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Same thing?

Written By: - Date published: 2:47 pm, June 26th, 2008 - 42 comments
Categories: history, john key - Tags: ,

In an attempt to cover for John Key’s ignorance of New Zealand history, National’s Gerry Brownlee has pulled out a quote from Michael Cullen that he asserts says the same thing as the Key quote. You compare:

Key: “We’re not a country that’s come about as a result of civil war or where there’s been a lot of fighting internally, we’re, we’re a country which peacefully came together’.”

Cullen: “[New Zealand is] a country of enormous beauty, a country which by any reasonable standards is prosperous, a country with a continuous political tradition unbroken by civil war or revolution for over 150 years, something a bare handful of countries can celebrate”

Key says there hasn’t been a lot of internal fighting in New Zealand. That’s patently untrue. The Land Wars lasted decades as the Crown sought to establish sovereignty over the land of iwi who claimed that sovereignty for themselves. Thousands died in fighting and tens of thousands of Maori lost possession of their land to Pakeha settlers as a result. Sounds like a lot of internal fighting to me, and that doesn’t include the other skirmishes and class warfare.

Cullen says New Zealand’s political tradition has never been broken by civil war or revolution. That’s true. Parliamentary democracy has remained intact since 1853, despite the Land Wars and other upheaval. Moreover, a civil war or a revolution is when segments of an existing polity fight each other for control of the polity. The Land Wars were a contest for sovereignty between a colonising empire and the native people. It would be strange to consider the Land Wars a civil war or a revolution.

Same thing? I don’t think so.

PS. Notice the other contrast in the quotes? Key is constantly talking down New Zealand as part of National’s ‘New Zealand sucks’ campaign. Cullen is postively bursting with pride for his country.

42 comments on “Same thing? ”

  1. Skeptic 1

    Let’s try another comparison. John Key says: “New Zealand can perform much better than it is currently performing under Labour.”

    The Standard says John Key is saying: “New Zealand sucks.”

  2. I’ve noticed that Key’s statements off the cuff are noteworthy for the level of imprecision. They often come across like sentence fragments strung together. Word choice can be inappropriate.

    George W Bush does the same thing. The more I read Key’s unscripted comments, the more this strikes me.

    I’m NOT say Key is Bush!!!

    I am saying they have similar modes / episodes (mixing two things there) of apparently struggling to achieve the precision to express themselves adequately….or not.

    As for Key and Cullen saying the same thing, the difference is subtle, but there.

    This leads back to precision again.

    Skeptic: That is the sort of distortion more usual in your milieu….

  3. Tane 3

    God, I’ve just seen Brownlee’s press release selectively quoting Cullen and demanding he apologise.

    National’s just getting arrogant now. Instead of taking it on the chin and making amends they’re digging themselves even deeper.

  4. Felix 4

    Bush – Key: Yep, they’re very different people but are essentially in the same position – that of apolitical businessmen playing the role of a politician.

  5. randal 5

    new zealand is performing at maximum capacity at the moment.keys has never said how he is going to enlarge capacity or more importantly what enterprises will be initiated to enlarge capacity. till then keys is just another gloom and doom suck merchant.

  6. Principessa 6

    This quote from the Herald cracks me up:
    “Mr Ede said the party was looking at “taking other actions” in relation to the comments but he would not say what those were”.

    What are they going to do?- Sue?

  7. Yeah, that’s got me wondering too. I suspect it’s going to be more threatening phone calls to journos who don’t run National’s line. Like they did to Barry Soper and Greg Robertson

  8. Blar 8

    Your post would have more credibility if you quoted Key in full, as you did with Cullen:

    “We may be many voices but ultimately we are one people. One of the unique things about New Zealand is that we are not a country that’s come about through civil war or a lot of fighting internally. We’re a country that peacefully came together Maori and the Crown decided from both partners’ side that it was in their interests to have a peaceful negotiation. That’s what the Treaty was, a founding document a development document for New Zealand, and I think that we could work things out in a peaceful, sensible and mature way has actually been a defining part of New Zealand’s history. It’s very important, and it’s important we honour that now”

  9. insider 9

    Brownlee has issued this in a release

    The full [Key] answer [in an interview] reads: ‘We may be many voices but ultimately we are one people. One of the unique things about New Zealand is that we are not a country that’s come about through civil war or a lot of fighting internally. We’re a country that peacefully came together – Maori and the Crown decided from both partners’ side that it was in their interests to have a peaceful negotiation. That’s what the Treaty was, a founding document – a development document – for New Zealand, and I think that we could work things out in a peaceful, sensible and mature way has actually been a defining part of New Zealand’s history. It’s very important, and it’s important we honour that now’.


