Monday 8 April 2013

Not Debating The Constitution

The Sound of One hand Clapping: The taxpayer funded "Constitutional Conversation" has so far demonstrated little inclination to facilitate a genuine debate on the Treaty's already entrenched place in the legal, administrative and political life of New Zealand. This unwillingness to either recognise or supply a visible platform for the nay-sayers betrays the "Conversation's" essential artificiality. A manufactured consensus is no substitute for a bloody good argument.
I DON’T GET ANGRY very often. I’ve been around too long, seen history repeat itself too many times, for all that malarkey. Just occasionally, however, I stumble across something that truly infuriates me.
Like discussions billed as debates where everybody is actually on the same side.
No, I’m not talking about TV3’s “The Vote”. What’s got my dander up is a four-part series being hosted by the NZ Centre for Public Law (NZCPL) entitled “Debating the Constitution”. All four encounters to be broadcast subsequently on Radio NZ National.
And, yes, the series is indeed a response to the Constitutional Review which emerged from the horse-trading between the National and Maori parties following the 2008 General Election.
The same review that has been the occasion for more than a little teeth-gnashing among those Pakeha who have declared themselves perfectly happy with New Zealand’s present constitutional arrangements, thank you very much, and who have voiced deep suspicions of both the motives behind its creation and the outcomes intended by its protagonists.
Now, you might be thinking: Well there’s the opportunity for a genuine, rip-snorting debate! And I’d be the first to agree. There are a host of noisy individuals who would’ve leapt at the opportunity to voice their doubts and suspicions concerning the whole Constitutional Review initiative.
And that’s what has got me all hot under the collar.
I’ve examined the personnel invited to participate in this exercise by the NZCPL and can I find any of the names associated with the political movement that has sprung up to oppose the Constitutional Review?
No, I can’t.
And it’s not as though it would have been at all that difficult for the NZCPL to locate these folk. All it needed to do was send out invitations to the membership of the defiantly christened “Independent Constitutional Review Panel” – a ready-made Negative Team comprising Professors Martin Devlin and James Allan; Associate Professor, Elizabeth Rata; Law Lecturer, David Round; journalist and author, Mike Butler; and the former Act MP, Muriel Newman.
Well, I looked through the list of “Debating the Constitution” participants and not even one member of the Independent Constitutional Review Panel was included.
The names I did see surprised me not at all. Before my eyes was a veritable roll-call of the good and the great; the wise and the just; the righteously indigenous and the guilty descendants of the Maori people’s wicked colonial oppressors.
Here’s a sneak peek at just some of the NZCPL’s line-up: Dame Claudia Orange, Sir Geoffrey and Dr Matthew Palmer, Moana Jackson, Dr Maria Bargh, Professors Margaret Wilson, Elizabeth McLeay and Andrew Geddis, Jim Bolger and Colin James.
Now, don’t get me wrong, every one of these illustrious individuals is capable of contributing mightily to a polite “discussion” of our constitutional arrangements. More than a few of them could also say much that was useful about its origins and political ramifications. But, seriously, do any of them strike you as people likely to hoe into the Review with the passion of its self-identified opponents?
The NZCPL’s list of speakers is not going to generate a debate on this important topic. No, these folk are going to deliver an academic seminar on the exercise to an audience which will almost certainly be comprised of like and equally lofty minds.
It was only after my father was posted to Wellington in 1969 that I encountered the delicious word “twee”. From the moment I heard it used in a sentence I have cherished it. No other word in the English language captures the mixture of exclusivity and effeteness that twee so wonderfully expresses.
And twee is exactly the right word to describe this series of debates-that-aren’t-debates.
What could have been a down-and-dirty verbal slug-fest; a chance for these grand personages to endure a rare encounter with New Zealanders who most emphatically do not share their “sound” views on the Treaty of Waitangi, bi-culturalism and New Zealand history; an opportunity to squeeze all the poisons inflaming the open wound that is New Zealand race relations into public view – has been missed.
And that not only makes me angry, it also makes me sad.
As a people, we used to be more open and courageous than this. When Jack was a good as any snooty professor, and a debate was still a bloody good argument.
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 5 April 2013.


Anonymous said...

Gosh. This will set race relations back a hundred years. :-).

David said...

That's right, half of the fun/challenge of an argument is the "push back". No point arguing with someone who agrees with you.

Morgan Godfery said...

