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Average Joe: Don Brash withdraws from Treaty debate…why?

Written By: - Date published: 12:46 pm, October 11th, 2011 - 51 comments
Categories: act, don brash, Maori Issues, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags:

Pat Brittenden at Average Joe has written insightful post on the level of understanding that Don Brash has about the treaty issues he has been addressing in Act’s “one law for all” policy. 

Dr. Don Brash has pulled out of a debate on Treaty issues to be held on TV3’s ‘The Nation’. The ACT Party and Dr. Brash have been asking TV3 for logistical and editorial details about the debate. It would appear they have not received what they wanted so Dr. Brash was pulled.

I interviewed Dr. Brash for 40 minutes on Saturday along with my co-host comedian Jeremy Elwood on our weekly political podcast, The Slightly Correct Political Show, and on the issue of the Treaty I found Dr. Brash lacking in the depth and knowledge to be making such bold claims as those expressed in ACT’s ‘one law for all’ policy.

I am no expert in the area of the Treaty, but one thing I think would be prudent is that if one was going to comment, legislate and rally against and area in society then they should have in depth knowledge of that area…from both sides of the debate.

If I moved into a foreign culture, a culture where we didn’t understand the language, customs or history, then it would be prudent for me to learn about that culture before commenting on it, to understand the nuances of the language before voicing disagreements. Surely to disagree with something you first need an understanding of it. In the case of the Treaty, Dr. Brash does not have that understanding.

When asked about the main three areas of contention between Maori and non-Maori interpretation of the treaty, Kāwanatanga , Rangatiratanga and Taonga Dr. Brash responded “I can’t answer that question, I’m not an expert on the Maori language” and when asked again Dr. Brash said “I can’t interpret the Maori language nor do I know what that meant at that time

This is the area of most concern to me. We need to know what was signed at the time, what was agreed to at the time, and how we bring that into 2011 New Zealand.

Dr. Brash was a nice man, but as a politician to me he seemed out of his depth. The ‘one law for all’ rhetoric has not given ACT the ‘bounce’ it gave National in 2004 and I think that ACT are going to move it more to the background over the next 7 weeks and focus on the economy.

Are there issues around the Treaty that we need to address, “Yes!” Are the Treaty settlements running without controversy or people trying to abuse the system, “No!” But it saddens me that this kind of politics still happens in NZ, the kind of ‘populist’ policy to appeal to one sector of society (in this case the much mentioned ‘red-necked’ section) when there is no substance or depth to the conversation.

Don Brash was found wanting yesterday in The Slightly Correct Political Show and he didn’t want to be seen to be foolish in front of a bigger audience, so he withdrew from The Nation.

Pat Brittenden
Just another Average Joe

lprent: This is a area that does require more debate especially when parties put up policy to change one of basics of our legal system. How much variance there is between viewpoints is something I became aware of when I was arguing on the conservative side with a family member (not rocky). Plaudits to The Nation for having the debate, brickbats to Act for avoiding the debate. You could at least send along the person who knows the area well enough to have constructed the policy…. Of course that may be a difficult if they are one of the many who are not really part of Act these days.

51 comments on “Average Joe: Don Brash withdraws from Treaty debate…why? ”

  1. Jenny 1

    The Don of Pakeha privilege.

    Don Brash Demands that the Maori seats are abolished. According to this ignorant bigot the Maori seats are a legacy of privilege.

    At the time the Maori seats were imposed, Maori were the majority in many electorates

    Maori were prevented from joining the general roll. If Maori had been included in the general roll they would have dominated the majority of the electorates in parliament.

    The Maori seats were set up to protect Pakeha privilege and to marginalise Maori in their own country. Having achieved that end:- Now that Maori are a minority Brash seeks to abolish the Maori seats to marginalise Maori even further.

    It may suit Don Brash to claim ignorance of this racist history, but no matter how much he tries to ignore it, Brash is the inheritor of this legacy of racist parliamentary hypocrisy.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      …the Maori seats are a legacy of privilege.

      They are – white privilege. Maori didn’t hold land individually but collectively (no individual titles like the English system) which meant that they couldn’t vote as voting was restricted to those who owned land. This was seen as an injustice and against Te Tirity O Waitangi and so the Maori seats were created where Maori could vote without holding land title.

