The Situation Could Hardly Be More Serious



A few months ago, I wrote a column highlighting some of the serious things which are going on under our collective noses to provide, or in some cases, continue to provide special privileges to those New Zealanders who chance to have at least one Maori ancestor – along with ancestors of other ethnicities in every case.

I listed the continued existence of separate Maori electorates more than a century after their use-by date; a Parliamentary Bill which would, if passed, give a tribe the right to appoint two voting members to the Canterbury Regional Council in perpetuity; generous taxpayer funding to enable tribes to lay claim to so-called “customary marine title” over the entire coastline; the demand from the teachers’ union that all overseas-trained teachers should undertake a year-long course in so-called “cultural competence” (shorthand for indoctrination in a particular view of our history); and the hope expressed by the Minister for the Crown/Maori relationship that the relationship between Maori and the Crown could move from one focused on historical grievance to one focused on “true partnership”.

And last month, at Waitangi, we saw graphically illustrated why we are in this mess: even the Prime Minister doesn’t have a clue what the Treaty of Waitangi actually provided.

Asked what the first two Articles of the Treaty provided, she admitted she had no idea.

It is hard to overstate the seriousness of this situation. She has obviously been brought up on warm fuzzies, and as a result she has swallowed, hook line and sinker, the total nonsense promoted by those who would divide us.

The total nonsense was well illustrated in an article by Hinemoa Elder which appeared in the Sunday Star-Times last month. After correctly citing Article I of the Treaty, which refers to the ceding “to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty” which the chiefs possess, she notes, by way of explanation, that Article I “speaks to sharing power”. It does no such thing. It refers to the absolute ceding of power to the Queen.

This gets to the core of the issue. Did the Maori chiefs cede sovereignty – as the English draft from which the Treaty was translated, the Maori language version of the Treaty, and the so-called official English version of the Treaty all assert – or did they not, as Maori radicals contend?

If they did not cede sovereignty, it could, in theory, make sense to talk about a “true partnership” between the Crown and Maori. It could lead to the dangerous absurdity of Maori radicals like Margaret Mutu and Moana Jackson plotting that, by 2040, New Zealand will see “constitutional transformation”, probably involving two or three Parliamentary chambers, one representing iwi and hapu, one representing the Crown, and one being a “joint deliberative body”.

But did Maori chiefs cede sovereignty? Perhaps they did not understand what ceding sovereignty meant? But the speeches made by a number of Maori chiefs at the time make it very clear that they understood that they were being asked to subordinate their authority to the Queen. Speeches made 20 years later, at a major gathering of Maori chiefs at Kohimarama, also make it abundantly clear that they understood that the Queen had authority over them.

Moreover, with very rare exceptions, the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders with a Maori ancestor have behaved as if sovereignty was ceded in 1840. They’ve served in the Police and the Armed Forces; they’ve bought and sold assets, registering those transactions with an agency of the Crown; they’ve paid income taxes and GST; they’ve been employed by the Crown as teachers, nurses, and bureaucrats; they’ve accepted unemployment benefits, New Zealand Superannuation and other benefits; they’ve accepted treatment in public hospitals and from highly subsidized doctors; they’ve been educated in public schools and universities; they’ve travelled overseas on New Zealand passports; they’ve accepted large sums of money from the Crown in resolution of so-called historical grievances. Very strange behaviour if Maori haven’t accepted the sovereignty of the Crown.

In my column in December, I noted that politicians as different as David Lange, Bill English and Winston Peters have all stated that nothing in the Treaty suggests a relationship in the nature of a partnership of equals.

Interviewed on Australian television in 1990, when he was Attorney General, Mr Lange asked: “Did Queen Victoria for a moment think of forming a partnership with a number of signatures, a number of thumb prints and 500 people? Queen Victoria was not that sort of person.”

In a major speech a decade later, in November 2000, he elaborated on this point and because of the huge importance of the issue, and because we now have a Labour-New Zealand First Coalition Government, it is worth quoting from this speech at some length:

“Democratic government can accommodate Maori political aspiration in many ways. It can allocate resources in ways which reflect the particular interests of Maori people. It can delegate authority, and allow the exercise of degrees of Maori autonomy. What it cannot do is acknowledge the existence of a separate sovereignty. As soon as it does that, it isn’t a democracy. We can have a democratic form of government or we can have indigenous sovereignty. They can’t coexist and we can’t have them both…”

“Here I come to the dangers posed by the increasing entrenchment of the Treaty in statute. The Treaty itself contains no principles which can usefully guide government or courts…”

“The Treaty is a wonderful stick for activists to beat the rest of us with… It’s been the basis of a self-perpetuating industry in academic and legal circles. Many on the Left of politics who sympathise with Maori aspiration have identified with the cause of the Treaty, either not knowing or not caring that its implications are profoundly undemocratic.”

Winston Peters, now Deputy Prime Minister and Maori himself of course, has described the idea that a partnership was created by the Treaty as “absurd”.

And perhaps this is why the Prime Minister’s rather extraordinary ignorance of what the Treaty provides is so serious. She has been swept along by the nonsense that the chiefs did not cede sovereignty but instead entered into a partnership with the Crown. There is a serious danger that it is this nonsense which may be taught in our schools, under the disguise of teaching New Zealand children our “true history”. True history? Bollocks. It is past time for the majority of New Zealanders – Maori and non-Maori – to push back.


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