Constitutional change is too important to be left to the “noisy voices” like Newman, Rata, Round and the other bush lawyers, backyard historians and tool shed philosophers. The Independent Constitutional Review Panel, the New Zealand Centre for Political Research, John Ansell and their groupies are colonial apologists and racists. Their political tactics are more sophisticated than their predecessors, but the intellectual deficit remains. Everyone is entitled to a view in a democracy, but not all views are entitled to equal weight. The class of 2013 cloak their racism in pseudo-intellectualism and appeals to equality. The debate doesn’t need a sanitised version of 19th century assimilation policy.

As decent constitutional scholars know, New Zealand’s approach to constitutional change has and remains incremental: pragmatic, gradual and (to use the language of the Courts) “particularistic”. The Constitutional Review, and by extension the NZCPL debate series, is entirely consistent with this approach. The Review is a response to international trends and shifting domestic circumstances: in the international context think of global and national moves towards bicultural and multicultural pluralism and the (still) growing human rights movement. In the domestic context think the (soon to be) post-settlement environment and shifting demographics (i.e. much less white, way more brown).

There is nothing radical or insidious in the review –it’s an exercise in consultation. Power remains with the legislature – as is the case in a Westminster democracy – and nothing the Constitutional Review does can change that.

Also, It appears that you’re unfamiliar with legal ideologies. Professor Harris and Dr Palmer are steeped in Westminster legalism and Anglo-American legal culture – although they’re keen critics where criticism is called for – whereas Moana Jackson is steeped in and the fiercest advocate for a Maori legal and political autonomy. Harris and Palmer are entering the debate from a different starting point, perhaps to the point that their perspectives are incompatible with Jackson’s perspective. Of course, both Harris and Palmer are sympathetic towards and in some cases advocates for the Maori position, but they don’t fit in the insulting box you’ve crafted them.

Newman, Rata, Round and the others represent the extreme – the outliers swimming against the current. Desperate to retain the (crumbling) vestiges of the colonial state, the Ratas and Rounds are out of step with global trends in society, politics, the law and culture.

On the other matters it’s inappropriate to have, say, Mike Butler on the panel debating the Maori perspectives or human rights. Harris, Geoffrey and Matthew Palmer, Jackson, Orange, Geddis, James and so on are distinguished scholars - locally and internationally renowned for their scholarship and they are on the panel due as a result of aforementioned scholarship.

Chris Trotter said...

Well, Morgan, I suppose I should thank you for revealling the full extent of the "let's-not-have-a-genuine-debate" brigade's condescending disdain for the traditions of free speech and democracy.

Not for you the liberal notion that even "outliers" and "swimmers against the current" have a right to be heard.

Authoritarianism is not made more acceptable by cloaking it in an academic gown.

Shame on you, Morgan. Shame on you.

Morgan Godfery said...

I'm sad that you made this personal, Chris. I'll repeat for clarity: "everyone is entitled to a view in a democracy, but not all views are entitled to equal weight". Free speech doesn't entitle everyone to a soap box.

Constitutional change is usually borne out of revolution. In New Zealand, constitutional change has and remains borne out of pragmatism and gradual challenges to the established order. However, there's one constant: the need for sane voices. That doesn't preclude debate, but it almost certainly excludes those who dress their sickening disdain for Maori and worship for 19th century assimilation in the clothes of racial equality.

Your friends are entitled to their views and are entitled to spread them how they like, but their exclusion from the NZCPL doesn't constitute a grave crime.

Anonymous said...

On the contrary, thank God and Morgan for some common sense on this whole issue. I can't see why people with no knowledge of the matter should be allowed to discuss it on the same level as the people chosen, who actually know tings :). I've read some of the stuff put out by some of these idiots and it's on much the same level as David Irving and the Holocaust. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but what we need are informed opinions, not just plain prejudice.

Max Ritchie said...

Can I get this right? Only approved legal scholars are to be allowed to debate New Zealand’s constitution? It’s too important to be left to me?
Well, I have a view and a vote. I’m allowed to exercise both, drive a car, purchase liquor, go to war for my country and so on, all the things that make up a democracy.
I am appalled that Morgan Godfrey – Lord Godfrey of Thorndon? - would lend his name to this elitist nonsense.

Jigsaw said...

Fantastic- I agree with every word Chris! It's people like Morgan who really worry me.....

Anonymous said...

You want to comment in an uninformed way write a letter to the editor. They love anti Maori stuff.:-).

Jack Scrivano said...

Chris, I think that you are forgetting: 'All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others'. Or was that just a suggestion? Discuss.

Anonymous said...

Kia kaha Morgan. Some of the above commenters are right to be worried about you. You are intelligent, articulate, Maori and young and you represent the future! That's got to be a big worry for a sector of the population!

Simon Connell said...

Why not invite people who "oppose the Constitutional Review" and are likely to "hoe into the Review" to "debate the constitution"?

