The luxury of an ethical opposition

Written By: - Date published: 11:05 am, August 2nd, 2012 - 38 comments
Categories: Maori Issues, national, Privatisation, water - Tags: , , , ,

There are many similarities between the foreshore and seabed debate, and the current events unfolding around Maori water rights. In dealing with these National has two big advantages compared to the previous Labour government. First, the experience of watching Labour navigate the foreshore and seabed. And second, the luxury of an ethical opposition.

It’s part of the successful right-wing myth making around the F&S that Labour’s “first instinct” was to “legislate over property rights”. Not true at all, in fact that was National’s first instinct. Here’s an interesting piece by Audrey Young written the day after the court decision which ignited the F&S debate:

The Crown is the first respondent but acting Attorney-General Pete Hodgson said the Government wanted to carefully consider the judgment before commenting.

National MP Nick Smith is calling on the Government to appeal to the Privy Council.

Another option for the Government is to pass legislation clarifying ownership of the foreshore and seabed.

Dr Smith said the court decision would “open the floodgates” to more Maori claims over beaches, estuaries, harbours and almost any stretch of coastline. He said the Maori Land Court was “never intended as a court to deal with issues of foreshore and seabed”. “The foreshore should not be privatised by stealth. It should be protected and managed for the benefit of all New Zealanders.”

That was how it began, the start of a shameful National campaign of divisive, fear-mongering racism that culminated in the Iwi / Kiwi election campaign of 2005. Years later, even Don Brash apologised on behalf of the Nats. This history, and Brash’s mea culpa, was summarised in an excellent piece by Brian Rudman in 2009. It’s long, but I’m going to quote a big chunk of it:

It’s easy to forget that National, now playing the Maori’s best mate, opposed Labour’s legislation, not because it was unjust, but because it was too soft.

In September 2003, National Environment spokesman Nick Smith talked of Labour “feeding the grievance gravy train” and declared “National would legislate for continued public ownership in the name of the Crown”.

On December 18, 2003, as New Zealanders were preparing to head off to the beach for the summer holidays, National’s Constitutional and Treaty of Waitangi Issues spokesman, Dr Wayne Mapp released a hysterical press statement entitled “Maori Gain Control of the Beaches”. It was in reaction to Labour’s draft foreshore bill. He talked of a time bomb’s ticking and declared it “likely most of the coastline will now end up subject to customary title claims”. He said “the Government has sold the birthright of all New Zealanders”.

A few days later, Dr Brash added to this scaremongering on these pages, putting his name to a piece claiming “Maori will have the right to build boat ramps, jetties, reclamations for tourist hotels and buildings over the water …” and will have “veto power over anyone else’s development, whether commercial or recreational”.

He said customary title would, over time, “erode public access” and enrich “small sections of the Maori aristocracy”.

That Christmas Eve article turned out to be a dry run for his Orewa speech a month later. Nicky Hager reveals in The Hollow Men, the expose based on leaked Brash emails, that the speech was drafted by his chief strategist and adviser, economist Peter Keenan.

It was then massaged by one-time Labour minister and Waitangi Tribunal member Dr Michael Bassett. National’s resident Svengali, Murray McCully, “also reportedly had input”.

Mr Keenan had recommended in a December 13 email to Dr Brash that he make “a big splash” at Orewa on race relations.

“It will come after a summer with demonstrations on beaches, so that should set it up well.” Dr Brash agreed, ignoring warnings from another adviser of the dangers of Maori-bashing.

On the foreshore issue, he told his Orewa audience: “National will return to the position where, for the most part, the Crown owns the foreshore.”

He attacked the “dangerous drift towards racial separatism” and attacked a situation “where the minority has a birthright to the upper hand”.

National would remove divisive race-based features from legislation, scrap special privileges “for any race” and remove the obligation for local authorities to consult Maori. It would remove Maori seats from Parliament.

After pushing all the racist buttons, National saw its poll results rocket from a long stay in the low 20s, to 45 per cent. Nicky Hager noted that exultant Brash staffers celebrated by using, “facetious kia oras to each other in their emails”.

Five years on, Dr Brash slips almost unnoticed on to Sunday morning television, to confess he got it wrong. What an inadequate non-apology that is, after the hatred and divisiveness he stirred up.

Quite.

So now the Nats have their own version of the F&S to deal with. The wheels are falling off their flagship privatisation programme in all directions. But Key has clearly remembered a bit of history, and decided to go through the motions of taking Maori claims seriously. Think how much easier Key’s job is because he has the luxury of an ethical main opposition party. An opposition that isn’t out there trying to inflame pakeha fears and hatred, inciting racial division for political gain, as National did over the foreshore and seabed.

38 comments on “The luxury of an ethical opposition”

  1. gobsmacked 1

    I don’t really see the point of this post.

    Yes, the Nats were racist bastards. Brash (and Key) and Ansell and the rest. OK, we’ll bear it in mind when we vote in the 2005 elelction.

    Seriously, if the best that can be said is “Labour 2012 – Better than National at their worst”, then the word we’re looking for is not “ethical” but “ineffectual”.