    In some ways yo can’t compare Cullen’s and Key’s comments as one was unscripted in an interview while the other was a formal, highly scripted speech. The level of analysis and interprtation should similarly be different. I think this is a case of Standard/Labour making a huge meal out of a weight watchers portion pack.

  10. gobsmacked 10

    Michael Cullen or John Key?

    To put it another way, Treaty Settlements like yesterday’s … or Orewa?

    From Agenda, TV One, 2006:

    I’d like to ask you John whether you think that your position in the tone of the Maori policy last election cost you, and whether you think you need to change that a little bit?

    Look I don’t think it cost us, I think it was actually in many respects the launching of Don’s leadership and the resurgence of National back in the party, and frankly I think the media actually read it totally wrong, they came out and called Don all sorts of things said he was out of step with New Zealand in fact the polls proved he was in step with New Zealand and that was really an argument about the pendulum going too far.

  11. Blar, insider. The comments still display a huge ignorance of the Land Wars. In Key’s dream land New Zealand was magically created as a sovereign nation with borders accepted by all when the Treaty was signed. The Land Wars were a conflict over what the Treaty meant – the British empire saw themselves as having sovereignty over all of New Zealand and having the right to gradually appropriate more and more Maori land. Maori saw the Treaty as a deal by which the Crown became a protector or overlord but the iwi maintained sovereignty over their lands.. when these two different views of who owned New Zealand came into conflict, driven by the colonialists’ hunger for land, you had the Land Wars.

    Incidentally, Key is still bascailly incoherent when he’s speaking eh? Look at all those mangled sentences. It’s like George Bush, he starts a sentence not knowing how he is going to finish it.

  12. Matthew Pilott 12

    Hey you guys are right, when you surround Key’s comments with empty warm platitudes, it does make the comments seem nicer. Unfortunately those platitudes don’t change the context of the speech, nor the vaildity its criticisms.

  13. higherstandard 13

    Is it a slow news day today ?

    Having read both Key’s and Cullen’s comments in full they both seem more than reasonable ….. what’s the issue ?

  14. Scribe 14


    Instead of taking it on the chin and making amends they’re digging themselves even deeper.

    Now, where have we seen that before? Hmmmmmm (scratches head pensively)

  15. Tane 15

    Scribe, I’m confused. What’s your point?

  16. insider 16


    Have you read Cullen’s speech? In a speech about the TOW, its evolution and our society and sovereignty he never once mentioned land wars. How can Cullen, a professional historian and person who regularly acts as PM, be so willfully ignorant of our history as to ignore these seminal events in a major speech?

    “…and I think that we could work things out in a peaceful, sensible and mature way has actually been a defining part of New Zealand’s history. It’s very important, and it’s important we honour that now.”

    In what way is this not full of pride and instead running NZ down?


    Think HC’s reaction to recent polls and the govt’s responses to concerns about things such as the EFA…

  17. Tane 17

    insider, I suspected that was the case, I’m just not sure what his point was. That Labour has made some bad political decisions, and now National is too?

  18. Scribe 18


    Labour (who many on the blog — not necessarily you) defend to the hilt have spent a huge amount of time digging deep holes rather than taking things on the chin.

    It’s a common political strategy. See Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky.

  19. Tane 19

    Scribe, I still don’t see what your point is. Just a political observation?

  20. Joker 20

    It always makes me smile when you chaps attack John Key for his speaking style in interviews.

    Considering Helen’s vocal style comes across as a transvestite doing monotone John Wayne impersonations it seems a bit like people in glasshouses throwing stones.

