Yesterday the Sunday Star Times reported that Don Brash had given another speech to the New Zealand National Party in the well heeled, wealthy town of Orewa. Don Brash used to be the head of the National Party, but he was never able to lead his party to a victory so he was replaced by John Key.
John Key is a bit younger, mildly better looking, but more significantly is seen to be open to working with a wider range of people in the country. Don Brash on the other hand still seems to want to appeal directly and exclusively to the wealthy urban white voters, and indirectly to the poorer white and other non-Maori throughout the land.
Brash is appealing to this narrower electorate in two ways. In a general approach, he is falsely describing Maori as benefiting from unjust laws that treat them differently from the rest of the people in the country. He is only being specific in his criticizing of John Key’s approach to one of the most divisive areas of legislation over the last decade: the Foreshore and Seabed Act, but in the process is making more absurd generalizations which, when reported widely by the media as seen this Sunday, do lead to worsening of race relations and heightening of conflict in very real, concrete, and visible ways.
We know this because Don Brash gave a very similar speech in 2004, and the results were extremely awful for the country as a whole. Incidents of violence and vandalism, including arson, erupted around the country, seeing national treasures and positive race relations alike reduced to rubble and ashes. John Key was thus right to ‘brush off’ Brash’s attack as “nothing new,” but was incorrect to say “There’s nothing wrong with [his ideas]…”
I am very disappointed to see that Brash, a person of enormous privilege, still lacks the ability to think and act beyond a childish level of divisive political rhetoric. One could speculate on the reasons: perhaps he was never taught common decency, or he has undeveloped powers of imagination, or he suffers from a deficit of basic empathy; whatever the case, he certainly needs to improve his research skills.
According to the Sunday Star Times, on Saturday night he said, “There is absolutely no case I can see for treating Maori differently in general legislation.” One wonders whether he has ever seen the ongoing results of statistical surveys showing the vast differences in quality of life for a high number of Maori as compared to most of the rest of society, and especially as compared to those in Orewa.
The findings of studies produced by the Ministry of Health are available from as recently as two years ago, within this report entitled ‘Quick facts about the regulated Māori health workforce’. Maori are said to comprise as much as 15% of the total population of Aotearoa – New Zealand, and yet Maori registered ‘medical practitioners’ (doctors) continue to make up only 3% of the total number throughout the nation. This number is absurdly low, and for something as both personal and crucially important as an average visit to the doctor, it is obviously of huge benefit to the health of an entire people to have representatives of that people available to give the best advice.
Unless the government is taking the boldest measures to bring parity in proportion of population in terms of Maori doctors available to the Maori public, it is actually contributing to one of the worst legacies of colonization: the ongoing and relatively bad health of Maori. In other words, there is certainly a need for the government to make special laws for Maori, and the whole hackneyed out-of-date argument that the government should treat ‘everyone the same’ regardless of race is a nonsense.
Laws are created that differentiate between people all the time, such as by age, or location, or demographic of some other sort. The more specific the law, the better it can be enacted and supported by the relevant bureaucracy and offices. What is important in any law is not whether one person is jealous of another people or not because of that law, but rather whether there is a just need being met by that law.
To deny one whole people justice and their natural rights merely because of other people who cannot or will not see the bigger picture is, in this case, to continue allowing the worst effects of colonisation to hurt those first people. It is to effectively continue blaming the victims for not digging themselves out of the hole into which they were pushed generations ago.
Don Brash thus continues to play a disgusting and disingenuous game; however, I predict that he will find attention, notoriety, and short term political gain, but in the end history will repeat and common fair-minded Kiwis will come to realise again that his point of view is ultimately selfish and destructive. Eventually they will reject him and his arguments completely. I look forward to that day, and hope it comes well before damage to any more people or property.