Brash is back and so we have to explain again why his argument is built on rubbish and rubble

It's a rare delight in these heavily managed times to see conviction politics and heartfelt arguments. It's just sad the Don Brash-led Hobson's Pledge lobby group is so ill-judged and ill-informed.

I'm constantly struck by how a man who made an international reputation in the evidence-driven world of central banking can leave all respect for evidence at the door when it comes to race relations. But yes, Brash it at it again, calling for an end to Maori privilege.

Of course the evidence is clear that Maori enjoy anything but a privileged life in New Zealand. They die younger, are educated less, stopped by police and imprisoned more. They earn less and are less likely to own their own home. 

But that's the evidence Brash and his offsiders choose to ignore. They're not interested in context or history, they have their own evidence. And part of it we can all agree on. Fact: Some state agencies in New Zealand practice affirmative action. Only Maori get certain scholarships to university, for example. Special efforts and budgets have gone into Maori health and housing, for example. And you know what? It's worked.

What's not acknowledged enough by all sides of this debate is that Maori social statistics have, in many parts, been improving since the early 1970s. In health, education and more Maori are catching up to Pakeha. And that's great. Because if a government is not there to try to give people a hand up and ensure everyone gets an opportunity, then what else is it there for? Because without those things there is no law and order, no national prosperity, no shared sense of identity.

Of course what Brash calls 'Maori privilege' others call redressing the wrongs of history. Land, and therefore a people's economic base and identity, was (at times, not always) confiscated. And futures will confiscated along with it. So justice demands that what was taken over generations is returned, in small part, over generations.

But that affirmative action is what Brash and his ilk find offensive. They ask why Maori get this scholarship or that funding when they don't. Why do they get these settlements? And when you answer either 'history' or 'social order and prosperity' they just don't like what they hear. And they ignore the well-rehearsed fact that reparations to iwi are just a tiny percent of what was taken.

What's remarkable is that this is all well-known argument, yet their devotion to their slanted view is so resilient. Even though we know that the resources returned to iwi are that tiny percent of what was taken, the lobby group complains about the $2.5b in settlements so far as if that's an egregious amount.

It's worth a few minutes to read their site. There are valid issues lurking among the nonsense - for example, the fact that settlements are based on where tribes happened to sit in a moment of history (1840), how far respect for Maori spirituality goes and how we manage Maori representation in local government. But it's all based on an intellectual foundation made of rubble and rubbish. The profound wisdom that we should all be equal before the law is twisted and imprisoned in what becomes an argument for privilege to be entrenched with a certain people (Pakeha) at a certain time in history (today).

Beneath the stock photo sans Maori on their homepage, they are exposed by their on words. They write that "Race-based privilege creates opportunities for corruption, resentment and unrest", without any sense of irony or appreciation that affirmative action is an effort to tackle 150 years of race-based privilege and is helping avoid more unrest in this country. 

They show their failure to understand the most basic ideas of a constitution, buy on one hand saying "The Treaty of Waitangi is not in any meaningful sense New Zealand’s constitution" and yet in the very next line saying that the Treaty did cede sovereignty, protect property rights and establish Maori as British subjects.

Even given that slanted interpretation, it clearly acknowledges that the treaty deals with rights and power, which is, er, what a constitution is all about.

But perhaps the most exposing line is in the lobby group's name. They call themselves 'Hobson's Pledge', referring to the words Governor Hobson said in 1840 as the treaty was signed - “he iwi tahi tatou” – "we are now one people".

As if just because the white man at the party said it, it was thus. As if we don't know that many of the Maori signing the treaty had very different views. And, most inanely, as if history froze at that moment.

If time had stopped then and started again yesterday, there argument may have more merit. But of course it would be irrelevant, because all the things that offend them wouldn't have happened.

Well, the same is true for Maori. Since 1840 we have had war, confiscations, legal oppression and even - for a period around the turn of the last century - the assumption that Maori could die out as a people. Yet Brash and his cronies pretend none of that happened and pretend that those words spoken by Hobson must be taken as canon.