    [Take it to kiwiblog you mysogynist. there’s a clear difference for criticising someone for the content of what they say and what you just did. SP]

    [lprent: I think I’ll make that mandatory. I’ve just scanned back through your comments and only found a single comment of any value (the one with joke). The rest of your comments are humourless, devoid of content, and just got you classed as a troll. I’ll put you into moderation for the moderators to do enhanced commentary on (if they don’t just zap you)]

  21. Scribe 21


    Many politicians think if they keep denying something people will stop asking. They should have the courage to admit when they’ve made a mistake. They’re (almost) all guilty of the same thing — left, right, blue, red, male, female.

    I guess that is just a political observation.

    And I found it somewhat irnoic that an author on a left-leaning blog would accuse a right-leaning politician of that behaviour, without a disclaimer like “Just like Labour has done, causing their catastrophic dive in the polls….” National has got arrogant etc etc etc

  22. Tane 22

    Dude, I was being ironic. Apologies if that didn’t come through clear enough.

    You’ll find no disagreement from me that Labour’s political management over the last couple of years has been a fiasco.

  23. Matthew Pilott 23

    Joker, there’s a difference between someone’s tone/elocution, and their ability to string a coherent sentence together. I know which I’d prefer to master – especially if I had to deliver so many focus-grouped lines that were fed to me by my minders that it was really obvious when I was saying what I was told, as opposed to articulating my own thoughts…inarticulately.

    Good to see you’re all style over substance…

  24. Scribe 24


    Damned Internet. Peace.

  25. Skeptic 25

    Goodness. I wonder who said this:

    “One hundred and sixty-eight years ago, two peoples were able to sit down, debate and agree on terms for how this land should in future be governed. Unlike the colonisation of most other lands, the settlers that followed the signing of the Treaty, did so legally and not because an invading army had gone before them. This was a remarkable and unique achievement. Many other countries’ national days mark the anniversary of violent revolutions, the end of wars or of successful coups. New Zealand’s national day marks the peaceful signing of a Treaty. Former American Ambassador to New Zealand, Carol Moseley Braun, the first black woman elected to the United States Senate put this well when she said: “It’s important for me as a woman of colour to be able to say to New Zealand —you’ve gotten it more right than a lot of other folks, and you should celebrate that.’

    That’s right. It was none other than our own Governor-General. I don’t see the Standard attacking his version of history.

  26. Matthew Pilott 26

    I don’t see the Standard attacking his version of history.

    I don’t see evidence you’ve read this thread, the other one on this topic, or are able to logically see the difference between the quote you gave, which is very specific, and Key’s, which broadly declares everything was happiness and bunnies.

    Yep, no fighting internally in New Zealand. Bit of a kicker, that one.

  27. Matthew Pilott 27

    And just out of interest, skeptic, why would you? Unlike John Key’s statement, Cullen’s and Satyanand’s comments (assuming you’re refering to the current Governor General) were correct.

  28. Skeptic 28

    It’s not obvious, Matthew, that you’ve read the statement that Key made, which was:

    ‘We may be many voices but ultimately we are one people. One of the unique things about New Zealand is that we are not a country that’s come about through civil war or a lot of fighting internally. We’re a country that peacefully came together – Maori and the Crown decided from both partners’ side that it was in their interests to have a peaceful negotiation. That’s what the Treaty was, a founding document – a development document – for New Zealand, and I think that we could work things out in a peaceful, sensible and mature way has actually been a defining part of New Zealand’s history. It’s very important, and it’s important we honour that now’.

    This is the third time it’s been quoted in this thread. But you are very selective in your quotes, as are the Standard authors.

    Would it really hurt to be less dishonest?

  29. polaris 29

    FFS, the earlier part of his speech explicitly refers to the land wars.

  30. Lew 30

    Skeptic/Matthew: Satyanand’s comment quoted above is in my view as bad as Key’s, because the statement that “the settlers that followed the signing of the Treaty, did so legally and not because an invading army had gone before them” is manifest bullshit.