Because the two things aren't the same. Having a go at the Panel doesn't lead to a productive discussion about what New Zealand's constitution ought to be like.

MaxH said...

Chris, I am not sure if you've looked into the list of speakers carefully enough.

Bruce Harris (in debate 1) has advocated for the status quo - he has written at length about the need to resist a written constitution and would be able to present the opposition to arguments about a written constitution far more eloquently than some of the names you've mentioned. Jack Hodder QC (speaking in debate 2) is a well-known opponent of judicial activism and is a major supporter of parliamentary sovereignty. Stephen Whittington (speaking in debate 4) stood for the Act Party in Wellington Central last election and will certainly provide a different perspective. Michael Mabbett (speaking in debate 5) has a history of involvement in monarchist campaigns. I think if you go along to these debates, you will see "a bloody good argument".

And I am pretty disappointed at your failure to engage with Morgan's points about the intellectual deficit represented by the views of Ansell, Round, Newman, and others.

The speakers chosen for these debates are given a platform, and a certain legitimacy for these views. I don't think it's so right that people like Ansell, Round, Newman and others are given that platform. They are already successfully voicing their opinions. And their views - on opposing judges, supporting Parliament, advocating for the monarchy, etc - are already represented by some of the speakers on these panels, as anyone would discover after doing a bit of research on each of the speakers.

Anonymous said...

Chris, you have just won me over from the right and I am now a fan.

WWallace said...

Utter arrogance on the part of Morgan, et al, to vilify and rule out those with opposing views. In a proper debate, the merits of ones arguments are held up to scrutiny. The crackpots become visible in the light of counter-argument.

Keep it up, Chris.

Anonymous said...

Morgan states "Everyone is entitled to a view in a democracy, but not all views are entitled to equal weight".

Obviously Morgan is blessed with an intellect so superior he is able to weigh an opinion and pronounce it culturally safe or inappropriate for our ears, because ideas and opinion should never be freely expressed to succeed or fail on their own merit.

It can be a time consuming job disparaging the views of lesser men, especially now with international trends in shifting domestic circumstances: the international context of multicultural bicuturalism and the post-shifting in a demographic settlement . (i.e. think way more yellow)

With that sort of workload Morgan would likely support a program run by say a Ministry of Public Enlightenment,to assist him identify those expressing incorrect ideas or thoughts. Thought-crimes if you will.

Naturally those holding these incorrect views could be re-educated in camps specially tailored for the simple minded and confused folk like Dr Newman( PhD Math) and Professor Round (LLB Hons) who cannot see the logic that "equality equals racism" and that "indoctrination is consultation" Yes that will bring us all together.

What's next Morgan ..James Cowan book burnings?.

Paul said...

Morgan states "Everyone is entitled to a view in a democracy, but not all views are entitled to equal weight".

Obviously Morgan is blessed with an intellect so superior he is able to weigh your opinion and pronounce it culturally safe or inappropriate for our ears, because ideas and opinion should never be freely expressed to succeed or fail on their own merit.

It can be a time consuming job disparaging the views of lesser men, especially now with international trends in shifting domestic circumstances: the international context of multicultural bicuturalism and the post-shifting in a demographic settlement . (i.e. think way more yellow)

With that sort of workload Morgan would likely support a program run by say a Ministry of Public Enlightenment, to assist him identify those expressing incorrect ideas or thoughts. Thought-crimes if you will.

Naturally those holding these incorrect views could be re-educated in camps specially tailored for the simple minded and confused folk like Dr Newman( PhD Math) and Professor Round (LLB Hons) who cannot see the logic that "equality equals racism" and "indoctrination is consultation" Yes that will bring us all together.

What's next Morgan ..James Cowan book burnings?.


Anonymous said...

The Great and the Good indeed. You couldn't find a better example of "Groupthink" in action. Claudia agrees with Geoffery who agrees with Matthew who agrees with Moana who agrees with Margaret etc etc
Shameful really. Its such an important issue and deserves to be treated with greater respect and fairness.
David (another one)

UglyTruth said...

The needs and traditions of the VUW muppets are light years from the constitution. The NZ civil system is based on fraud, with no connection of substance to the law of the land. Calling the VUW discourse a debate is an insult to reasoned and relevant discourse.

The remedy is to return to the original principles of English common law, the principles that parliament omits in its hollow description of common law.

Carol said...

MaxH It is only right that people who are articulate, knowledgeable in constitutional law, knowledgeable in our history as a country, both pre and post the Treaty of Waitangi, knowledgeable of the impact of laws but whom may hold some views that are counter to those of a party that very few voted for last election (around 2%) and whom may not even be in the next parliament, SHOULD be represented in these 'Indoctrination debates'.

