Saturday 19 June 2010

Putting Us In Our Places

No Friend of Dissent: Like many Pakeha politicians who have embraced the Maori Nationalist cause, Attorney General, and Treaty Negotiations Minister, Chris Finlayson, reserves his most deadly venom for those who dare to question the State's race relations policies.

AM I THE ONLY New Zealander feeling less than a respected citizen today? Or that the full and equal protection of the laws no longer applies to me? Am I alone in suspecting that, constitutionally-speaking, something important is about to take place – without the nation’s consent?

What set me to pondering these questions was an extraordinary interview broadcast by Radio New Zealand on Tuesday morning.

Morning Report’s Geoff Robinson was talking to Treaty Negotiations Minister, Chris Finlayson, about the agreement secured between National and the Maori Party over the repeal of the Foreshore & Seabed Act.

Preceding the interview listeners had heard reactions to that agreement from Dr Grant Morris, a law lecturer at Victoria University. Michael Barnett, CEO of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce. And Hugh Barr, spokesperson for the Coastal Coalition – a group devoted to preserving public access to New Zealand’s beaches.

All of these men had expressed critical views of the National-Maori Party deal and Finlayson had been asked to respond to their remarks.

What followed was extraordinary.

Rather than address the trio’s arguments, the Treaty Negotiations Minister immediately launched into a series of aggressive put-downs of his critics.

"I didn’t know that Grant Morris knew anything about this subject," sneered the Minister, "I thought his specialty was legal systems or feminist legal studies." Michael Barnett, according to Finlayson was "just sounding off because it’s Tuesday morning". Hugh Barr received a ministerial tongue-lashing for "writing some crummy article in The Dominion Post which contradicted everything I had told him."

Huffed Finlayson: "I can’t be bothered wasting my time with him."

But, oh, what a difference a change of ethnicity produced in the Minister. When Morning Report asked for his reaction to the Maori MP, Hone Harawira’s, charge that the whole consultation exercise surrounding the Foreshore & Seabed issue had been "bullshit", the Minister couldn’t have been sweeter:

"I’m a bit disappointed in Hone," crooned Finlayson, "because in my opinion he’s a first class chap, and he’s a fantastic MP for the Far North, with John Carter. But one of the things I picked up, from his rohe [tribal territory] actually, was the idea that folk didn’t want to have to go to court, or negotiate, to prove their mana. And I thought that was a fair enough point. So, we’ve added in the universal recognition order as a result of that. So, I think Hone’s a little unfair, with the greatest of respect to him, because I was listening and I was the one who was up on the road hearing what people were saying."

The contrast: in the Minister’s tone; in his careful choice of words; and most particularly in the extreme care he took not to give offence; was, to say the least, instructive.

The Minister’s Pakeha critics: the CEO of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce (an institution not noted for its hostility to National governments); a university lecturer whose comments were measured and utterly lacking in any kind of personal animus; and a champion of New Zealanders’ right to recreate themselves amidst this country’s spectacular natural beauty; were all the recipients of Finlayson’s disdain, and he expended no serious effort responding to their arguments or questions.

How different it was for the Te Tai Tokerau MP. The man who infamously referred to his fellow New Zealanders as "White Motherf***ers" was responded to with "the greatest of respect" because, in the assessment of the Treaty Negotiations Minister, he is "a first class chap" and, like his colleague, John Carter (the National MP who once impersonated a Maori dole-bludger on John Banks’ Radio Pacific talk-back show) is "a fantastic MP for the Far North".

The Minister’s Pakeha critics had dared to suggest that the interests of thousands of New Zealanders had been sidelined in the Government’s rush to reach an agreement with the Maori Party.

As Mr Barnett observed: "We still don‘t know what contact has been made with the recreational and conservation interests, the business interests, the local government interests. But we do know that Government has been dealing with Maori, and that it doesn’t seem to be the so-called ‘balanced’ conversation that they suggested that they were going to have."

Mr Harawira colourfully described this one-sided process as "pandering to the rednecks".

Would that it were so.

This essay was originally published in The Timaru Herald, The Taranaki Daily News, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Evening Star of Friday, 18 June 2010.


Graeme Edgeler said...

"Dr Chris Finlayson"?

Since when?

Chris Trotter said...

Oops! - My bad. I corrected that mistake in the original column. I'll do it again.

Robert Winter said...

I too listened to the dismissal by Minister Finlayson of all except Mr Harawira and that intellectual and political giant, John Carter. It sounded to me like the pique of a much-spoilt child - a Violet Elizabeth Bott moment - derived from a real sense that he (the minister) is above questioning by anyone, including Messrs Barr, Barnett and Morris.

SPC said...

The agreement was designed to protect existing private property rights. So of course those who advocate for access to the Queens Chain are ignored. Ultimately this deal with Maori is part of the same cause - to provide the appearance that there is no discrimination against Maori in the upholding of property rights. Keeping the MP (being developed into a middle class Maori governance class using identity politics to manage the Maori underclass) sweet is important if the class interest cause of the National Party is to be successful.

Anonymous said...

To answer your opening question, Mr Trotter, no you are not. What you have hi-lighted here is just another example of the cavalier attitude this government appears to have towards consultation and citizen participation. I think Finlayson is in good company.

Shona said...

I lived in the Far North for 2 decades. During the 1990's when that drop kick Ruth Richardson was destroying the NZ economy and places like the Far north weren't even a blip on Wellington's radar those of us who loved our community worked tirelessly for nothing more than petrol maoney to keep the community functional. ( School Boards, CBEC, the first NZ recycling centre, Playcentres Adult education coaching sport running school trips , and forever fundraisimg fundraising)Never saw Hone at any of those community initiatives. No money in it eh? But swanning around at the Kura on a full wage revising history and filling young peoples heads with hatred and ignorance,that's where Hone was.
He is a pig ignorant bone idle brain dead racist. A bag of wind turned house nigger.
Finlayson is a first clas drongo who wouldn't know which way the ground was pointing.

Anonymous said...

"The man who infamously referred to his fellow New Zealanders as "White Motherf***ers""

He didn't - he called the people who stole Maori land "White Motherfuckers".

Sam Buchanan

Anonymous said...

In Chile in the l960s the division was between the Catholic party of Edward Frei and the Marxists of Allende. Here in aotearoa the guilty are divided between the Marxist Greens and Clarkites and the catholic and increasingly guilty Nats of Bolger, English and Chris Finalyson old boys and supplicants of St Pats silverstream. It isn't just the ordinary NZer who is being sold down the river by this wet Catholic guilt its all of us. The real need is for a revolt against provincialism and the rural paternalistic values of the Dipton of English or the Timaru of Hubbard as much as Ngai Tahu or Tanui. No paternalism. alturism or paternalism a far preferable motto to any Latin of the church. The issue is of course whose side was Greene on in the Power and the Glory. Allende and Peron of course became increasingly hostile to the power and the glory of the Catholic establishment.

Anonymous said...

@sam Which fellow NZers have stolen anyones land?

Mudwatcher said...

Also from Tai Tokerau, well said Shona.