      The Maori seats were set up to protect Pakeha privilege and to marginalise Maori in their own country.

      Probably also true. There was certainly enough of outright theft going on.

      Now that Maori are a minority Brash seeks to abolish the Maori seats to marginalise Maori even further.

      Won’t work as Maori are becoming a greater part of the population.

      Universal enfranchisement, since 1893, has decreased the need for Maori seats. Proportional voting decreases it even more. In fact, I’d say that it really is becoming a Maori privilege now.

      • Jenny 1.1.1

        I take it Draco that you are opposed to having Maori seats in parliament?

        Several other countries also have constitutional arrangements that allow marginalised communities or minorities that would otherwise have no voice, a say in parliament. But you seem opposed to this idea, why?

        • Thomas

          Other countries such as?

          Fiji is probably the best example. Look how their democracy is doing…

          • McFlock


            • Thomas

              I’m not aware of Canada having anything like reserved racial seats. And a quick google turns up nothing. Can you give a reference?

                • Thomas

                  Firstly, that’s not a country; it isn’t even a proper province of Canada.

                  Secondly, there is no mention of special representation. Only that the (ceremonial) commissioner is appointed by the minister of northern development, who is also the minister of indian affairs.

                  Example fail.

                  • alex

                    Without the Maori seats would the proportion of Maori MPs mirror the population? I’m not sure if it currently does or not, and other factors would have to be taken into account, any answers anyone?

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Well, I suppose that would depend upon, in our proportional representation democracy, the Maori voting for Maori parties. If they don’t vote for them then perhaps they feel that those parties don’t represent them.

                      Then again, Labour has a fair few Maori MPs and even National, the home of Old White Guys, has a few. In fact, I believe such representation is increasing across parties (except possibly the party of Old White Guys which does seem to be shrinking back into it core constituency).

                    • Thomas

                      Maori are well represented in parliament. From memory, 19% of MPs are Maori, while 15% of the population are. Asians are the most underrepresented ethnic group in parliament.

                    • The Voice of Reason

                      The actual percentages are here. Bars are percentage of population, dots percentages in parliament. Maori are under-represented. Asians are over-represented.

                      Memory fail, Thomas.

                    • Thomas

                      Voice of Reason: If you actually bothered to read the label on the left of your graph, you would see that it is the other way around. Bars are MPs and dots are population.

                      I was right about Maori being well represented and asians being severely underrepresented. But I admit that I was wrong on the numbers, it is 16% (not 19%) of MPs versus 15% of the population.

                    • The Voice of Reason

                      Er, yes. I stand corrected.

                    • Adele

                      Representing Māori interests demands more than simply wearing brown skin, and, for that matter, speaking Te Reo. There are Māori in parliament now that actively work against Māori interests.

                      Māori politicians within political parties that do not actively promote Māori interests or who allow Māori interests to be subsumed under majority interests cannot be said to be working for Māori.

                      Those Māori politicians under Labour and National primarily have the interests of Labour and National to the forefront, hence why both versions of the foreshore and seabed legislation is such a low ebb in terms of advancing or protecting Māori interests.

                      Te Tiriti o Waitangi determines the nature of the relationship between the Crown / Govt and Māori, not population proportionality. If the Treaty was honoured than the Māori seats would in effect become a ‘nullity.’

                  • McFlock

                    “Nunavut elects a single member of the Canadian House of Commons. This makes Nunavut the largest parliamentary riding in the world by area, just ahead of the American state of Alaska.”
                    Paragraph two from the anchor of the above link. And from the very top:
                    Nunavut /ˈnnəvʊt/ (from Inuktitut: ᓄᓇᕗᑦ [ˈnunavut]) is the largest and newest federal territory of Canada; it was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act[7] and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act,[8] though the actual boundaries had been established in 1993.”
                    Learn to read.

                    • Thomas

                      McFlock: So there is a territory in Canada where the inuit are the majority. And? Minority-majority electorates are not news.

                      You can’t compare that to having racially reserved seats. If you or I moved to Nunavut, we would be entitled to vote in the same elections for the same candidates as the inuit.

                      I think it is fair to say that Canada does not have anything that compares to the racial electorates in NZ.