    • Enough is Enough 1.1

      I agree.

      Do we really need to be looking backwards and playing the game of who is least bad.

      The one indisputable fact is the Maori Party wasn’t formed as a protest movement to the National Party. It was formed as a rejection of Labour. Lets not forget that. We are still struggling to gain back the support lost in those days.

      National was bad, is bad and will always be bad. That much is known. Lets not pretend that Labour did the right thing back then.

    • tracey 1.2

      it worked for the nats in 2008 with their no policy sytategy

  2. Carol 2

    Or the luxury of a weak opposition?

  3. Bill 3

    There’s an opposition? Shit. Must have blinked.

    • Dr Terry 3.1

      Fortunately, the Greens are doing the job (but not being thanked for it).

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1

        well, if air time and newspaper column inches = thanks in the game of politics, the Greens are getting plenty of gratitude.

  4. Ben 4

    Yes, fortunately there is an opposition. The Greens have done an excellent job recently of catching the Government out (Norman on ‘bonus’ Mighty River shares) and embarrassing it (Sage catching out Brownlee on flogging Christchurch public assets). Pity they don’t get much support from Labour.

    • It does look like Greens do their homework, identify the actual target and usually pick the right battles.

      In contrast Labour flails at anything and everything, exaggerates, makes things up and keeps fighting old lost battles.

      It’s ironic that a few days after Charles Chauvel asked for lobbying transparency exemptions for it’s buddy organisations it is claimed that we have “the luxury of an ethical main opposition party”.

      Incidentally the Green’s Holly Walker said NO to Chauvel’s folly.

  5. TighyRighty 5

    An ethical opposition would spell out exactly how much their election policy, the $15hr minimum wage, would cost the country.

    • Pascal's bookie 5.1

      hahaha. Jeez that’s desperate.

      Maybe they should follow the government’s lead and just pull any old number out of their arse. Doesn’t even have to be a ‘best guess’ according to the minister of finance. Just a guess. Get it out there.

    • mike e 5.2

      Treasury has already released that figure before the last election and said the extra spending power would create more jobs

      • Pete George 5.2.1

        No, it said it would mean no job losses if raising the minimum to $13.50 but losses of 5000-6000 if raised to $15, mainly young people, women and ethnic minorities.

        Or maybe you can substantiate your claim.

        It is also likely to reduce work hours, and make it harder for young people to get their first job – if minimum wages are higher businesses tend to employ more experienced people rather than take chances on inexperience.

    • Te Reo Putake 5.3

      No cost, all benefit. Imagine the relief of retailers as their tills start ringing again, when low paid workers have a bit of discretionary dosh to spend. Nice distraction, though, TR. Do you have anything to say about the post?

    • Georgecom 5.4

      Can we first get a clear statement from the PM on the accurate costs of the free shares giveaway. Or how about an accurate estimate of how much the asset sales will raise for the crown.

    • An ethical opposition would spell out exactly how much their election policy, the $15hr minimum wage, would cost the country.

      Someone on Red Alert who is quoting all sorts of data gas claimed:

      The gain to workers is obvious – 500,000 people getting a 10% wage increase…

      It doesn’t take much calculating to work out that that would be a significant additional cost to employers and Government – and would be a significangt inflationary pressure (that would impact disproportionately on those on lower wage rates).

      • Kotahi Tāne Huna 5.5.1

        🙄

      • tracey 5.5.2

        blah blah inflation… Blah blah, nations the world over are printing money and yet thats not what brought about the current malaise. Stop worshipping at the alter of money and use a different benchmark… Or is that too hard too aspirational

  6. Colonial Viper 6

    There are vast reserves of hoarded capital and unproductive assets sitting on the sidelines not doing shit, currently. Hundreds of billions of dollars worth.

    Mobilise that capital and get it flowing through the economy of communities and towns please.

  7. The wheels are falling off their flagship privatisation programme in all directions. But Key has clearly remembered a bit of history, and decided to go through the motions of taking Maori claims seriously. Think how much easier Key’s job is because he has the luxury of an ethical main opposition party. An opposition that isn’t out there trying to inflame pakeha fears and hatred, inciting racial division for political gain, as National did over the foreshore and seabed.

    You may be right, I haven’t seen parliamentary Labour trying to incite racial division on the water issue (althought I’ve seen minor cases of people with party connections trying). Credit to them for that.

    But I have seen some unethical actions from parliamentary Labour on asset sales, trying to incite division. And what appears to be deliberate misinformation and smear attempts, and trying to create a rich versus poor divide. Presumbaly much of it has been attempts at political gain. It has also been noticable here at times. Sometimes blatant and repeat misinformation (or lies), false accusations, some of it from people known to be a part of Labour.

    Claiming the ethical high ground is a challenging standard to convince and maintain.

