Tuesday 4 May 2021

Shaken and Stirred: The Left Reacts To Judith Collins’ Race-Based Politicking.

Extremely Moderate: That was the “problem” with Judith Collins’ address to the National Party’s Northern Regional Conference on 1 May 2021: its totally unexpected moderation. This was no bilious outpouring of racial hate – quite the reverse. With a degree of political subtlety and tactical agility that did both Collins and her speechwriter, Michael Forbes, credit, the speech left Labour with nothing but questions to answer. 

THE REACTION to Judith Collins’ speech to National’s Northern Regional Conference (1/5/21) was always going to be instructive. It would signal just how seriously National’s opponents took both Collins and her race-based politicking. A flat line on the political seismograph would indicate complete indifference: proof that the National Party leader’s strategy was out of time, and that she, as Leader, was running out of luck. Were the seismograph’s needle to flutter, however, National would know that it was on to something.

And flutter it did. Not wildly, admittedly, but enough to register something large and dangerous shifting deep underground. To give the Prime Minister credit, she was careful to let Collins’ speech pass without comment. While undoubtedly registering the seismic shock, her instincts told her to pretend that she hadn’t. Prime Ministers have surrogates to do that for them. Dutiful as ever, Kelvin Davis let loose the necessary slings and arrows – as did Jacinda’s Pavlovian poodles in the Press Gallery. Given the quality of Collins’ speech, they really had no choice.

Because that was the “problem” with Collins’ address: its totally unexpected moderation. This was no bilious outpouring of racial hate – quite the reverse. With a degree of political subtlety and tactical agility that did both Collins and her speechwriter, Michael Forbes, credit, the speech left Labour with nothing but questions to answer. Difficult questions about the contents of He Puapua, the report of the secretive, Cabinet-appointed working group established to develop a plan for bringing New Zealand’s state institutions into conformity with both te Tiriti o Waitangi and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“The Prime Minister needs to explain why Labour has been busy implementing He Puapua’s recommendations one by one”, Collins stated in a follow-up media release, “without sharing this wider plan with New Zealanders.”

This is clever politics. We live in an age of mistrust. Fewer and fewer citizens have much faith in their country’s political institutions anymore. Fewer still have faith in the reliability of the nation’s news media – as a study released last week by AUT’s Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy makes clear. Plant a seed of doubt in the voters’ minds about the Labour Government’s secretive “wider plan” for New Zealanders and watch it grow into a thornbush of paranoia.

Collins knows that Jacinda’s only hope of preventing that seed from sprouting is to dismiss He Puapua as just another of Labour’s many, many working party reports; and to reassure New Zealanders that any changes to New Zealand’s core constitutional structures will only ever be undertaken after they’ve been endorsed by a binding referendum. Except, even these undertakings offer Labour only the most fragile of defences. It was, after all, Helen Clark and Margaret Wilson who abolished appeals to the Privy Council and established the Supreme Court of New Zealand without holding a referendum. Moreover, it was precisely because referenda kept quashing attempts to set up Maori wards, that Jacinda’s government rushed through legislation denying local voters that option. On these matters, the public has every right to be sceptical.

Collins also knows, or, at the very least, suspects, that throwing He Puapua over the side of Labour’s waka might prove to be a great deal harder than it sounds. If Labour’s Maori Caucus’s “Plan A” was a full-scale assault on the homelessness, joblessness, ill-health, incarceration-rates and general despair of so many of their people, then it has failed. Both Jacinda and her right-hand man, Finance Minister Grant Robertson, made it clear, very early on, that the rapid “transformational” effort required to move the dial on Maori deprivation was a fiscal bridge too far for them to contemplate. That made the slower, but much deeper, transformations set out in He Puapua, the Maori caucus’ “Plan B”. If Jacinda, bowing to pressure from National and Act, tosses He Puapua overboard, then Te Paati Maori will invite the Maori electorate to, once again, draw their own conclusions about the wisdom of expecting a Pakeha party to prioritise Maori concerns.

The truth is that Labour, just like Saint Peter, does not wish to be caught denying the messianic He Puapua, just as David Seymour and Judith Collins commence crowing.