                    • McFlock

                      I can compare it to, for example, Tuhoe and the govt settling a claim by making traditional Tuhoe territory, tweaking the boundaries to match current ethnic population distributions (or as you would say “based on race”), a largely self-governing territory and giving it its own seat in parliament.
                      And don’t slide the thread – we’re not looking for a clones of the NZ system, we’re just pointing out that other countries also have formal mechanisms that guarantee ethnic minorities a basic minimum level of representation in that country’s ruling council.

                       Indeed, the comment that you felt compelled to chip in on was: “Several other countries also have constitutional arrangements that allow marginalised communities or minorities that would otherwise have no voice, a say in parliament. ” So that would also include any country that has mechanisms for the minimum level of representation of women, or of different religions.

                    • Thomas

                      Suggesting that Nunavut is comparable to our Maori seats is utter nonsense. I’m not asking for a clone of our system. I’m asking for another country with a successful democracy that has (at the national level) special representation for different ethnicities. You have not provided one.

                      The inuit of Nunavut live in isolated communities. They are subject to the same federal laws as the rest of Canada and they get the same level and type of representation as anyone else in Canada. They are hardly comparable to the electors of Tamaki Makaurau.

                      I think you should give up on this non-example.

                    • McFlock

                      ” I’m asking for another country with a successful democracy that has (at the national level) special representation for different ethnicities. You have not provided one.”
                      Constructing an electorate around a particular minority ethnicity’s area of demographic dominance is providing a seat based on ethnicity. Even if I accept you shifting the goalposts.

                    • Thomas

                      Nunavut is the largest electorate in the world. It’s not like they are specially engineering the borders to accommodate the inuit.

                      Moreover, the inuit of Nunavut are living a semi-traditional lifestyle isolated from the rest of the country. That’s very different to the maori of Auckland living a modern lifestlye integrated into the rest of the country.

                      If that is the best example you have, then I think I can safely claim that no successful democracy encourages racial segregation to the extent we do. If you want to find another country where you and your neighbour vote in different elections based on race, then we need to look at places like Fiji and Zimbabwe. And that’s a club I don’t want to join.

                      Considering that “one law for all” is widely accepted across the globe, I find it funny that Don Brash is labeled extreme when he promotes it.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Considering that “one law for all” is widely accepted across the globe, I find it funny that Don Brash is labeled extreme when he promotes it.

                      Don Brash doesn’t believe in one law for all.

                      He believes in socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor.

                    • Thomas

                      CV, you’re just trolling. Your assertion is both baseless and irrelevant to the topic of race relations.

                    • McFlock

                      “Nunavut is the largest electorate in the world. It’s not like they are specially engineering the borders to accommodate the inuit.”

                      True, after all it’s not like the region was the result of, say, a settlement treaty between the resident indigenous population and the Canadian government – oh, wait.
                      Learn to read, troll.

                    • Thomas

                      What’s your point? I still don’t see how it compares to Maori seats.

                    • McFlock

                      !: region defined according to a settlement with an ethnic group based on its traditional habitation area, which is largely devoid of other ethnic groups.

                      2: Region consists of one electorate that creates, by virtue of its borders, a specific electorate majority for an overall ethnic minority.
                      3: Electorate is represented by one seat in the Canadian House of Commons.

                      And you can’t see any connection with our Maori seats?

                      There are none so blind, etc…

                    • Thomas

                      Ah, I see the connection now. Maori live in an isolated and remote part of the country, which is largely devoid of other ethnic groups. They have a semi-traditional lifestyle and little interaction with the rest of the country. And there is an electorate that creates, by virtue of its borders, a specific electorate majority for an overall ethnic minority.


                    • McFlock

                      Oh, so you are looking for any other country that gives parliamentary-equivalent representation to an ethnic minority, but only as long as it’s an exact duplicate of NZ?

                    • Thomas

                      No. But it should be comparable to NZ, which Nunavut is not. It would be comparable to, say, Maori dominating an electorate in Northland.

                      You can’t compare a minority-majority electorate with electorates that have an explicit racial definition. In NZ your neighbour or workmate might vote in a different election because of his or her ancestry, despite having the same concerns, beliefs, job, income, friends, education, etc.

                      The US has 27 congressional districts with black majorities. Do you think the US also has “constitutional arrangements that allow marginalised communities or minorities that would otherwise have no voice, a say in parliament”?

