

In retrospect it was probably good [Peters] didn’t see it... If they had got it they would have utilised it and said, ‘There we go — that’s why you have to vote for NZ First’… You’ve got to remember they were trying to use anything to get their vote up, and it would’ve been gold for them.

“Gold” for NZ First, huh? Clearly the “innate goodness of Kiwis” must have come along in leaps and bounds since the election when he obviously feared they might be highly susceptible to a NZ First campaign against the co-governance proposals that are the very essence of the revolutionary document.

The Prime Minister is also coming up with howlers. Last week, David Seymour asked her in the House:

Does she agree with this statement: ‘All political authority comes from the people by democratic means including universal suffrage, regular and free elections with a secret ballot,’ and, if so, how is that consistent with more and more governance roles being appointed along ethnic lines instead of elected?

Seymour was being exceedingly mischievous because the words he put to the Prime Minister come directly from the Labour Party constitution. In fact, he was quoting its opening statement.

Ardern responded:

Of course, I support the longstanding principles of democracy in this nation, but the idea that that cannot sit alongside Te Tiriti o Waitangi, I take issue with that. We are more 
sophisticated than that, surely, than to take such a simplistic view.

So, in the Prime Minister’s mind, democracy can sit “alongside” the undemocratic practice of appointing people to positions of power by reason of their ancestry. And if you can’t grasp that, you are clearly unsophisticated and a “simplistic” thinker.

We have a term for such a hybrid political system, of course, and it’s certainly not democracy. It’s called ethno-nationalism.

Ardern was clearly rattled by Seymour’s questions — as she so often is faced with his forensic questioning. But she always holds what she imagines to be a get-out-of-jail card up her sleeve for such difficult discussions. Realising she was cornered, the Prime Minister predictably whipped it out and accused Act’s leader of “just blatant politicisation” of the issue of co-governance.

That any politician — let alone a Prime Minister — would accuse an opponent of politicising a contentious issue in Parliament is so absurd it beggars belief. Only a politician with a messianic mindset who saw themselves as being not only on the side of the angels but possibly an angel themselves could make such a ludicrous accusation.

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister is showing herself to be as much out of her depth over co-governance as she was in the hate-speech debate that has staggered along intermittently over the past few years.

A major reason the proposed hate-speech legislation has now been shelved indefinitely is that Ardern is simply not equipped intellectually to sell it to the public — any more than Kris Faafoi, her Minister of Justice, is.

Who can forget her immortal response to Duncan Garner asking her on The AM Show in 2019 to identify the “threshold” between reasonable criticism and hate speech: “You know it when you see it”?

In the debate about co-governance, Ardern has never done much better than crying “Partnership!” or saying, “National did it first!”

Her other favoured position is to imply co-governance is the only way to reverse negative Māori statistics in health, education and other areas. “There Is No Alternative”, of course, was the doctrine so beloved of the Fourth Labour Government of Roger Douglas and David Lange in the 1980s as they upended the economy and society, also without a mandate.

Slogans and insults also seriously hamper meaningful debate. Hearing of Seymour’s proposal for a referendum, Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer surprised no one by crying “racism”, “bigotry” and asserting that it “emboldens white supremacy”.

However, that was such an unoriginal response it only made Seymour — who happens to be Ngāpuhi — look calm, realistic and rational.

Matthew Tukaki, the chairman of the National Māori Authority, called Seymour “nothing more than a little grub” and a “little thug”.

He said the call for a referendum was “grubby, smacks of filth and certainly smacks of racism”. He also advised Act’s leader to “grow up”, which seemed a bit ironic. In fact, he too managed to make his opponent appear to be the most mature adult in the room.

Tukaki and Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi recommended a boycott of Wellington-headquartered tech giant Xero, particularly by Māori, on the grounds that its co-founder and former CEO, Rod Drury, had recently donated $100,000 to Act — with the alleged aim of helping fund Seymour’s campaign against co-governance.

Tukaki said:

Why should Māori buy products from the organisations these people own, services they charge us an arm and a leg for, software in our organisations that we pay a premium on when some of that money is then going on to be donated to the very party that [would] see our people and our culture sidelined?

The hope that Māori who rely on Xero’s cloud-based accounting software platform would abandon it as a way of acting ethically or in the belief they might financially wound a $15.3 billion global corporation took optimism way beyond the point of reason.

Xero quickly made its position clear:

We can confirm that former Xero CEO Rod Drury, who is a non-executive director on Xero’s board, has made a donation. This was in a personal capacity with no connection to Xero.

Desperate times, of course, may call for desperate measures but the call for a boycott by Waititi and Tukaki was a doozy — and not least because Drury is himself of Ngāi Tahu stock.

Just two weeks into Seymour’s campaign, it is obvious his opponents are really going to have to take a big step up from lazy assumptions, accusations of racism and random calls for boycotts.

Instead, they need to engage more energetically with the real and pressing question of just how much further most New Zealanders want to go down the path towards an ethno-nationalist state.

Graham Adams is a freelance editor, journalist and columnist. He lives on Auckland’s North Shore. This article was first published HERE


DeeM said...

Ardern can certainly talk a good game, and has a great side-step to avoid answering questions she finds too hard.
However, that is her default position these days which shows up her intellectual shortcomings. Continually deflecting questions only works as a very short-term strategy but Ardern is now making a career out of it. I can't remember the last time she gave a straight answer.

The best ploy is to keep putting her on the spot and she will crack. Question her in the house relentlessly where she can't hide. If you break Ardern the whole house of cards will fall.
Don't bother debating with motor-mouth Jackson who will talk you down in any debate. You're only playing into their hands.

Don said...

The number of Maori MPs is already greater than the proportion of Maori in the population. If Maori seats are abolished and all of us are on one roll we might elect a parliament which is 100% Maori and that would be a good thing provided they were democratically elected. We have demonstrated Maori on the general roll do as well as everybody else and there is no need for separate seats just as there is no need for co-governance. Unity is strength. The deeply stupid idea of co-governance will weaken our country.

Ross Baker said...

Over the last 47 years, the National Party has destroyed New Zealand’s democracy because of their lack of knowledge of New Zealand’s true history that is fully documented in New Zealand, Australian and American Archives, plus the British Parliamentary Papers. They have used the Treaty of Waitangi to pass Acts when the Treaty of Waitangi was only an agreement between Queen Victoria and the tangata Maori. At the time the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, New Zealand was under the Dependency of New South Wales. Once signed, it was filed away and 12 months later, superseded by Queen Victoria’s Royal Charter/Letters Patent dated the 16 November 1840.

It's time National corrected these errors!

Anonymous said...

You are missing a point here. The speaker (Mallard, Labour) is consistently letting the PM & others sidestep answers rather than forcing them to answer clearly & forthwith. I would suggest it is past time to have a non-partisan speaker of the house who is not a member of the party in power.
Maybe a retired judge or such?

Charles said...

I find Adern's intentions and motives confusing. Handing the country to an ethnic minority hardly fits in with her mentor Schwab's ambitions of one world government. Assuming she is capable of stringing a few rational sentences together, I would be mildly interested in her answer.