It looks like the special treatment of our indigenous persons is shaping up as a campaign issue – if it isn’t quickly snuffed.
It also looks like anyone who says our indigenous persons are given special treatment will be denounced as racists.
Alf accordingly would never raise such questions.
He wonders about the political wits (and balls) of those who do.
One of them is ACT Party leader Jamie Whyte. Another is New Zealand First’s Winston Peters.
According to a report from Radio NZ, they both say ordinary Maori do not benefit from what they call race-based laws.
But the Maori Party – bless them – said the ACT Party and New Zealand First are vying for the redneck vote.
And they say Jamie’s ideas have no place in New Zealand politics.
If they have no place in our politics, of course, they can’t be discussed.
End of story.
But Jamie has stuck his neck out anyway. Alf did not get a chance to check on its reddish hue.
Jamie said NZ law made the rights of citizens dependent on their race.
They weren’t materially privileged.
But they were legislatively privileged and our law is not racially neutral, which he reckons it should be.
Dr Whyte said in a weekend speech Maori were legally privileged in New Zealand today, and that one of ACT’s core principles had always been that the law should be colour blind and should treat everybody equally.
Dr Whyte on Wednesday told Morning Report New Zealand law made a citizen’s rights dependent on their race, and he cited the Maori seats in Parliament and Auckland Council’s Maori Statutory Board board as examples.
Despite that, Maori continued to suffer social disadvantages and that was one reason many people in New Zealand were comfortable with the way laws were written, Dr Whyte said.
“Although Maori have legal privileges, they don’t have material privilege. That’s to say, they have lower average incomes, they have lower life expectancy, lower educational outcomes.
“But I think that people in New Zealand look at those facts and feel somehow that it then doesn’t really matter if the principal of equality before the law is violated.”
Peters was banging on about Maori bureaucracy failing to benefit ordinary Maori.
He also said his party would not do post-election deals with either the Maori Party or Mana, which he described as race-based parties.
Mr Peters said separate policies did not work.
“Is there a Maori bureaucracy? Of course there is. And of course they’re screaming out of the defence of Whanau Ora and all these other programmes.
“You’ve got the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights, which says indigenous law will override the nation’s law, we’ve got two flags, we’ve got social welfare and business systems separately developing, and it’s all standing by.”
MPs whose election is dependent on their standing for race-based parties in race-based seats would not take this lying down – would they?
Sure enough, Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell came out with all guns blazing.
Both parties were vying for the redneck vote, he said – and the same thing happened each election.
“This isn’t about a race issue, this is about a rights issue. It’s about a Treaty that was signed in 1840,” he said.
“It’s about a constitutional issue that seems to come up every time there’s an election, and we’ve got three parties scrambling for that redneck vote, to sort of shoot the Maori, get rid of the Maori.”
Laws were set by Parliament, and there was one rule for all, he said.
Dear old Tariana couldn’t contain herself, either.
Mr Flavell’s co-leader, Tariana Turia, said Dr Whyte should be ashamed of himself.
“He’s just trying to appeal to the racist rednecks around the country, and he should be ashamed of himself in the first instance.
“The statistics tell us that, in fact, we’re not doing so well … so I’m not sure what he’s reading but it’s from another planet.”
This deftly blurred Whyte’s distinction between race-based laws and the economic and social disparities that give our indigenous persons a bum deal.
Former co-leader Pita Sharples – more to the point – reminded us our indigenous persons are special because NZ has signed up to a declaration on indigenous rights.
He didn’t mention this was a very clandestine signing.
LATEST: Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples has flown secretly to New York for a speech to the United Nations signing New Zealand up to a declaration on indigenous rights.
The speech this morning (NZ time) comes after more than a year of hard negotiations between the Maori Party and National as New Zealand looked increasingly isolated over its repeated refusal to endorse the declaration. It was not confirmed until late last night.
Labour had strongly opposed the declaration, fearing it was too sweeping and labelling it incompatible with New Zealand’s constitutional and legal arrangements and Treaty settlement policy.
But the Government acknowledged Maori hold a special status as tangata whenua.
Alf can’t recall if Whyte mentioned this signing or the implications in his responses to Radio NZ questions.
He did promise to keep talking about scrapping the Maori seats despite being labelled a racist.
He also said he was disappointed but not surprised by the strong reaction to his argument that everyone should be equal before the law.
“It’s quite extraordinary for me to be called racist, when I’m trying to get rid of race-based law,” he said.
“It’s a complete topsy kind of a world. It makes absolutely no sense but it’s not really an attempt to engage with the issue – it’s just an attempt to shut me up.”
You could also say this is the special thing we have evolved in Godzone to ensure our special people continue to remain special.