If anybody knows this, then it’s Jacinda’s former Chief-of-Staff, and the current Director of the lobbying firm Capital Government Relations, Neale Jones. Sitting alongside his fellow Wellington insider, Brigette Morten, on this morning’s (3/5/21) Nine-to-Noon “Political Panel”, it was Neale who finally indicated exactly where on the Richter Scale, Collins’ political earthquake registered. And it was high. High enough, in fact, to thoroughly rattle Mr Jones who, unlike the identically named hero of Bob Dylan’s Ballad of a Thin Man, knows exactly what’s going on here.

Which is why, presumably, from the moment host Kathryn Ryan asked him for his take on Collins’s speech, Neale started throwing bombs. The Leader of the Opposition, he insisted, was guilty of “racist fearmongering”; engaging in a “toxic form of politics”; and had concocted her very own “conspiracy theory”. This is not the sort of language your average capital city insider generally uses to describe a political event of no impact or importance. On this occasion, I think it’s fair to say that the man licenced to kill Labour’s foes (at least rhetorically) was both shaken and stirred.

Perhaps the most disturbing element of Neale’s critique was his characterisation of any attempt to critique the rangatiratanga agenda of He Puapua and its ilk as illegitimate and sinister. It was difficult to avoid the conclusion that if Neale had his way this kind of “toxic” politics would be impermissible: a form of “hate speech”. As a line of argument, it is chilling: conveying the impression that some kinds of politics – most particularly the politics of Maori-Pakeha relations – should be considered “out-of-bounds” and strictly controlled.

Listening to this morning’s “Political Panel”, I found it impossible not to imagine Brigette Morten sitting in the RNZ studio with a grin as wide as a Cheshire Cat’s. Seeing, as we, the listeners, were hearing, Neale’s discomfort, Morten must have recognised just what a winner Collins has picked.

The National Party leader’s May Day address, unlike Brash’s Orewa Speech, will not be a sky-rocket – hauling National’s poll numbers up into the electoral stratosphere. No, He Puapua and all it stands for will be a slow-burner, spreading underground like a peat fire until, finally, it surfaces in clouds of acrid, choking smoke.

In the immortal words of Rachel Hunter: “It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.”

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 4 May 2021.


Anonymous said...

Most Kiwis still regard segregated, race-based services as racist, including most Maori.

Despite the incredible amount of propaganda being produced, Labour is going to have a tough job convincing Kiwis, of whom vanishingly few are critical race theorists, that segregation leads to just outcomes.

oneblokesview said...

I have to smile when Journos, including your good self,reference Collins Speech as race based politicking..... as a negative.


First. She is addressing a Race based report, ergo how else could she reference it?

Secondly, her number one job as leader of the opposition is politicking in the age old reference "keeping the government to account". This government, it would appear seem to be implementing the reports recommendations by stealth.

So, please journos, use some other clickbait headline.
Maybe ""Judith Collins addresses governments hidden agenda?""

Kat said...

"Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mrs Collins..........?

John Hurley said...

Paul Spoonley argued (2003) that editorials on political correctness (freedom of the press) were a threat to free speech:

But in attacking the motives and methods of those involved with cultural safety, and in marginalising the reasons for the inclusion of cultural safety, notably the very poor service Maori have received from health services in general, it was inevitable that cultural safety would be cast as the villain in the media dramatisation. This raises important questions about the role of the media in defending traditional and, in this case, Pakeha values against any sort of change which might provide Maori with different and more appropriate services. We would also argue that the freedom of the press inhibits the freedom of speech in important ways.

And the whole issue is Critical Theory and the principles of Post-Colonial Theory that lead to that conclusion. Understanding and accepting that is what is marginalised.

