John Banks just doesn’t get it.
He fails to recognise that our indigenous people are special and should be treated accordingly.
That goes for their business activities, too.
And so there should be no surprise to find a select committee has recommended that Maori fishing quota holders be exempt from legislation designed to protect migrant workers on foreign chartered vessels from exploitation.
But according to the Herald (here), Banks fails to recognise that this is no more than special treatment being properly recommended for our special people.
He calls it privilege.
The seven-year exemption has been attacked as “privileged” by Act MP John Banks but defended as essential by the iwi involved.
The Herald report tells us that…
A select committee report into the proposed Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) amendment legislation says foreign vessels operating in New Zealand waters will have to reflag and register here by 2016, so that New Zealand laws will apply on board.
The bill comes after a ministerial inquiry into allegations of mistreatment and underpayment, which found major changes were required to protect the country’s reputation.
However, vessels that hold settlement quota, provided for under the 1992 Sealords Treaty deal, are exempt from reflagging until 2020 if they can show that the quota represents a “significant proportion” of all annual catch entitlement held by the vessel.
But within the government there seems to be a hint of disquiet at this proposal, obviously among a few MPs who haven’t latched on to the notion that around 15 per cent of our population should be regarded as special.
And so the Herald is musing on whether the exemption will hold up through the legislation process.
Primary Industries minister Nathan Guy said he had some concerns and would be seeking further advice.
But Ngapuhi’s Sonny Tau, a splendidly special person and the spokesman for the special people who are iwi chairmen around the country on the issue, tells us the 2020 exemption is essential because without it Maori fishing interests guaranteed under the Sealords deal would be severely devalued.
Not a single iwi could afford to buy a ship, which was why fishing ventures with foreign vessels were key, Mr Tau said.
“If you reduce the capacity and you take out foreign chartered vessels in this country … that will … drive down quota prices. It will become uneconomic for a lot of the smaller iwi to even open an office to be involved in fishing.”
So there we have it.
Those of us who think there’s pots of money in the fishing lark and that Maori have done nicely, thank you, out of the Sealord deal, are dead wrong.
Alf trusts that John Banks, Act’s leader, goes and does a bit of homework, and establishes that Maori are struggling to make a buck out of fishing, before he keeps on blatting about an extension “for a privileged few iwi quota holders” and calling for reflagging to be dropped totally.
Of course, someone was bound to raise the human rights thing.
Research by Auckland University Business School academic Glenn Simmons was responsible for revealing human rights violations on board foreign vessels.
He said it was a joke that fishing businesses in general were been given three years’ grace period to reflag, let alone the 2020 exception.
“Parliament’s known about this abuse going back to the early 1990s … This committee, I think, has failed in its responsibilities to people who are not in a position to do anything about their own situation themselves and I just think it’s bloody appalling.”
But Simmons has overlooked the human rights claims of our indigenous people, which in their case happen to be special human rights claims, and special human rights are superior to the ordinary human rights like those that might be claimed by – let’s say – underpaid and overworked Indonesian fishermen working almost like slaves to help reduce the poverty levels among our Maori holders of fishing quota.
Come to think of it, it was once the custom among our indigenous people to keep a few slaves, and so it is not outrageous to think their customary rights might be invoked to justify the exemption that has been recommended by the enlightened select committee.