Alf is inclined to resurrect Don Brash’s Orewa speech – the one that occasioned lots of angry people to call him racist when he railed against race-based privilege and championed the principle of one law for all.
The speech and the principle he invoked seemed applicable to a bit of brouhaha over the law governing the use of foreign fishing boats and the way their crews are treated.
Some Maori reckon their fishing operations should be exempt from this law, which means they would like to be able to maintain practices described as slavery at sea.
But there are some other Maori – those in trade unions, for example – who seem to think that permitting slavery is a bad idea.
This creates a dilemma for your long-serving member who is acutely sensitive when it comes to issues which affect our indigenous people. Which lot of Maori should he listen to?
Normally for a loyal Nat it would be straightforward. If it’s an argument involving trade unions, you back the other side.
That’s not how things have worked out on this occasion.
Alf nevertheless will go along with party colleagues who decided some time ago that – in this case at least – the idea of one law for Maori and another law for the rest of us is not on.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy back in August last year signalled he would scrap a proposal to exempt firms which hold Maori fishing quota from the law change, which outlaws the use of foreign flagged fishing vessels in New Zealand.
You can read all about it here, if you have forgotten.
The exemption for Maori quota holders until 2020 was included in a bill to require all fishing vessels to re-flag and register in New Zealand by 2016 after Maori fisheries interests claimed it would be uneconomical to fish the quota if they could not continue to use foreign vessels.
However, Mr Guy has indicated he will pull the Maori quota amendment from the bill.
“It is important for our trading partners to know that we have unequivocally stamped out bad behaviour on our waters. I don’t think the amended bill, as it stands, meets this objective.”
The Stuff report brought the union side of the argument into the frame.
Council of Trade Unions’ Maori spokesman Syd Keepa said: “We can not support exemptions that allow some ships to continue with slave labour conditions for four additional years beyond 2016 when the flagging requirements apply to the rest.”
The Rail and Maritime Union also spoke out against it, saying while the 1992 Sealords fishery settlement was important for Maori, “to allow the continuing exploitation of a group of workers is also wrong”.
Oh, and let’s not forget that Talleys also objected, saying the exemption would allow iwi to use foreign labour rather than develop a Maori industry.
Maori are hard done by, according to the job stats, and here was an opportunity for Maori fishing companies to do their people a favour and give them work.
But this week the matter has been resurrected and the Maori fisheries trust Te Ohu Kaimoana has said it disappointed the Government has dropped iwi exemptions.
The matter was resurrected when the Government on Tuesday night introduced changes to the Fisheries Bill to include iwi in the requirements.
Alf happened to be in the bar and missed whatever happened in the House but he heard a Radio NZ account of the trust’s response
Te Ohu Kaimoana said Maori had about 17 percent of deep water quota which were caught by a range of vessels, including foreign ships.
Chief executive Peter Douglas said while iwi did not oppose the kaupapa, the extra time had been to recognised that Maori were new to the sector and could take longer to make the transition.
A Stuff report fleshes things out a bit:
It says the Ngapuhi mob up north had won an amendment which would have given it permission to continue using foreign charter fishing vessels after 2016.
All other fishing companies were required to fly New Zealand flags from that year.
The Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill has languished way down on the parliamentary order paper for nearly a year, but it is suddenly up for a second reading at 8.30pm today.
This follows publicity last week around continued abuse of Indonesian crews on FCVs.
They made the claim after Fairfax Media last week reported that about 480 Indonesian men working on South Korean fishing boats chartered to New Zealand companies had been underpaid by about $25 million.
Mind you, you can’t exactly call that slavery.
Real slaves aren’t paid anything.