It's laughable. Yet again it seems we must remind ourselves of these arguments and win the debate again. And we have to once again try to convince Brash and those who adhere to his argument that Hobson's Pledge will be defeated by Hobson's Choice. In reality, New Zealand has no choice but to confront its past, balance the wrongs of history and accept that we will never be "one people".

Rather, we will be a respectful mash-up of peoples living together in one country and under one law, but a law that is flexible enough to recognise what has gone before.  


Comments (18)

by barry on September 29, 2016

They (wilfully?) confuse two motivations for "special" treatment.

One is descent:  Settlements are based on returning a measure of assets stolen from their tupuna.  I am sure that Brash etc are not against inheritance or returning stolen property to its rightful owners.  Many of the university scholarships and other "race-based" privileges are actually paid for by the iwi, and of course there are also "race-based" scholarships for people from european or other foreign nationalities.

Freezing at 1840 does make sense when you consider that (however obtained) the land was owned according to custom when it was taken by us pakeha.  Hobson offered the maori the rule of law for the future (but not utu for past events).  The government then abused the law or allowed settlers to.

The other motivation is treating the effects of deprivation where it occurs.  If Maori or any other ethnic group are over-represented in negative statistics then it makes sense to look at them as a group as well as individually.  As an economist Brash could hardly argue against that.


by Fentex on September 29, 2016

Because if a government is not there to try to give people a hand up and ensure everyone gets an opportunity, then what else is it there for?

To mediate our differences, enforce our community standards embodied in law and provide for our common protection from each other and foreign enemies.

Plenty of us may also think it has a duty to centrally organise charity and help rather than leave such to the ad hoc actions of individuals but that's rather the point, isn't it? Brash and co. don't want aid and charity to be centrally organised.

You don't repudiate them by simply asserting it is a government function when they dispute the point.

Personally I'd have more respect for them if they had the balls to argue to pay what is due and show respect in straight up financial terms so that they're complaint about what they believe is faux respect wouldn't also hide behind a wish to dodge accountability. Just imagine their attitude if someone owed them money and tried to avoid their suits.

by Dennis Frank on September 29, 2016
Dennis Frank

It's sad that their website notice fails to acknowledge that the chiefs signed the Maori version of the Treaty.  Because that allowed continuance of the local rule of chiefs over traditional tribal domains, the acknowledgement of the Treaty by parliament in Britain, followed by enactment of provision of colonial rule via self-government in Aotearoa, effectively cemented British recognition of their traditional local sovereignty in the minds of the Maori.

Thus their ongoing staunch support for the mana of Te Tiriti.  The British & settler governments did their best to remain in denial of the Maori version, and it's key terms referring to traditional governance.  Brash & co seek to continue this. Inasmuch as the money from Treaty settlements flows from the residual pakeha patriarchy to the residual Maori patriarchy, the Brash attempt to provide a principled rationale for opposing the wealth-sharing does seem brash, and racist.

I agree that it also seems unconvincing:  particularly their intention of "supporting and voting for any party that would vote against all laws, regulations and policies that provide for any entitlement based on ancestry or ethnicity."  That would require them to support and vote for any party formed to eliminate the Crown - which is an entitlement based on the ancestry of the British monarch.  Maybe we'll see an organised attempt to recruit 500 members to register such a party, to publicly call the bluff of brash Dr Brash...


by Rich on September 30, 2016

Is it "conviction politics and heartfelt arguments"?

Or is Don Brash just cynically pandering to redneckery in an effort to gain support for the sort of extreme neo-liberalism that (as ACT's vote has shown) only appeals to a tiny minority of ultra-wealthy sociopaths.

by Ross on September 30, 2016


You seem to have missed an obvious point. You agree that Maori have received various advantages via "affirmative action" yet they appear in the wrong statistics for all the wrong reasons. Giving them handouts and special treatment, it seems, has not had the desired effect. Why would you think tokenism was the answer?

