Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Graham Adams: Low-calibre hit jobs on Seymour miss mark

Attacks over Atlas, Snapchat and Treaty bill fall flat.

One aspect of Sir Edmund Hillary’s character that endeared him to generations of New Zealanders was his willingness to give advice to school children when they phoned him for help with their homework about his exploits, including his conquest of Mt Everest. 

A particularly charming story recounted that when a pupil contacted the famous mountaineer and philanthropist one evening, he asked if they would mind ringing back after he had finished his dinner so he would be able to give their questions his full attention.

We now have to assume, however, that if the crack investigative teams at Newsroom — or the recently departed Newshub — had heard of Sir Ed’s generosity to a young person they would not have applauded his kindness and unpretentiousness but instead run a story implying there was something just a little creepy about a middle-aged man talking to a young student even though they had contacted him.

The media coverage about David Seymour briefly responding in 2016 to Snapchat messages from school students (all of eight years ago) can be seen partly as a crisis of journalistic integrity as media organisations scramble to decide if they want to follow the editorial policies of Britain’s redtops such as the Sun — with all the clicks such sensationalism brings — or to engage in serious journalism. 

More significantly, by stooping to tabloid smears, journalists are exposing their hostility towards Seymour far too obviously. They are inadvertently revealing just how much he rattles them — not least their concern over how successful he might be in challenging their enthusiastic promotion of an ethno-state in which having a single Māori ancestor can confer significant rights that other New Zealanders don’t enjoy.

The Snapchat stories on Newsroom and Newshub were so excruciatingly lame they managed to make Mihingarangi Forbes’ attempt last December to paint Seymour as a puppet controlled by the Atlas Network look sophisticated — even though she was obliged to bend the facts about Australia’s Voice referendum well beyond breaking point to bolster her shaky case that sinister forces were at work to promote his proposed Treaty Principles Bill.

And it’s not only journalists who are afflicted with David Seymour Derangement Syndrome. Last week there was another clumsy attack on his Bill as unethical and untrustworthy because it will allegedly rely on an “extremely inaccurate translation” which lacks “objectivity” as well as “cultural sensitivity and awareness”. Twenty-seven “professional translators of te reo Māori” — including Stacey Morrison, Amiria Stirling and Piripi Walker — signed an open letter to members of the government and opposition parties listing their objections to a bill they simply can’t have seen (given it hasn’t been tabled yet) and their demands about how it should be dealt with.

What is truly jaw-dropping is the open letter appears to ask that Seymour’s view of what the Treaty means for New Zealand in 2024 should be prevented from being debated in Parliament. Apparently, no rival interpretation to the one the signatories and their colleagues approve is permissible.

The signatories write: “It is not sufficient that the National Party have publicly stated that they will not support the Bill past first reading and select committee.” They ask Luxon to “not allow the Treaty Principles Bill to be introduced to Parliament until it can be publicly confirmed that the translation that is foundational to it has been professionally completed and verified, and that rigorous quality assurance by professional and suitably qualified translators has been completed to the satisfaction of those translators”.

To join this exclusive translation club, it appears to be obligatory to accept that Māori never ceded sovereignty in 1840 and to reject “the right of the New Zealand government to govern all New Zealanders” as well as “the concept of equality before the law”.

In fact, it’s a linguistic club with such restrictive entry requirements that even the pre-eminent Māori statesman Sir Apirana Ngata — whose face adorns our $50 note — undoubtedly wouldn’t have qualified to join given he maintained rangatira had ceded full sovereignty to Queen Victoria. Yet if anyone is looking for expert credentials to bolster an appeal to authority, Ngata’s law degree “included honours in constitutional history, something which gives his position on sovereignty and the Treaty even greater credence” — as Ewen McQueen notes in his book One Sun in the Sky.

The four-page letter uses the word “ethical” or “ethics” 10 times, and “truth” four times, as touchstones for the signatories’ own integrity. It is obvious its writers assume the interpretation of te Tiriti behind Seymour’s forthcoming legislation has been made in bad faith.