                    • McFlock

                      “You can’t compare a minority-majority electorate with electorates that have an explicit racial definition. In NZ your neighbour or workmate might vote in a different election because of his or her ancestry, despite having the same concerns, beliefs, job, income, friends, education, etc.”
                      You can compare geographic electorates with demographic electorates if the geographic boundaries were determined based on demographic facts.

                    • Thomas

                      By that logic, gerrymandering in the US also counts as minority representation.

                      Maori seats divide our society along racial lines even if we live and work next to each other. The isolated communities of Nunavut are already isolated by geography. That’s the crucial difference.

                      I and any reasonable person laugh at the suggestion that the inhabitants of Nunavut are comparable to the electors of Tamaki Makaurau.

                    • McFlock

                      Actually, yes, gerrymandering frequently does have a “racial” component – although its objective is usually to lower minority representation, not maintain it. It also has, however, other socioeconomic factors beyond “race”, such as income and previous ballot-booth voting history.

                      “Maori seats divide our society along racial lines even if we live and work next to each other. The isolated communities of Nunavut are already isolated by geography. That’s the crucial difference”
                      Quite a few federal systems are established along ethnic regional lines as well as geography or colonial logistics. Some of these nations are urban. Belgium, for example. But the point is that you look at Maori seats as a “racial” division. They are a legacy of the fact that European settlement here was a cohabitation agreement between two (or several, depending on your perspective) nations. Various factors such as urban drift and geographic mobility make national self-identity a more practical mechanism of representation than plain geography (although the Maori seats do have a geographic element).

                    • Thomas

                      Sigh, you’re just avoiding my point by pontificating about federalism and geographic mobility. I think we’ll just have to leave it there.

                      To those less dogmatic readers: Think about this.

                      The best example of another successful democracy with racially divided elections in the entire world that McFlock can find is an electorate for isolated inuit communities in Canada. Now McFlock may think that this is a perfect analogue to Maori in Auckland having a separate electorate, but surely you find the comparison tenuous.

                      Now there are plenty of examples of struggling democracies with racially divided elections very similar to ours: Fiji, Iran, Jordan, Zimbabwe (until 1987), Cyprus, Croatia, Belgium. Is that a club you want to join? Belgium is probably the best country on the list and they are still trying for form a government after the 2010 elections—a world record for post-election negotiations.

                      I think that shows how our system looks on the international scale. And that should make you reconsider whether or not it is a good system.

                    • McFlock

                      So you don’t think Canada is a good example of a democracy similar to NZ’s, but Zimbabwe and Iran are? Seriously?
                      And I’m the “dogmatic” one.

                      [edit, after consideration] You’re a moron.

                    • Thomas

                      McFlock: You don’t have a clue do you? Canada is similar to NZ in many respects, but that wasn’t the topic of the discussion. The topic was racially divided elections and, in that respect, NZ is closer to Fiji or Belgium than to Canada.

                    • McFlock

                      The only “racially divided election” in NZ is whenever a tory starts blowing the “preferential treatment” dogwhistle – Orewa springs to mind.
                      I’m wondering whether your insistence on using the “race” phraseology (as opposed to ethnic self-identity, cultural identity or even national identity, given that we’re only here because of a treaty) is some predilection of yours, or whether your vocab is just a bit limited.
                      Belgium… sounds familiar. Ahh, here we are. Belgium’s economy seems to be doing better than ours, but then of course they don’t have National’s brighter future to deal with. Just as an aside.

              • Adele

                Canada has instead – A First Nations – Federal Crown Political Accord on the Recognition and Implementation of First Nation Governments – which appears to be a far more effective mechanism for protecting the inherent rights of its first nations peoples.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Because they’re just people, the same as everyone else.

  2. ianmac 2

    Why did he withdraw from the debate? Because John forbade him!

  3. Jenny 3

    On the issue of The Treaty of Waitangi, Don Brash claims it may have been relevant once but is now obsolete.

    Yet in living memory, Ngati Whatua in Orakei were alienated from their last bit of land in Orakei when their whare was burned to the ground and their houses buldozed.

    When Ngati Whatua were driven from their homes Don Brash would have been a young man in his twenties

    Under the laws of land, there was no legal redress for this theft. Not until the Waitangi Tribunal was given legal teeth to take treaty issues into account, were the Ngati Whatua able to get a small bit of their stolen land back.

    Consequently the Ngati Whatua claim was the first ever successful claim to get redress for past injustices through their Treaty claim that no other law afforded.