To say that Newman, Round and Ansell are already successfully voicing their opinions is hardly fair.
For a start some of those on the indoctrination panels are themselves already voicing their opinions... and have too much authority with little or no accountability it seems
(such as Orange who condones the forging of Hobson's signature on the false treaty in Te Papa) and who doesn’t appear to understand the significant of the ‘Littlewood Treaty document’ because she's been "too busy" these last 24 years!!!

In addition stating views on blogs and newspaper columns isn’t Radio NZ information which impacts on a lot of people's views.

When the publicity for the 'conversation' says we need to "be part of it", it sounds like it will be a debate pro - con any constitutional changes not a forum when similar views are held albeit of differing vehemence.

If the current panellists are so certain that they reflect NZ's direction and views, inviting the likes of Ansell, Round and Newman would have given them opportunity to publically demonstrate that 'they are right' and the others are indeed "simple minded and confused". . . or the result may be otherwise!

Mr Equal said...

Everyone is equal. No race based favours/handouts/privileges. One rule for all. Not sure how some people construe that as "racist" !!! Maybe they just want to keep their race based favours/handouts/privileges in the hands of maori only. To hell with the rest of us eh?

Leeds have a new manager said...

Hahaha some of those "distinguished scholars" Morgan dreams about made the lies and half truths up they call history and then repeat it. They probably marked their own papers!!

Rob Coers said...

Morgan: if the likes of your thinking is the hope of the Maori future, the Maori won’t have a very fulfilling one.
You are so pitifully in awe of people that have titles and letters with their name that you appear blind to all other opinion.

Yet history shows that they are not always to be trusted to come to the correct conclusions (such as with the man made global warming scenario).
You hold Geoffrey Palmer up as a superior voice on treaty law issues yet he was the fool who enshrined a draft English version into law which is nothing like the only true treaty, the Te Tiriti O Waitangi written in Maori.

Hobson made it quite clear that this is the only Treaty that counts.
Does Palmer know more than Hobson about the Treaty?

Then Geoffrey Palmer fabricates the Principles which are a legal stupidity based on a false Treaty. Then he sets himself up in business sorting out the mess he created.
I would call his service to the NZ public on Treaty issues abysmal.

Oh yes, then we have Claudia Orange, the world famous historian on the 1840 treaty era . . . who still can’t work out the significance of the final Treaty draft – known as the ‘Littlewood Treaty draft’ – only the second most important document in NZ behind Te Tiriti.

It took one of these ‘tool box garage historians’ you refer to that you say is not good enough to be heard as he has no title or letter around his name to do so . . . but Martin Doutre thoroughly investigated the true history surrounding the Littlewood Final draft with irrefutable evidence and even discovered three copies of the final draft in America and how they got there – that’s true historical investigation!

When Claudia Orange was presented with this evidence she claimed she was ‘far too busy’ to bother with this the final Treaty draft despite it now being 24 years since it was discovered.

So much for the experts that you say are the only ones who should be heard!
I’d bet that John Ansell knows more of our true Treaty history than most New Zealanders put together.

So Morgan, hopefully one day you will realise that fancy titles and letters after someone’s name assuredly does not necessarily mean high morality or ‘job well done’.

This is why the people you name absolutely should be heard in a debate about the Treaty. I agree with Chris Trotter that there’s nothing like a real debate to get to the truth and have understanding.

John Ansell said...

Morgan, you arrogant little snob:

I challenge you, Dame Claudia Orange and any other NZ historian of your choosing to an Actual Treaty Debate (as opposed to Claudia's Te Papa travesties).

I'll draw my team-mates from David Round, Dr John Robinson, Mike Butler, Martin Doutre and Prof. Martin Devlin.

If you know what you're talking about, you should be jumping out of your skin at the prospect of publicly humiliating your opponents.

(We certainly are.)

So put up or shut up. Yes or no?

If you're too ignorant or squeamish to front up yourself, by all means nominate a Paul Moon or a Dame Anne Salmond as your replacement. Anyone, anywhere is fine by me.

Crazyhorse.nsw said...

The likes of Godfery and Orange wont come out and debate, they throw there muck from behind trees then run away, they cant and wont debate with the likes of John Ansell because they know the history that they preach is more akin to childrens fairy tales and to stand toe to toe with someone who is talking facts and the truth would be the debating equivilent to suicide.

Leeds have a new manager said...

