Brash is back and so we have to explain again why his argument is built on rubbish and rubble. And we can do it with his own words.

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 re-hashed 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 is 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, and 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 favoured 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 yes there are Maori seats and other efforts to ensure Maori get, as the Maori Party like to say, a seat at the table.

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 were confiscated along with it.

Justice demands that what was taken over generations is returned, at least in 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 seats? And when you answer either 'history', 'justice' or 'social order and prosperity' they just don't like what they hear. And they ignore the well-rehearsed facts, such as that reparations to iwi are just a tiny percent of what was taken.

What's remarkable is that this is all well-worn 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 total 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 their arguments 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, by 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.

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 and shall ever be thus. As if we don't know that many of the Maori signing the treaty had very different world views. And, most inanely, as if history froze at that moment.

If time had stopped then and started again yesterday, their 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. Indeed, some of the promises at the heart of the treaty – Maori rights to forests and fisheries for example – were broken.

Yet Brash and his cronies pretend none of that happened and 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 those who may be tempted by Brash's 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". We've moved on from the Orewa days, as we must.

The pragmatism of the Key years has even many who may have once been sympathetic to Brash now understanding that some acknowledgement of Maori aspiration and rangatiratanga (while still in need of much debate about just how it is executed) is not only OK, but necessary. Even the ACT party rejects the notions. Settlements have continued and are woven tightly into law. And, again, the fact is the policies these men hate have worked.

So the "one people" talk is out-dated and nonsense. 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 (7)

by Murray Grimwood on September 30, 2016
Murray Grimwood

'in the evidence-driven world of central banking'.

Who told you that was so, Tim?

The world of central banking is in big trouble, and has no (for public consumption, at any rate) idea what the problem is.

I suggest there is no evidence that central bankers are anything more than the conductors of ponzi orchestras. On a finite planet, growth - exponential growth - cannot be maintained, yet interest, profit and dividend require such.

Is it not worth questioning whether the Brash types actually know we are over the peak, and are actually about mopping-up 'wealth' from the bottom up, in the next phase? Presumably they will see things as 'continuing'; most winners in any system choose no to contemplate that the system may collapse.

So they run down the poor (it's their own poor choices) run down other races (they're identifiable - mexicans in the US, maori etc here) or creeds (IS - which is actually a result of our raiding their resources). Anything but tell you that the system they operate is (a) doomed to fail and (b) will give the next generation no chance (all the best energy gone, none of the impacts mitigated/addressed.

Come on Tim - do one on the big picture. From a dispassionate start. No givens. This piece is just about first class vs steerage. Hardly relevant given where we're all going.

by Charlie on October 02, 2016

Your logic went off the rails when you wrote this:

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

Sure, their outcomes are poor compared to the rest of us, but from that I draw a very different conclusion:

This endless pandering to Maori isn't doing them any good. In fact it's condemned them to a life in a deprived apartheid enclave.

As a non-racist person I believe that Maori can perform just as well as the rest of us (tell me you think differently) but the Progressive Left seem to want to keep them on the reservation and treat them as 'special' with all connotations that apply to that term.

You want Maori outcomes to be better? I can show you where they are:


That's because they're treated like normal people and they respond accordingly. 


by Murray Grimwood on October 03, 2016
Murray Grimwood

So there are no reservations in 'Aussie', then?

The Left are indeed - like all crusaders - bereft of a target should they win.

But that doesn't raise your argument out of the nonsense category. Are you an instructed party-spin hack 'Charlie'? Individuals, less hamstrung by the need for pre-ordained outcomes, typically wouldn't be leave themselves so open to ridicule.

by Tim Watkin on October 04, 2016
Tim Watkin

Charlie, if that's what you conclude then you're ignoring the evidence. The intervention by the state since the early 70s has clearly shown Maori social statistics improve. Not by as much as we would like, but as I wrote, the trend line is clear.

Of course I think people can perform well regardless of their ethnicity, but that's a pretty facile straw man attempt to argue against affirmative action. It would require you to think that everyone some is born entirely equally and the social conditions into which you are born has no impact on your life outcomes. It would also require you to conclude that history and economics are bystanders in a person's life. 

If large swathes of land, as one example, are taken from a people or community or family, it's entirely logical and uncontroversial to say that will have an impact on future generations, isn't it? Wouldn't your grandchildren suffer if your or your parent's house, savings and income were taken? So why should Maori somehow be heroically any different?

In fact, let's turn your argument around. If you take those facts you have italicised from my post and say they're not due to history, economics and other external factors that can and should be redressed, then what are you saying? If those aren't factors, then you must be arguing that either a) Maori are somehow inferior or b) affirmation action is actively harming Maori social stats. And given Maori were further behind on all those social stats before such action began, how would you explain that? I'd love to hear your answer.

And finally, how is assisting access to tertiary education and housing or treaty settlements, for example, pandering or keeping people on a reservation? You can use as much race-laden jargon as you like (and you use plenty!), but it doesn't make your arguments any stronger. Quite the opposite.

by Charlie on October 09, 2016


The current Prime Minister of the country was born in a state house to a single parent, so clearly people can rise above the humble origins.

If large swathes of land, as one example, are taken from a people or community or family, it's entirely logical and uncontroversial to say that will have an impact on future generations, isn't it? 

Only if you subscribe to the credo of the 'grievance industry'.

In this wonderful country all have access to a reasonably good education system and a social welfare net that is more than adequate to provide for peoples needs, if the money is spent wisely.

So what goes wrong?

What causes some sections of our community to form a persistent underclass generation after generation? Much research into the topic has identified the following:



Physical & mental abuse

Absentee fathers

A child born to a poorly educated single mother, subsisting on DPB with a string of boyfriends is most likely to repeat the same cycle of failure of hopelessness and failure. The child has little or no chance. A semi-literate drunk for a mother, no books in the house, FASD, rotting teeth and a regular bashing by the boyfriend du jour.

None of this has anything to do with how much land a tribal ancestor had controlled or (more likely) stolen from the nearby tribe. It also has nothing to do with their colour.

The very same processes occur among white people in England, thus proving the point.


by Dennis Horne on October 10, 2016
Dennis Horne

The problem is not that they have a little Maori ancestry, the problem is they believe they are different because we tell they are.

Then we expect them to behave as we do and hold them to the same standards. Having taught them to think differently.

Of course we must work for a fair and decent society, and of course some people need more help than others. This can be because one great-g-g-g-grandparent was Maori?

by Mamari on October 11, 2016

Not overly keen on digging too much into this debate, but just a linguistic note: he iwi tahi tātou is capable of two interpretations: 'He' is the indefinite article 'a' or 'some', 'tahi' could be either a modifer meaning 'together' to modify  'tangata' meaning 'peoples together' or 'tahi' can refer to a number (one). I really think 'some peoples together' is pretty much exactly what we are. 'One people together' we are not, and never really have been, which is great. I'm sure Hobson will have meant the telling what Māori were thinking on the day, but I can guess... 

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