    This is what really galls Don Brash.

    As well as being the inheritor of racist parliamentary policy towards Maori, Don Brash is the inheritor of a policy of deliberately impoverishing and alienating Maori from their land.

  4. Jenny 4

    The hypocrisy of Don Brash is breathtaking.

    Don Brash while railing against “Maori Privilege” seeks to enter parliament through his party winning the seat of the most privileged and wealthiest electorate in New Zealand.

    Don Brash seeks to eliminate the “special Maori franchise” and abolish the Maori seats. According to him they represent “Maori Privilege”. Using the same twisted logic of Don Brash maybe we should be demanding the abolishment of the seat of Epsom and the removal of their ‘special franchise’.

    In fact I think that this would be a good idea. The privileged people of Epsom are a tiny minority, (even smaller than Maori) yet by electing ACT into parliament, Epsom will be setting the policy of the next government down an extreme right wing economic path that only they will be the beneficiaries of.

    Hone Harawira is often quoted as saying that “policies that are good for Maori, are good for all New Zealanders”

    But I don’t think anyone could claim that what is good for the rich people of Epsom is good for all New Zealanders. In fact most would agree that the opposite is the case.

  5. Thomas 5

    By your logic, I can’t condemn the Nazis, because I don’t understand the history of early 20th century Germany. By your logic, I can’t condemn Apartheid, because I don’t understand the history of South Africa. By your logic, I can’t condemn Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, because I don’t understand the history.

    This is a meaningless argument. I usually encounter this non-sequitur in the form of “you can’t reject christianity without studying the bible”.

    • felix 5.1

      That’s a fair point you’re making.

      I would say though that if you were making a career out of condemning any of those things without knowing anything about the history, I’d be looking at you a bit sideways.

    • mik e 5.2

      Doubting thomasYou can condemn anyone you like by me but be prepared to face the consequences. Maori were herded into 2 seats back in the 1860s because it was feared that they could use their democratic rights to out vote the Europeans of the day as they made up the majority of the population.So this was the original reason but the modern reason is that Maori have been poorly represented and neglected and abused and need to have a hand up to catch up with the rest of NZ because of past denial of democratic,legal ,educational and property rights guaranteed guaranteed to Maori under treaty giving Maori the same rights as a British citizen.Doubting thomas i hear the politics of envy coming from your redneck!

  6. fender 6

    Its clear to see these banker wankers dont belong in parliment. I see Simon Power has got himself a banker wanker apprenticeship with westpac. Is that so the tender process for govt banker is compromised I wonder?

  7. Steve Wrathall 7

    You don’t need a degree in leprecaunology to disbelieve in leprecauns. Similarly, Dr Brash’s refusal to delve into the fantastical mysticism of separatists, does not in any way invalidate his criticism of separatism.

    • felix 7.1

      He’s not refusing to delve into fantastical mysticism though.

      He’s refusing to delve into facts of history and everyday reality.

  8. peteremcc 8

    From Don’s Facebook:

    I initially agreed to take part in this debate in the belief that the leaders of all or most of the other parties would also be taking part. Early last week, I learnt that Peter Dunne had withdrawn and that the only other leaders taking part were Hone Harawira, Pita Sharples, and Metiria Turei. I am of course entirely comfortable defending my views on the Treaty, and I am fervently committed to there being equal status at law for all New Zealanders, regardless of ethnicity (as provided for in Article III of the Treaty). But I could see a debate between three Maori and me turning into a pretty unseemly scene which carried the risk of taking the ACT Party campaign a long way from what has to be its primary focus right now, on the state of the economy.

    • logie97 8.1

      Why should it turn unseemly Don, unless you were going to introduce something controversial into the discussion? Surely your hold on the “facts” should be strong enough to remain calm and reasoned in such a forum. Or are you unsure…?

  9. muzza911 9

    Brash and the “Old White Men” need to be run out of the country. They are a disgrace, and it is clear the agenda will be to alienate the Maori from the rest of NZ using divide and conquer tactics in years to come. As far the The Old White Men are concerned, Maori are in the way of them selling off more assets, land etc to other Old White Men.

    The old bastards need to be gone, and they will be, its happening. I am european decent, for the record, and having followed these old white men for some years now, they are a disgrace!

    Wake up NZ

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