Māori Television’s Native Affairs program and Mihingarangi Forbes are developing well deserved reputations for being amongst the forefront of current affairs news programmes and as a reporter. Last night’s interview of ACT’s Jamie Whyte will have enhanced that reputation. Because Forbes quietly and efficiently showed that Jamie Whyte is a blithering idiot.
Her questions were well thought through and direct. A question about whether he would disband Māori Television was met with an inevitable “yes”. He thought the support of Māori culture by the state was inappropriate and it should only happen on a voluntary basis. He also thought that support for Māori culture should be on a level pegging with support of Chinese culture, and is obviously completely blind to the reality that Māori culture is indigenous and part of what makes New Zealand special and unique.
My irony detector thought at the time that it was funny that Whyte should be taking advantage of something, being filmed on Māori Television, that philosophically he clearly opposed.
Then came the coup de grace. He was asked if he would disband Whanau Ora. He said that he did not know what it was. If you heard an unusual sound at about 8:45 pm last night it would have been caused by multiple jaws dropping in unison throughout the country.
Mihirangi’s response was wonderfully delicate and diplomatic. She asked gently “you are not on top of Whanau Ora yet?” in a way that made you think she was stating “you are a blithering idiot” to Whyte although in the nicest possible way.
Whyte then complained about inherited wealth. He should explain that to the good people of Remuera, many of whom rely on wealth passed down through their family and unaffected by the wealth confiscation that Māori have suffered from.
Forbes then asked another simple yet perfectly weighted question. Whyte as a businessman would understand what a contract is, and he should understand that the Treaty of Waitangi is a contract which should be honoured. Whyte then started talking about “a recent interpretation” of the treaty. Forbes clearly struggled to keep her jaw from dropping at that time.
The final coup de grace from Forbes was after Whyte had listed different sectors in society and said the state had no right to support these sectors ahead of others. Forbes responded that these groups do not have a treaty to rely on.
The lasting impression that I had from the show, apart from amazement at Whyte’s complete lack of understanding, was the thought of how could ACT and the Māori Party remain in the same coalition?
Whyte’s incompetence should have National really worried. Last time even with a clearly telegraphed message via cup of tea only 60% of National voters in Epsom voted for John Banks. Whyte and Epsom candidate David Seymour will not have the same attraction to the right that Don Brash and John Banks had. The Right’s suggestion that Epsom is in the bag is contemptuous of the democratic choice that Epsom voters have and in my view terribly optimistic.