Some people may have forgotten that Don Brash wants a Commission of Inquiry into the Peter Ellis case. How many current politicians are scared at the thought of that idea? Brash may or may not be a racist, but I’d hazard a guess that he doesn’t lack, like many politicians do, moral courage. He should be applauded for that.


by Jude on October 03, 2016

Thanks Tim: spot on.

Ross - here's the sign-up page for Hobson's Pledge when you've got a spare moment. I refer you to it because the points you make are cut straight from that cloth.

'Handouts and special treatments not having the desired effect', 'why would one think tokenism was the answer?', 'Brash has moral courage'?

Do you think the last 20 years of historical Treaty settlements and small (but notable) steps the Crown has taken towards recognising its Treaty breaches and wrongs to Maori even remotely compensate Maori for the 150 plus years of economic, social and cultural prejudice the Crown and our forbears inflicted on Maori? 

[Hint: every historic settlement deed includes a clause in which the Crown explicitly acknowledges it is not possible to fully compensate the relevant iwi for all loss and prejudice suffered, and that the iwi intend their foregoing of full compensation to contribute to New Zealand‟s development]

My point is this: Maori over-representation in negative statistics reflects to a large extent the long history and legacy of harm done to Maori, and fundamental disconnection from their social, cultural, political and economic base -- for which Maori are only recently and partially being compensated. This has been well articulated and discussed here, here and here -- ironically enough, on the last occasion Brash tried a stunt like Hobson's Pledge.


by Tim Watkin on October 04, 2016
Tim Watkin

Ross, I'd invite you to go back and read the post again. My very first words were to give Brash credit for genuine conviction and courage in those convictions. (And as Rich says, not everyone sees it that way). So there's nothing to dispute in your final point.

As for the "obvious point" I missed, well, I wrote about that too. In the 5th par I wrote:

What's not acknowledged enough by all sides of this debate is that Maori social statistics have, in many parts, been improving since the early 1970s. In health, education and more Maori are catching up to Pakeha.

So contrary to what you – and Brash – argue, it is having the desired effect. Unsurprisingly, it's taking decades to undo what it took decades to achieve. Progress can be frustratingly slow. And, given that those lower in the statistics often get hit harder by recessions and other economic downturns, sometimes it's two steps forward, one step back. But undoubtedly, while many Maori are still at or near the wrong end, the stats are improving.

by Tim Watkin on October 04, 2016
Tim Watkin

Dennis, it does flabbergast me how selective Brash is. He quotes Hobson as if it's gospel and, there fore, what stems from the treaty is entirely sacrosanct. Yet if that's the case... if he's really arguing that we should follow 100% what was agreed in that moment... then as you say, Maori should have self-governance over their local rohe.

In fact, you could argue, they shouldn't just have seats on the local council, they should run the whole thing! Point being, his logic is so tangled it's farcical.

by Moz on October 04, 2016


 particularly their intention of "against ... any entitlement based on ancestry or ethnicity."  That would require them to support and vote for any party formed to eliminate the Crown

I read that as a move to allow open entry and residence/citizenship to anyone who wants it, regardless of "ancestry or ethnicity". That's the most blatant discrimination practised by the government :) Good to see that Brash is so firmly opposed to discrimination in all its forms! But removing the Queen of Aotearoa (and sundry other territories) from the picture would also be a win.

by Nick Gibbs on October 04, 2016
Nick Gibbs

"Of course the evidence is clear that Maori enjoy anything but a privileged life in New Zealand. They die younger, are educated less, stopped by police and imprisoned more. They earn less and are less likely to own their own home. "

Of course the flip side to this is asking for evidence that giving iwi a seat at council tables will improve the lot of the underprivileged maori, many of whom have no connection to an iwi. Your argument seems to be "Paul has little material comforts so we must give money to Sally".