It is true that Seymour’s proposed redefinition of the Treaty principles — a draft of which has been made public — is audacious and will outrage some people because it does not refer directly to Māori. But it is hardly novel for the Treaty to undergo radical reinterpretations. As just one example, linguistic analysts have long argued that “taonga” in Article 2 has changed from the very specific meaning in 1840 of “booty taken in war” (which made perfect sense after the Musket Wars) and possessions such as waka, taiaha and greenstone patu (as Ngata later defined it) to its current interpretation of anything that Māori prize or treasure. Thus “taonga” has arguably gone from meaning the tangible spoils of war to include radio spectrum, te reo Māori and assorted cultural practices.

What is ironic is that Māori activists who are so quick to describe te Tiriti as a “living document” when its reach is being expanded in their favour fall curiously silent about its flexible status when someone like Seymour wants to expand its clauses to cover all New Zealanders. Then it suddenly becomes fixed and immutable.

Parliament’s Legislation Design and Advisory Committee itself acknowledges, “The Treaty is a living document. This refers to the common understanding that the meaning and application of the Treaty will change as society and circumstances evolve…” In contrast to 1840 when the Treaty was signed, New Zealand society has, of course, evolved into such a vast melting pot of ethnicities — including extensive intermarriage with Māori — that Seymour has concluded it requires redefinition to include all New Zealanders.

It should be noted that the signatories often seem confused about the difference between a translation and the possible implications and scope of the words used in that translation; in their letter, “meanings and intentions” and “translation” are repeatedly muddled. For the record, Seymour says he has relied on Professor Sir Hugh Kawharu’s 1989 English translation of the Māori version of the Treaty, which has been approved by the Waitangi Tribunal.

After demonstrating the exorbitant value they place on their own interpretation of te Tiriti, the signatories presumptuously ask the Prime Minister and the National Party to provide “the names, translation qualifications and credentials of any people involved in the translation of te Tiriti that led to the proposed Treaty principles, including those who undertook peer review and quality assurance”.

Most will guess that the signatories are angling for names to demonstrate their own supposedly superior qualifications and experience, which would allow them to dismiss anyone else as ill-informed and inadequately credentialled to establish the true meaning of te Tiriti. The heretics who have advised Seymour would undoubtedly be publicly hanged, drawn and quartered if they were reckless enough to put their heads above the parapet.

On TVNZ’s Breakfast show last week, host Jenny-May Clarkson tried her luck in extracting the names of those advisers. Act’s leader wasn’t biting. He said he had worked with “heaps of people” on the wording and the concepts behind it but, “If you want to make the argument that if you work with a certain person your views are valid and if you didn’t they’re not, then I’m not going to buy into that… I don’t think they need to be named and called out for having been part of those conversations.”

Although he said he welcomed the letter being made public because it raises “some of the debates New Zealand needs to have”, Seymour wasn’t impressed with the proposition that self-declared “experts” should be the ultimate arbiters of the parameters of the conversation.

Seymour returned to his fundamental question — Whatever the Treaty says or doesn’t say, can New Zealand continue to prosper as a nation if some citizens, by accident of birth, enjoy more civic and political rights than others? 

Clarkson made it clear she didn’t want to enter that debate. She wanted to keep the interview firmly focused on the translators’ letter. And for very good reason. Seymour has posed a killer question — and journalists know it.

Graham Adams is an Auckland-based freelance editor, journalist and columnist. This article was originally published by and is published here with kind permission.


Doug said...

Graham states what 4.9 million kiwi’s already know.The trouble with snouts in troughs ,is they don’t like when people like Mr Adams expose their grubby little indulgence.Professional Treaty Translaters eh?Good for a giggle i guess.Get on with the Bill David,the bludgers have had their time,now its the taxpayers turn for relief .

robert Arthur said...

I suspect the dour and sour Mihingarangi Forbes and her producers have lost RNZ more listeners than any other personalities in the station's long history. Her interviews never encourage or permit any contrary viewpoint. With Forbes and others like minded, plus lots of raucous and/or pleb "music", I suspect RNZ are following a delibertae policy of shaking off the traditonal thoughtful listeners to faciliatate the total maori takeove envisaged by Jackson and subversive supporters (many discreetly quiet). RNZ assumes that discerning listeners will cease with the existng. Only with their connivance. persons are forever maturing and becoming apprciative of quality if available. As with many other govt organisatins RNZ is long overdue for a Board change.

