Thursday, January 25, 2024

John MacDonald: Can big things be discussed without the bunfights?

I reckon that even if ACT leader David Seymour had gone to the Rātana Church celebrations yesterday, he wouldn’t have batted an eyelid.

Because that’s the thing about the ACT Party leader, isn’t it? Nothing seems to ruffle the feathers.

Not even the fact that his coalition partners don’t seem to want a bar of his treaty principles bill, which would define the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi along the lines of the Government having the right to govern all New Zealanders; all New Zealanders having the right to own their land and property; and all New Zealanders being treated equally.

And David Seymour’s modus operandi is to sell his bill as one of these great opportunities to “have a conversation”. If there’s an overused term that drives me nuts, it’s that one about having a conversation.

Because most of the time, that doesn’t happen. If we look at how things went down at Rātana yesterday, it didn’t look much like a conversation to me.

We had the Prime Minister being told in no uncertain terms not to mess with the treaty.

And we had the Prime Minister himself saying ‘hey, don’t worry people…nudge nudge, wink wink…not on my watch’. I’m just letting old David have his moment in the sun and look, he’ll be deputy Prime Minister in just over a year and he’ll be too busy to worry about all this treaty stuff. All G.'

But despite all that, David Seymour —the eternal optimist— was still talking on Newstalk ZB this morning about the “debate” and the “conversation”, saying we shouldn't be getting too far ahead of ourselves and to have a debate.

But there's a fly in the ointment.

David Seymour can bang on as much as he likes about having a national conversation about the treaty principles, but I don’t think that, as a country, we are anywhere near capable of doing that.

It’s only been five minutes, and we’ve had hui, and probably the most fiery Rātana Day I’ve ever seen. We’ve got that guy in the Far North planning to try and stop the big fishing contest this weekend. Not to mention all that hysteria we had last year about 3 Waters and co-governance.

Then there was all the nutbar stuff that happened before the referendum on the assisted dying legislation. I remember some clown not far from where we live having a sign up on their fence saying not to vote for assisted dying because kids would be able to do it without their parents knowing about it.

There weren’t “conversations” about those things. Just like we can see already that there isn’t going to be a “conversation” about the Treaty of Waitangi principles. It’s just going to be more hysteria.

And the reason for that, is that I don’t think we are capable of discussing issues without it turning into a bunfight.

Now you might say that, if we are going to have public “conversations” about big issues, then an inevitable part of that —or a critical part of that— is saying how we really feel about stuff.

Problem is, though, the tendency for people to come out firing like a bull at a gate, like we’re seeing with the treaty principles stuff, like we’ve seen with 3 Waters, and co-governance, and assisted dying legislation.

The problem with that, is that most people just step aside and don’t get involved. It becomes too much of a freak show for too many people.

Many of them don't want to say how they feel about something because they’re scared they’ll be shot down and get into arguments they’re not interested in having.

And if that’s how things are, what does that say about democracy in this country?

If we are incapable of discussing critical issues facing our country, without it turning into protests and shouting matches, are we kidding ourselves when we say that we are a democratic country?

John MacDonald is the Canterbury Mornings host on Newstalk ZB Christchurch. This article was first published HERE


Cara said...

But the Assisted Dying Bill was passed, & subsequently entrenched
by a referendum, & that was that.
Similarly, the Treaty principles issue will be resolved sooner or later by working through a democratic process. That's because, amazingly, the great majority of NZers are still sane & pragmatic.

Anonymous said...

A mistake to underestimate NZers.

They are appalled when Maori events are in effect bullying sessions where clear threats are issued.

They are angry when Labour deliberately ignored/excluded NZers from discussing issues of paramount importance to their country's future.

They want a referendum on democracy - anyone who cannot see this must be naive or an Iwi supporter.

Wait and see: they may respond well to an ibntelligent debate.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a discussion, it's just that the volume is being turned up very loud on one side of the conversation, and silenced on the other. The media are so partisan on these issues that they satisfy no-one - they annoy those who want of hear other points of view, or simply want to be heard themselves, and they annoy their partners in crime whose thirst for attention is insatiable.

Anonymous said...

Amazing how a spot of aggression from a few hotheaded bullies frightens the horses in NZ. How about showing some backbone John MacDonald? Let’s not shut down the debate before it’s begun. This isn’t something to be rushed. Give it time for the topic to mature in the public arena, for people to think about it and hopefully for the real issues to be clearly explained and understood instead of misrepresented by our lame brained MSM and the loudmouth hotheads.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of truth in what you say. I think there are some topics which people can debate rationally - if not always without heat and rancour - assisted dying seemed to me to be one of these, abortion another. It's not that people do not feel deeply - they do - but that they are people who can understand that there are other points of view. Race/culture seems different - seemingly without reason. I thought first of the utter mess of unreason which is the status of Maori in NZ - the senseless shouty ignorance and the crawling obsequious mismanagement,(David Seymour excepted) but then how the same dichotomy applies to the Israeli-Palestine horror. You sum it all up that too many people just don't want to try reasoned debate - and yes, our so-called democracy is the worse for this failure.

Allan said...

The electorate voted for ACT and ACT was promising to sort out the mess surrounding the Treaty. If any party stops that happening I think that they will severely punished in the next election, and I will play my part in that.

robert Arthur said...

Cancellation of the fishing just might wake up a few more of the popuance. It is nothing compared with maori control of the whole shore, and to which we are headed.

Hazel Modisett said...

robert Arthur said...
Cancellation of the fishing just might wake up a few more of the popuance. It is nothing compared with maori control of the whole shore, and to which we are headed.

I agree. If there is trouble at the fishing comp in Doubtless Bay this weekend, I'm picking a lot of people will wake up & NOT be happy. If the police cave in & try & cancel the comp instead of doing their job & protecting the contestants, we will soon see whose side the govt is on. If the comp goes ahead & there is violence, then...the fight is on.