  8. For Pete’s sake! There’s a lot of eye-rolling in this thread!

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    1 week ago
  • The coming resource war.
    During my time in the Pentagon I had the privilege of sitting down with military leaders and defence and security officials from a variety of Latin American nations. Sometimes I was present as a subordinate assistant to a senior US defence department official, sometimes as part of a delegation that ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    1 week ago
  • Māori Language Week with The Civilian
    Kia ora, Aotearoa. It’s that magical time of year. Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. In English, the week that frightens talk radio. As you probably know by now, all your favourite media outlets are participating, some more successfully than others. Stuff has changed its name to Puna for the ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Will Horizons act on climate change?
    Local body elections are coming up next month. And it looks like all Palmerston North candidates for Horizons (the Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council) want to take action on climate change:Climate change is set to be a key issue in Palmerston North for the next three years if those wanting to get ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • BORA reform is stalled
    Eighteen months ago, the government promised to strengthen the Bill of Rights Act, by explicitly affirming the power of the courts to issue declarations of inconsistency and requiring Parliament to formally respond to them. So how's that going? I was curious, so I asked for all advice about the proposal. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Corbyn and Brexit
    As the Brexit saga staggers on, the focus is naturally enough on the Prime Minister and his attempts to achieve Brexit “do or die”. But the role played by the Leader of the Opposition is of almost equal interest and complexity. The first problem for Jeremy Corbyn is that he ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • A ditch for him to die in
    Last week, English Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared that he would rather die be dead in a ditch than delay Brexit. Unfortunately for him, the UK parliament accepted the challenge, and promptly dug one for him. The "rebellion bill" requires him to ask for and secure yet another temporary ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Warning! Warning! Danger Jacinda Ardern! Danger Marama Davidson! Warning!
    Lost In Political Space: The most important takeaway from this latest Labour sexual assault scandal, which (if I may paraphrase Nixon’s White House counsel’s, John Dean’s, infamous description of Watergate) is “growing like a cancer” on the premiership, is the Labour Party organisation’s extraordinary professional paralysis in the face of ...
    1 week ago
  • Union solidarity with Ihumatao land occupation
    by Daphna Whitmore Every Sunday for the past two months unionists from First Union, with supporters from other unions, have set out to the Ihumatao land protest, put up gazebos and gas barbeques, and cooked food for a few hundred locals and supporters who have come from across the country. ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: The wrong kind of trees?
    Newsroom today has an excellent, in-depth article on pine trees as carbon sinks. The TL;DR is that pine is really good at soaking up carbon, but people prefer far-less efficient native forests instead. Which is understandable, but there's two problems: firstly, we've pissed about so long on this problem that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • No freedom of speech in Turkey
    Canan Kaftancioglu is a Turkish politician and member of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Like most modern politicians, she tweets, and uses the platform to criticise the Turkish government. She has criticised them over the death of a 14-year-old boy who was hit by a tear gas grenade during ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speaker: Tadhg Stopford: Why I’m standing for the ADHB
    Hi there, just call me Tim.We face tough problems, and I’d like to help, because there are solutions.An Auckand District Health Board member has nominated me for as a candidate for the ADHB, because her MS-related pain and fatigue is reduced with hemp products from Rotorua.  Nothing else helped her. If I ...
    1 week ago
  • Good little vassals
    The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has published their report on whether the SIS and GCSB had any complicity in American torture. And its damning. The pull quote is this:The Inquiry found both agencies, but to a much greater degree, the NZSIS, received many intelligence reports obtained from detainees who, ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Who Shall We Turn To When God, And Uncle Sam, Cease To Defend New Zealand?
    Bewhiskered Cassandra? Professor Hugh White’s chilling suggestion, advanced to select collections of academic, military and diplomatic Kiwi experts over the course of the past week, is that the assumptions upon which Australia and New Zealand have built their foreign affairs and defence policies for practically their entire histories – are ...
    1 week ago
  • The Politics of Opposition
    For most of the time I was a British MP, my party was out of government – these were the Thatcher years, when it was hard for anyone else to get a look-in. As a front-bencher and shadow minister, I became familiar with the strategies required in a parliamentary democracy ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • More expert comments on the Canadian fluoride-IQ paper
    The Green et al (2019) fluoride/IQ is certainly controversial – as would be expected from its subject (see If at first you don’t succeed . . . statistical manipulation might help and Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear). Anti-fluoride campaigners have been actively promoting it ...
    2 weeks ago
  • The return to guerrilla war in Colombia
    by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh On August 29th a video in which veteran FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) commander Iván Márquez announced that they had taken up arms again was released. There was no delay in the reaction to it, from longtime Liberal Party figure and former president Uribe, for ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Air New Zealand identifies this enormous plot of unused land as possible second airport site
    Air New Zealand couldn’t believe its luck that this seemingly ideal piece of real estate had so far gone entirely unnoticed. Air New Zealand’s search for a site to build a second Auckland Airport may have made a breakthrough this afternoon, after employees scanning Google satellite imagery spotted a huge, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Redline on the Labour Party
    No-one on the anti-capitalist left in this country today puts forward a case that Labour is on the side of the working class.  There are certainly people who call themselves ‘socialist’ who do, but they are essentially liberals with vested interests in Labourism – often for career reasons. Nevertheless, there ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago

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