Newman Weekly: Where Others Fear to Tread
The resignation of Don Brash last week has signaled the loss to New Zealand of a political leader who displayed a
courage not usually seen in politics. Dr Brash spoke about race relations in an open and frank manner that has now
become quite uncommon. These days, under the present politically correct regime, saying what you believe about
controversial issues can lead to job losses, a failure to secure contracts or funding, a missing out of promotion, and
so on. That doesn't mean that concerns go away - they simply go 'underground'.
That is why Dr Brash's "Nationhood" speech, delivered to the Orewa Rotary Club on January 27th 2004, struck such a chord
with the public and electrified the nation. In his plain speaking way, he went where others fear to tread. (To read the
full speech click the sidebar link>>>)
The speech resurrected the National Party, delivering them from virtual political oblivion to within a hair's breadth of
the Treasury benches, because New Zealanders saw that they were committed to tackling these very serious and difficult
problems. Furthermore Dr Brash rode through the political storm with his head held high knowing that not only had he
spoken honestly, but from his heart.
In his speech he asked a fundamental question: "What sort of nation do we want to build? Is it to be a modern democratic
society embodying the essential notion of one rule for all in a single nation state? Or is it a racially divided nation,
with two sets of laws, and two standards of citizenship, that the present Labour government is moving us steadily
He wanted to set the record straight: "Let me be quite clear. Many things happened to the Maori people that should not
have happened. There were injustices, and the Treaty process is an attempt to acknowledge that, and to make a gesture at
recompense. But it is only that. It can be no more than that. None of us was around at the time of the New Zealand wars.
None of us had anything to do with the confiscations. There is a limit to how much any generation can apologise for the
sins of its great grandparents".
Dr Brash criticised the current direction of race relations: "the dangerous drift towards racial separatism in New
Zealand and the development of the now entrenched Treaty grievance industry". He stressed that "we are one country with
many peoples, not simply a society of Pakeha and Maori where the minority has a birthright to the upper hand, as the
Labour Government seems to believe".
He also raised concerns about how the inclusion into environmental laws, of special rights for consultation with Maori,
had resulted in the growth of state-sanctioned "corruption": an opportunistic "farce" of allowing metaphysical and
spiritual considerations, such as wahi tapu and taniwha, to be taken into account in the local and central government
decision-making process. He warned: "We are becoming a society that allows people to invent or rediscover beliefs for
pecuniary gain. This process is becoming deeply corrupt, with some requirements for consultation resulting in
substantial payments in a system that looks like nothing other than stand-over tactics".
Dr Brash explained that the Treaty process should not be used "as the basis for creating greater civil, political or
democratic rights for Maori than for any other New Zealander. He warned that: "In the 21st century it is unconscionable
for us to be taking that separatist path, and this Labour Government deserves to be defeated on that basis alone". He
also warned that: "Too many Maori leaders are looking backwards rather than towards the future. Too many have been
encouraged by successive governments to adopt grievance mode".
In his speech, Don Brash quoted Chris Trotter, an unashamedly left-wing political commentator who had asked in the
DomPost of December 12, 2003 whether New Zealand will "go forward into a new century as a modern democratic and
prosperous nation; or shall it become a culturally divided economically stagnant and aristocratically misgoverned
Pacific backwater, like the Kingdom of Tonga or the Republic of Fiji?"
Three years on, with instability and political unrest in both of those nations, it is clear that ethnic separation is
not the way to build a strong nation.
Dr Brash outlined the approach of the National Party: "We intend to remove divisive race-based features from
legislation. The 'principles of the Treaty' - never clearly defined yet ever expanding - are the thin edge of the wedge
leading to a racially divided state and we want no part of that. There can be no basis for special privileges for any
race, no basis for government funding based on race, no basis for introducing Maori wards in local authority elections,
and no obligations for local government to consult Maori in preference to other New Zealanders. We will remove the
anachronism of the Maori seats in Parliament".
He concluded by saying that "In many ways I am deeply saddened to have to make a speech about issues of race. In this
country, it should not matter what colour you are, or what your ethnic origins might be. But we must build a modern,
prosperous, democratic nation based on one rule for all. We cannot allow the loose threads of 19th century law and
custom to unravel our attempts at nation building in the 21st century".
In 1922, Sir Apirana Ngata wrote a book entitled "The Treaty of Waitangi" in which he explained why the Treaty had been
so necessary. He explained how the Treaty was introduced during "lawless" times: "The Treaty found us in the throes of
cannibalism". "This was a time when Maori tribes were fighting fiercely amongst themselves, .when Maori were murdered by
Europeans .and Maori murdered Europeans. Guns and powder were the goods most desired by each tribe, when chiefly women
were given away and lands were sold".
He explained how Article One of the Treaty transferred "the authority of the Maori chief for making laws for their
respective tribes and sub-tribes under the Treaty of Waitangi to the Queen of England for ever"; how Article Two
established private property rights: "The Queen did not do anything to take away the rights of the Maori over his lands,
instead she made ownership permanent and truly established"; and how Article Three was "the greatest benefit bestowed by
the Queen on Maori people", explaining that "the Queen of England extends to the Maori people of New Zealand her royal
protection. She imparts to them all the rights and privileges of British subjects".
He concludes his book by stating the Treaty "made the one law for the Maori and the Pakeha" and he had a warning for
those unhappy about the Treaty: "If you think these things are wrong and bad then blame our ancestors who gave away
their rights in the days when they were powerful".
As a result of the resignation of Don Brash, the question is who will pick up this mantle and speak the truth about
these difficult issues? Will it be National, ACT or a new party?
This week's poll ask a very important question: whether you would like the National Party to stay committed to the
principles outlined in Don Brash's Nationhood speech, or whether you would like to see a softening of that approach. I
will send the results to the new leader of the National Party, so please ask everyone with an interest in this issue to
vote. They can read the articles and take part in the poll by visiting the NZ Centre for Political Debate homepage on