Anna Mouse said...

Indeed. Mr. Seymour has asked the only question that is really relevant in 2024 and beyond.

The reason these folk choose not to answer, is all 'the' answer you and everyone else in New Zealand needs to know.

Simply, if any citizen anywhere has more civic and political rights than any other citizen, then we live in a quasi apartheid, etho-nation.

I am guessing, but I imagine that if you asked each individual citizen who is outside 'the club' personally if they were happy to have less civic and political rights, their answer will be a firm NO!

Discussing said rights is why these folk are wanting to bury it and bury it very deep.

Discussion leads to enlightenment and enlightenment leads to understanding and when a citizen understands they are actually subservient in their rights as a citizen to another citizen based only upon their birth status, trouble brews.....

Anonymous said...

We really have to disabuse ourselves of the notion that the Treaty 'is a living document' It is not. Once it was signed - not just at Waitangi, but over subsequent months around the rest of the country, it was 'job done'. New Zealand's international status was established. End of.

That is not to say that the coming together of two such different cultures was simple. The incomers had a vast culture behind them compared with the small number of Maori who had lived in isolation for 500 years. Maori were fast learners though - very ready to grab all the new ways with both hands. And so it has been - all of us in our cars and on our phones etc., etc.

I could almost wish it had been the French who had prevailed though. The blinkin' English suffer from GUILT. Certainly, many have profited, but many have writhed and squirmed and rushed about do-gooding and apologising. And that's why we find ourselves with a whole lot of not very bright, and certainly pretty ignorant 'chancers' of diluted Maori ancestry, doing all this embarrassing stuff about co-governance (Oh - I'm of Scottish descent, I don't feel any guilt at all for my ancestors' arrival - but I'm writhing, oh damn. I try never to watch the co-governing idiots, but equally idiotic MSM keeps noticing them.) Sorry - oops.

Anonymous said...

Thank heavens for commentators like Mr Adams. Unfortunately such eminently sensible views will struggle to be heard, drowned out by the agendas of New Zealand’s corrupt media and the wilful dishonesty of the activists, both Maori (or more correctly, part -Maori) and those who Winston Peters correctly identified some years ago as “sickly white liberals”.

Anonymous said...

The revisionist Treaty translators [sic] have asked David Seymour to table the sources from which his understanding of Te Tiriti derive.

Not required.

All these wishful thinkers need do is consider the historical record.

When Captain Hobson left England for New Zealand in 1839, he was given extensive instructions by his masters in the Colonial Office.

Lord Normanby’s 1839 instructions to Captain Hobson order him to: “treat with the aborigines of New Zealand in the recognition of Her Majesty's sovereign authority OVER the whole or any part of those Islands which they may be willing to place UNDER Her Majesty's dominion [emphasis added].

If Hobson had been unable to obtain this consent, he was instructed to sail away.

Hobson stopped in Sydney on his outward journey to consult with Governor Gipps, under whom he would initially be Lieutenant-Governor of New Zealand before Queen Victoria’s Royal Charter-Letters Patent made New Zealand a standalone colony rather than being under New South Wales.

Gipps seized the chance to purge his administration of a stuffed shirt, over-educated incompetent named James Freeman, whom he lumbered Hobson with as his Colonial Secretary.

After making landfall at the Bay of Islands, Hobson had Freeman produce a draft English language Treaty document based on Lord Normanby’s instructions.

Despite providing several iterations, Freeman proved unsatisfactory to the task, so Hobson turned Freeman’s rough drafts over to British Resident, James Busby, and honorary American Consul (and British Subject) James Reddy Clendon, and asked them to have a crack at it.

Working in Clendon’s home and using paper from Clendon’s private stock, Busby and Clendon produced a final English language draft that Hobson approved.

The missionary Henry Williams and his son then worked overnight on the evening of 4 February 1840 to translate this final English draft into Māori for presentation to the chiefs at Waitangi on 5 February.