Only in NZ can a man who demands equality and an end to race based handouts be labelled a racist. Make no mistake, the maori Party are very organised in their ways of trying to discredit anybody who threatens their race based advantages. Like a spoiled bully, they have dictated too long to their cringing fellow Kiwis. As when bullies get their comeuppance, it takes one to make a stand and more gradually follow. I challenge you (no, not with a boring haka) to take up Mr Ansells challenge and have a debate. Watsamatter?? Too chicken?!

Anonymous said...

It has been forgotten that the ToW is quite a basic document, hastily written in 1840 at the request of many Maori who could see the need to end their violent culture by being embraced into an advanced civilisation. It served that purpose quite effectively, and then became irrelevant. It certainly did not envisage any other "principles" than to put all New Zealanders on an equal footing as citizens of the British Empire. All signatories understood that very well, and to argue otherwise is disingenuous and divisive. The Treaty certainly must not be seen to form any part of a Constitution for NZ - that was never intended.

Morgan Godfrey has a real problem with that reality. He is articulate, but he makes the mistake of assuming that also makes him intelligent and well educated; clearly he is neither, and can safely be ignored by anyone possessing at least basic common sense.

john robinson said...

Dr John Robinson:

The situation in New Zealand is extremely serious when two-people separatism by race is preached and those who would say with Hobson, "Now we are one people" are called racists. That is why many of us have studied and published books, such as my "When two peoples meet" and the six authors of the key "Twisting the Treaty". These works are carefully argued and thoroughly referenced.

We are ready to debate but the grievance industry has all the positions of power. Claudia Orange has set up a propaganda series of "debates" at Te Papa and has refused my challenge made in person to her for a real debate where all sides of a question are heard. I do not have control of "our place", she does and misuses her power. Like John Ansell and others I am ready to exchange information. We have learned a lot from one another and are ready to go. The Treaty industry is scared of the truth.

Irene said...

Having listened to the NZ Centre For Public Law Constitutional Review Debate on 8th April a number of matters have become clearer to me.
There are influential voices such as Harris that reason that constitutional change should be a slow and very carefully thought out process with transparency being of paramount importance. Others, such as Orange, Palmer and James that think it should be more "visionary" and based on influencing the young and impressionable through "education".
Although there are perhaps eight key areas that are outlined for discussion, iwi groups will in addition, be introducing concepts such as the "Rights of Indigeneous People" and be drawing on the experience of other external jurisdictions. It is likely iwi will also be advocating for a bi-cameral or 2nd legislative chamber. (And god forbid should this as an iwi construct manifest itself.
So, if we aren't all discussing the same matters, nor in fact, do we have equal opportunities to do so, how can the results of the constitutional review, be anything but flawed?

John Ansell said...

Morgan? Claudia? Anyone? Hello...

Looks like we've won by default, John.

And Paul Moon had the nerve to say on Willie Jackson's show (after I'd debated with Jackson for two hours, no less) that "the other side is not prepared to debate"!

It's time we booked Te Papa and had our Actual Te Papa Treaty Debate.

If Morgan won't show his face, and if Claudia won't make the long trek downstairs, we'll debate their photos.

Helen said...

We all know why the likes of Dame Claudia Orange, and others won't debate this very important issue. They know the true facts, which are being suppressed and re-written, and don't want others who don't yet know of them to learn what they really are.

John Ansell, John Robinson, Martin Doutre and others have meticulously researched our past and what they don't know isn't worth knowing.

So, all of those who oppose what they have to say, please front up,and have a proper debate so we can all hear your views backed up with evidence and make up our own minds. You have nothing to fear if you are confident in your beliefs.

It could be very telling indeed.

tony montana said...

Simple question:

How come it takes a 10-person committee two years to eke out just the core of 'the right' constitution for New Zealand. But the 10-persons and 2-years of research are only as good as the unofficial ragtag translation of a one-page document thrown together by some navy brass working as a team of one over something like 2 nights, a cuppla hundred years ago, 'on a beach' somewhere in the Pacific. [You're kidding right?]

How about we throw the rag-tag historical document aside where it belongs, and if we do need a new constitution (how many times have we said that we don't want one) then let it be a real, new document designed from scratch in the 21st Century and for the 21st Century.

Keep te tiriti where it belongs - with Claudia - in her sandpit, and in an historical display case.

prism said...

Well I went to a meeting held for a constitutional discussion addressed by Bruce Moon, one of the anti-Treaty and nay-sayers you list in your article. It seemed he wanted to do a rehash of everything done to progress Maori entitlements of past years. If that's the type of discussion you have in mind count me out. I don't want any of the bile that these political bigots spread around. NZ needs better than a lot of miserable types in-fighting and slanging Maori.