By this time, every remotely well-informed New Zealander will be familiar with National’s race relations policy. The policy has caused a remarkable surge in popularity both for National and Don Brash himself. Many left-wing commentators have criticised the policy and Dr Brash as racist and opportunist. What is interesting then, is that support for National among Maori has nearly doubled to around 20% since the speech Dr Brash gave at Orewa (I note that support for those Maori specifically on the Maori roll has remained steady at around 6%). While hardly a majority, this is a fairly significant chunk of support from a group supposedly under racial attack.
In reality, no objective person could call the policy racist. Quite the opposite, National wants to end race-based discrimination, which includes so-called ‘positive’ discrimination. This legalised discrimination can be divided into two groups, those forms of discrimination that are wrong simply ‘in principle’ and those that actually provide extra funding on the basis of race.
Maori seats, for example, cannot be said to be tangibly advantageous to Maori, in the sense that Maori receive the same number of votes as other races. Nonetheless it is still inappropriate for New Zealand to have separate seats based on race.
It is claimed that New Zealand is an ‘egalitarian’ society. Indeed we can abolish knighthoods (for example) merely because of a coincidental association to the English class system, yet Labour would have us believe that it is entirely consistent to have racially segregated seats in our legislature. The same people who claim that having predominantly white middle-class judges making common law brings the law into disrepute, seem not to realise that a house with racially segregated seats passing legislation generates the same contempt.
Furthermore, claims that the representation of minorities is an integral part of democracy and therefore that these seats are necessary, fail because this argument is not applied equally to any other minorities. Nor I might add, is there some treaty clause that demands separate representation. Indeed the very idea that Maori need ‘special’ representation is grossly demeaning. Are Maori not also business owners, beneficiaries, parents, hospital patients etc? Why is being Maori treated as the sole facet of their existence? In particular there is no reason why ‘Maori’ cannot form an exclusively Maori party just as other groups with apparently similar interest do, except that rather than being conned into lining the pockets of treaty lawyers, the majority of Maori would probably ignore it and vote on issues like education, health and taxation.
Unlike the Maori seats though, there are a number of areas where opposition to race based policies is not merely on ‘principle’.
Race based funding in the health system provides a 20% weighting for race above standard weightings for things like deprivation. The result, in a system with a limited budget, is basically that a wealthy person with a small amount of Maori blood can access health services before impoverished people of other races.
No one has ever suggested that occurrences of such unjust allocation are commonplace, but so unjust is the principle of race based funding that any misallocation based on race should be viewed seriously.
The basic premise that a race of people can be needy is a poor attempt to hoodwink the electorate with semantics. Races do not visit their GP – individuals and families do, and while their race may be a good indicator of need, this is no more than an estimation based on averages. It is like saying that Japanese people earn more on average than non-Japanese people and therefore that the Japanese tax rate should be higher than everyone else’s.
When the government clearly has the ability to fund healthcare on the basis of need, it is inappropriate for them to do so on the basis of race.
There are countless other examples provided by Dr Brash, during and subsequent to his speech at Orewa. These include inter alia:
* Consultation with Maori pursuant to the Resource Management Act over and above ‘community’ consultation.
* Creeping elevation of Maori culture to a status above other cultures. Compare the treatment of the taniwha in the path of the Waikato expressway to the Prime Minister’s refusal to say grace at state banquets, or changes to official oaths.
* Health Boards having to consult with local iwi in areas where that local iwi is a minority even amongst local Maori.
Perhaps this column may seem somewhat negative towards Maori, and this is both unintended and unfortunate. No Maori person I know has ever requested these special privileges, many even find them insulting. It is a small minority of Maori who pursue these policies in cahoots with the ‘guilty white liberals’ who compose this Labour government.
A National government would commit to ensuring policies are based on need not race, however it would still commit to settling historical grievances, as is only just. Further, it would ensure that institutions such as Wananga and Kohanga Reo continue to receive their funding, because National believes in freedom of choice in education. This might seem inconsistent; indeed Labour would have you believe that it is. However the difference is that, unlike Labour, National believes in freedom of choice in education for all New Zealanders. It makes sense that we give Maori the choice to be educated in this way, just as all New Zealanders should have the right to choose where they are educated.
Finally, it is a positive sign that a New Zealand politician can at last debate race relations in a manner that neither panders to radicals, nor is mere slogan espousal. Good on Don Brash.