I agree with you that Brash's conviction politics are good to see. Its good to hear what significant changes are to be made to the RMA (re:maori consultation etc...) and for those to be debated. It's interesting to note that no one I have read on-line has bothered to engage with him. His critics have all resorted to "He's racist and should be shouted down" school of thought.


by Ross on October 04, 2016


Researcher Nigel Murphy has suggested that New Zealand's identity was founded on anti-Chinese racism and anti-Chinese legislation. There was, until fairly recently, a white New Zealand policy which was anti-Chinese. You might recall the then PM Helen Clark apologising to the Chinese community in 2002 over the shameful treatment of Chinese people here. The Chinese, to the best of my knowledge, have not received special treatment or privileges as a result.


I recommend Nigel Murphy’s paper Poll Tax & Other Anti-Chinese Legislation” and see


by Tim Watkin on October 04, 2016
Tim Watkin

Nick, it's an important question to ask. But there is at least a little evidence. For example, look at the money being spent by iwi on their members education, housing etc. It's hard to argue that the wealth, skills and influence gained by iwi in recent years isn't and their commitment to hapu isn't making a difference.

It's early days, but I also think you can make a case for the role models that also provides and much more. But rather than going down that rabbit hole completely, what about the simple issue of justice. Much was taken, much should be restored. Surely wrongs should be righted because that's the right thing to do, even before we debate outcomes. Otherwise you're taking a rather paternalistic view that says we only deem you worth of your reparations if we then also deem that you'll spend them in a way which we approve.

by Nick Gibbs on October 05, 2016
Nick Gibbs

Sure treaty settlements have benefited iwi. That's not in dispute but doesn't explain why iwi should be offered entrenched seats on council. What problem is this the solution to? It's not to up lift the socio-economic status of all maori, although this is the justification you give. 

Is it to extend maori self-governance? How will this work? What privileges will it offer and to whom. Can I get in on the act? At what price? Auckland and other councils face enormous challenges at present. How will adding iwi seats at council assist  in resolving these? Will they simply become a hinderance to possible solutions? 

Who even knows, maybe not even those those passionately advocating these changes. Anyway I'm glad Brash brought it up this important issue.



by Peggy Klimenko on October 06, 2016
Peggy Klimenko

After the Orewa speech, I wrote to Brash challenging some of the more egregious claims and statements in it. He replied, which reflected well on him. My impression was that he was genuinely interested in other perspectives. Though of course that was before we found out that the speech had largely been written by his advisors and it was intended to be a rabble-rouser.

I've read the Hobson's Pledge pages; my impression is that the information is much more accurate than in the Orewa speech, especially regarding the Maori seats, on which in particular I'd challenged him.

There's little doubt that, had the indigenes been white and wearing breeches when the first Europeans arrived, the history of NZ would have been very different. 

And if the Treaty as written had been honoured by governments and settlers, the history of settlement would likely have been very different.

There are two issues at play, I think - justice and welfare - and I suspect there's been a bit of conflation of them, both by Brash and by some responders.

Treaty settlements were intended to serve justice, not welfare. If Maori lives are improved by settlements, so much the better; but to expect such an outcome may be asking of them more than they were designed to deliver.

It is the government's role to see to the welfare of all citizens, Maori included. It ought not to be expecting iwi organisations to carry a disproportionate burden in that regard.

In my view, the Waitangi Tribunal and the settlements process - coupled with Maori using the courts rather than guns - have saved us from the revolution that many of us in the 1970s feared was inevitable. So I don't agree with Brash about abolition. On the other hand, it's by no means a perfect institution, and may have lost sight of its objectives, so a thorough review would be a good thing.

Nick Gibbs: " the flip side to this is asking for evidence that giving iwi a seat at council tables will improve the lot of the underprivileged maori, many of whom have no connection to an iwi."

My concern as well. This where the justice and welfare issues have got tangled up. In addition, we're being expected to accept an undemocratic process, in an apparent attempt to right an injustice. The voters I have contact with are opposed to this proposal: likely it won't end well if it's foisted on us over majority objections.

