The UN declaration – it wasn’t a secret (but you got to hear first if you were “special” and worked for Maori TV)

Alf was interested in a parliamentary question put by Labour’s Annette King yesterday. She wanted to know on what date Cabinet decided to support the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and what Cabinet believed the impact of such a decision would be.

The answer from Bill English, acting PM, was that Cabinet made the decision to support the declaration on 22 March.

He went on:

The statements made to this House and to the UN accurately reflect Cabinet’s view that this is a non-binding, aspirational document.

The Government has affirmed that New Zealand’s existing legal and constitutional frameworks will define the bounds of the influence of the declaration.

Inevitably, King had a follow-up question. There was a bit of a barb in it.

Hon Annette King: If Cabinet agreed to ratify the UN declaration on 22 March, was it open and transparent of him to tell media in Canada on 14 April, when asked whether New Zealand would sign the declaration: “I think you’re a little bit ahead of yourself. From the New Zealand perspective, it’s true we’ve been looking and working on ways that we might adopt the declaration, but we haven’t made an announcement, and at least or until we do, wouldn’t necessarily count your chickens.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I make two points—[Interruption]. Yeah—a funky question. The Government has been quite open about the fact that it has been considering affirming the declaration. In fact, the Prime Minister has been talking about it since April 2009, and he correctly said no announcement had been made.

But an announcement had been made.

It had been made very, very selectively and in a hush-hush way.

To be privy to the secret, you had to be – ahem – an indigenous media person, or a “special” person, in the language of the declaration.

This was affirmed by Tariana Turia, the ethnocentric Minister for the Commmunity and Voluntary sector, answering parliamentary questions put to the Minister of Maori Affairs, the ethnocentric Pita Sharples.

DAVID GARRETT (ACT) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: Did the Government inform Maori Television that he was flying to New York to speak to the UN; if so, on what date?

Hon TARIANA TURIA (Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector) on behalf of the Minister of Maori Affairs: Maori Television was briefed in confidence on Friday, 9 April 2010, to enable it to send a reporter and a camera operator to New York in time for the announcement.

Why would Maori Television be so favoured? And why would the Government spend public money on sending a Maori TV crew and other selected indigenous persons to stage a song-and-dance act at the signing ceremony in New York?

To buy Maori votes for the Maori Party and lure them away from Labour, of course.

That’s the part of all this that Alf approves. We Nats want to make it much harder for Phil Goff’s scruffs to get enough support in Parliament to mis-govern us again.

But Alf is bothered by the decision to spend so much public money on sending a small Maori army to do something that required only one person.

Actually, the PM could have popped in to the UN to do what ever needed doing while he was in the US a week or so earlier.

Surely there are better ways of spending public money than on the extravagant flim-flam of ceremony.

Alf would rather it be spent to improve the health and education of poor people, for example, including Maori, rather than on jet-setting for a few comparatively prosperous Maori, although maybe this expenditure is what makes them “special”.

That wasn’t the end of Garrett’s questioning, of course.

David Garrett: Did the Prime Minister advise him before his trip to New York that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples would have “no effect whatsoever”; if so, how does he justify the secrecy and expense of the trip?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: It was very clear what the parameters of the declaration were. There was no secrecy to the Minister’s going to New York. The Prime Minister signalled very early last year that this matter would be on the agenda this year. There has been no secrecy.

This doesn’t gel with the “special” people at Maori TV being given their information in confidence.

Then came the small matter of whether the document was signed or simply affirmed.

Kelvin Davis: What is it his intention to travel all the way to New York to, as the Māori Party says, sign the declaration, or was he, as the National Government says, going over there just to affirm it, and which of these affirmations or declarations will help the most to reduce Māori prison numbers and unemployment, and increase Māori educational achievement?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: It was appropriate for the Government to make its first statement publicly to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues as it was the setting in which much of the declaration was negotiated.

This, of course, is sheer bollocks.

It is more appropriate for the Government to make its first statement to the people of New Zealand, in whose name it signs, affirms or whatever it does in international forums.

All the people. Not just the “special” ones.

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