    None of this, of course, excuses Key’s comments. Cullen’s were much more carefully scoped, and are in fact historically correct.


  31. I think both statements are naive puffery of the kind politicians regularly engage in. Key’s is stunningly naive – yes the Treaty was signed, then promptly broken by the crown, which then went to war. But Cullen’s is only slightly better.

    Storm in a teacup.

  32. Skeptic 32

    No it isn’t manifest bullshit, Lew. It didn’t take an invading army to get the Treaty signed. It was negotiated peacefully. The settlers who arrived didn’t owe their presence in New Zealand to an invading army. They owed it to the Treaty, which was negotiated peacefully. Both Key and Satyanand’s statements were historically correct.

    The Standard is bullshitting again. Key wasn’t talking about the land wars. He was talking about the peaceful environment in which the treaty was signed. That’s something that we should be proud of as New Zealanders.

    Unless you take the Standard’s new position, which seems to be that New Zealand history sucks.

  33. The standard position on this, is rather demented and trivial.

  34. Lew 34

    Skeptic: The settlers arrived in NZ legally, yes. But in the majority of cases they didn’t settle legally, and that’s the point. Huge swathes of the land land they settled, especially in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Taranaki, was confiscated by armed soldiers on falsely-grounded fears of uprising, under the Suppression of Rebellion Act (which would have been legal had the act itself not been in breach of the Treaty), or by the Crown (backed by the army) under the Native Land Court or the Native Townships Act, (same caveat for both).

    This is why we have what folks like you, with a poor and self-serving grasp on history, call the `Treaty industry’. I presume people hold these views out of ignorance. Or do you think all that land was settled legitimately?


  35. Talking about history , Helen Clark’s regime of Absolute Power will take some beating. Who could possibly take the gold medal for collective and cumulative corruption.

  36. Pascal's bookie 36

    Kind of related to one of the subtopics:

    As National leader John Key is fond of saying: Explaining is losing. Vernon Small in this morning’s Dompost.

    I hadn’t heard John say this before, but maybe he only says it to journo’s when he’s out on the piss or otherwise off the record.

    It’s not an original John Key insight of course, and it’s a shame that Vernon didn’t bother to let his readers know whose political strategy John is so fond of following.

  37. Matthew Pilott 37

    Septic, I haven’t seen The Standard start a New Zealand history sucks campaign. Unlike your good self, most people here seem to have an interest, and a decent grasp of history; that’s why when you repeatedly paste the same quote of Key’s in there, it doesn’t change anything.

    Funny you think an honest appraisal of New Zealand’s history is akin to criticism of it – I guess your perspective is as rosy and dishonest as Key’s is.

    Have you got a personal policy of only taking note of the nice bits of history? How do you think that affects your perception of reality?

  38. Ari 38

    If you can’t see the difference between saying that our country has been going about relatively peacefully for 150 years, (ie. after the land wars) and saying that we formed the current political system in a peaceful way, (ie. the land wars were either “peaceful” or didn’t exist) then I really pity you. One acknowledges how much better things are now. The other blatantly ignores how things were before, and implicitly approves the behaviour of the governorship allowing itself to be lobbied by settlers into using the treaty as a weapon instead of how it was intended by the Crown- a document giving Maori full rights and protections as British citizens. And that’s even ignoring the fact that the Maori version of the treaty is recognised as the legitimate legal original.

    Key is a politician. It is his responsibility to choose his own words carefully, and apologise when he gets them wrong. Anything else is the usual political arrogance we are so used to. What is different here, however, is that Key is running a platform of being the less arrogant politician, the change, the reformer of Labour’s excesses. Even more than other politicians, he has a responsibility to own up when he is wrong.

  39. Nedyah Hsan 39

    Strange how no one remembers little Georgie Greenholder who was stabbed by a tamariki behind the tree the day the treaty was signed.

    Bloodshed on the day of the signing? No! It couldn’t possibly be right.

    Alas, it’s true. This country was founded at the same moment one little boy killed another with his taiaha.

    Oh woe is NZ. Woe is the fact we came around peacefully with no internal fighting or bloodshed


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