I'm aware of the provenance of the Maori seats. In light of the nature of contemporary society, and proportional voting notwithstanding, I favour their retention. Maori MPs are elected - in contrast to what's being proposed for local authorities - and keeping the seats will ensure Maori representation in Parliament. A compromise, but better than the alternative.

Like Dr Brash, I'm underwhelmed at the spread of animism here. This is supposed to be a secular society, and it is to the advantage of the majority that secularism is preserved.

He's also right about the way in which Treaty-related issues are taught in the education system. It's quite a tendentious approach: there doesn't seem to be space for dissenting views. It's been noticeable for a number of years: anyone with children at school over the past 20 years or so will likely have encountered it.

I don't wholeheartedly agree with what Brash asserts. But on the other hand, I think the right thing to do is to debate the issues he raises. Calling him a racist - as I've seen elsewhere - is just name-calling and an attempt to shut him up - and his views down.

by Antoine on October 07, 2016

@Peggy - As always a great post - thanx

by Nick Gibbs on October 08, 2016
Nick Gibbs

Well Tim, if this is true your comments about Brash being ill-judged and ill-informed take on a different light. In fact the NZ media are conspiring to keep the public ill-informed. And given that the only journalist named in the press release works for a public boardcaster but is clearly running a line of propaganda is quite disgraceful. 

No wonder the press are struggling to make a dime these days. Who would pay to be misled.

by Peggy Klimenko on October 09, 2016
Peggy Klimenko

Nick Gibbs: " And given that the only journalist named in the press release works for a public boardcaster but is clearly running a line of propaganda..."

It does look like that; I guess it's understandable, though, given the firestorm over the Orewa speech. But even though it'd be a tough issue to confront, I do expect better of RNZ journalists. If we can't get fearless exploration of contentious topics from there, where will we get it?

"the NZ media are conspiring to keep the public ill-informed."

If they've had the Treaty education delivered by the NZ education system, it's likely that they'll see Brash's views as far too heterodox to be even considered as having any validity. So they probably don't see their response - or lack of - as having the effect of keeping the public ill-informed.

by Chuck Bird on January 08, 2017
Chuck Bird

It is great that I and others who disagree with the writer are allowed comment on Pundit.  I was originally supportive of most of the aims of Hobson's Pledge like a binding referendum on the continuation of the Maori seats.  However, I have been banned from Hobson's Pledge Facebook.  This is due to out and out anti-Maori racist who have been allowed to take control of HP Facebook Page.  The reason I have been banned is because I insist on raising the issue of Allen Titford and John Ansell's support for Titford claiming he is a victim because he was a thorn in the side of the government and they has him put away for a very long time.  I will not go into all the details as I would hope Tim and other would know them but I will link a link to Ansell's rant.

It should be clear from the about that Ansell hates Maori so much that he will to support the like of Titford if he thinks it may further his cause. I am pretty sure Don is not behind the block but probably Andy Oakley who also claims Titford is some sort of martyr. 

I have also been blocked from Muriel Newman's NZCPR Facebook for the same reason - Titford.  One of her contributors, Mike Butler is also a Titford supporter who lost in his complaint about Maori TV being biased.  I could supply that link if requested.

Many on the right which I am one complain about the Standard banning anyone with a different view unlike Kiwiblog.  I say that is a valid complaint but I doubt if they will have the same concerns about my ban as many on Kiwiblog are very anti-Maori and even more anti Winston who I support.

I hope Tim could look into this.  I also would like comment from those with legal knowledge about this case.  I believe that NZ has a pretty free corruption free judiciary.  I do not believe it is perfect.  There are ex MPs and lawyers who have gotten favourable treatment including permanent name suppression.  This not good as judges are meant to administer justice without fear, favour or prejudice. 

While this is not desirable it happens in every country in the world.  However, it is another thing to claim that the PM and/or other Ministers could influence the police, the judiciary and Titford's legally aided lawyer are clearly ridiculous.


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