Williams had lived in New Zealand for 20 years, and had just completed the monumental task of translating the New Testament into Māori, placing him in the upper echelon of fluent Maori speakers.

His son had grown up in New Zealand from an early age with Māori playmates and spoke fluent colloquial Maori as pretty much a native speaker.

We can clearly rely on these men for the best attainable translation of Busby’s final draft into the Maori language.

They must have done an excellent job.

Everything the chiefs said on the lawn at Waitangi and elsewhere, as well as the words of those who refused to sign the TOW, make it abundantly clear they were well-aware that endorsing it would place Captain Hobson in authority over them, and that behind Hobson was Queen Victoria.

Treatyists cannot cite a single primary source account recording the words of a chief who thought he was going into ‘partnership’ with the Crown.

Eyewitness accounts of the pre-Treaty debates make it clear none of the chiefs who signed it thought they were getting a co-governance arrangement.

Those who spoke up for Hobson leave no doubt that they expected British sovereignty to bring lasting peace to the land, as well as protecting them from less benevolently inclined foreign powers, such as the French.

This understanding of the meaning and effect of the TOW was reiterated by the 200 or so chiefs who attended the Kohimarama Conference of 1860.

Again, its recorded proceedings make a mockery of the claims of the co-governance crew.

In 1922, Sir Apirana Ngata summarised the effect of the Treaty of Waitangi with clarity, finality, and certainty: “Article I of the Treaty transfers all chiefly authority to the Queen forever, and the embodiment of that authority is now the New Zealand Parliament. For that reason, all demands for absolute Maori authorities are nothing more than wishful thinking.”

Graham Adams said...

The "professional Treaty translators" obviously rate their intellectual abilities very highly but for no obvious reason — and they are also ill-informed about parliamentary protocol. I didn’t have room to include it but one of their demands was for Luxon to organise a conscience vote on the bill across the entire Parliament.
In fact, a decision to allow a conscience vote is entirely up to the Speaker, and even then he can’t stop individual party members being whipped and made to vote as a bloc. Luxon only has a say over National’s MPs.

Anonymous said...

I would posit that Sir Apirana Ngata, had he been able to sight Busby’s final draft (i.e. the Littlewood Draft), would have said something like: "Yes, that is obviously what the Treaty was translated/created from". Given this, why on Earth is any translation required with all the Chinese whispers, perturbations and aberrations we are continually assaulted with? Ruth Ross dubbed it 'A Bloody Difficult Subject'- not surprisingly as it has spawned a gravy train, second to none.
Simply by going back to that one simple document as the English 'version' and formally recognising it as such, the gravy should by rights, dry up completely. The fact this has not been done by our political classes is precisely why we are in this deep doo-dah (aka Sh1t as succinctly and correctly described by Paul Henry).
I''m with Seymour and his killer fundamental question — Whatever the Treaty says or doesn’t say, can New Zealand continue to prosper as a nation if some citizens, by accident of birth, enjoy more civic and political rights than others? 
The answer should be obvious ...

Anonymous said...

2 points

1. Seymour's question could be asked very bluntly:

Do you wish NZ to be :
a democracy (equal rights for all)
an ethnocracy
( special and superior rights, privileges and final veto power for one ethnic group only )?

This is one crux of the issue.

2. The British did go ahead with the Treaty in 1840 - so, all their conditions must have been met. e.g. sovereignty was ceded to the Crown.

Otherwise, Hobson and co. would have departed at once as instructed by London - without concluding a Treaty.

This is another crux of the issue.

Anonymous said...

Those that refuse to answer David Seymours question are a very large part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

On what basis do the treaty twisters say that Sir Apirana Ngata living and writing some 80 years after treaty signing is wrong yet those who live some 184 years later in a completely different time and space are right? It appears the closer in time you are to 1840, the more you are wrong.


Anonymous said...

can any scholar explain if the treaty is valid anymore? i understand that the 3rd article says all new zealanders are british citizens - which is no longer true. if one article can be considered irrelevant, why do the others continue to have any relevance?