What we are seeing here is laid out in Paul Spoonley's Recalling Aotearoa

As a moral background it sets out to propose, that of all the possible understandings of our history, the best is one which begins with the colonisation by the British of another people’s land. Further, the most morally valuable events since then have been those of Maori resistance to Crown sovereignty in the name of tino rangatiratanga, together with those recent events (both in practical politics and in people’s minds) which are able to be expressed as part of a history of continued de-colonisation, the tide of which continues to rise, and which the reader is urged both to recognise and to swim with. All other events and thoughts tend to be dismissed as self-seeking, obtuse and insensitive. Such a background is asserted rather than defended; and it is probable it cannot be defended in the authors’ own terms, which are perspectival and relativist, and ill-equipped to deal with truth claims. ["BS"]
Against this background, the authors’ more precise prescription is that Aotearoa/New Zealand, should-recognising (and ’recalling’) the facts of past and present-remodel itself as both a bicultural and a multicultural society. It should also re-constitute itself as a bi-national polity in which Maori, as the indigenous nation of the land, become true partners with Pakeha ’at the level of official languages, national images and symbols, prevailing agendas, and institutional frameworks’. Such a partnership should not, though, detract from ’multiculturalism in providing due recognition of ethnicity in New Zealand’. The process of change, the authors warn, will not be easy because of ’resistance from vested interests and established agendas’; and a state of ’uncertainty and expediency is likely to persist until such time as conventional thinking accepts ’recalling’ partnership between two consenting peoples, both of whom are sovereign in their own right, yet inextricably interlocked as partners in jointly exploring post-sovereign possibilities’. The book is, in post-modern parlance, an ’intervention’ in the cultural politics of our country.”

Andrew Sharp
University of Auckland

Graham Adams said...

Chris, thank you very much for dragging this issue out into the open, as you did with your article on interest.co.nz last month — and issuing a challenge to Act, in particular, to not pass He Puapua off as just another report.
I'm not certain the issue would have gained traction without your article.
It certainly galvanised me into researching the topic and writing about it.

David George said...

Despite the denials (Ardern and Little & Co) the government strategy does seems to be to implement He Puapua, it's intent and it's substance all the while claiming it's nothing to do with that toxic document. We are being lied to, a carefully constructed, pernicious, series of lies.

The agenda is clear, it's already been activated. On the installation of unelected tribal representatives to Wellington Council:

Cr Jill Day, one of two legitimately elected part-Maori councillors, said: “This is just a small step, but we need to make a start.”

Just a start – really? It’s anyone’s guess where Day envisages it leading to, but anything’s possible once you sever the vital, direct connection between voters and those purporting to represent them.

The council’s decision alters the basis of local government so profoundly that the word democracy, which hinges on people electing their representatives, will no longer apply. Once you start dismantling the checks and balances that ensure councillors are elected by popular vote under a transparent process, and can be tossed out if they don’t measure up to the people’s expectations, the line has been crossed between democracy and some other form of government for which we haven’t got a name.

How will the iwi representatives be chosen, and by whom? We don’t know.

Who will they be accountable to? That, too, is unclear. But we can make a safe guess that it won’t be to the wider public or the ratepayers who will fund their salaries, and who pay to keep the city functioning (after a fashion). The iwi representatives will owe their loyalty to the runanga, tribal leaders or hui that choose them. Whatever this is, it’s not democracy.

Still to come, of course, is the introduction of Maori wards – a change facilitated under urgency with virtually no warning by a dishonest government, and one premised on the palpable falsehood that the only way Maori can get elected to councils is through the creation of a voting system that treats them as different, with special needs.

Wellington City Council, like many others, took advantage of the sneaky law change by voting in favour of the creation of Maori wards, knowing the decision could no longer be thwarted by a referendum, as it has been elsewhere. But Jill Day and her youthful, activist fellow councillor Tamatha Paul are living, breathing proof that Maori candidates don’t need Maori wards to get elected.


John Hurley said...

New Zealand aspires to be the first country in the world to develop and implement a Declaration plan to measure our progress in addressing indigenous rights and interests.

New Zealand provided a submission to assist EMRIP in 2021 by giving some recent examples of progress made and challenges faced in increasing the self‑determination of Māori in Aotearoa. An overarching message is that Māori are working on what the next steps for the realisation of higher levels of self-determination could look like, and the New Zealand Government is looking to strengthen partnering approaches in supporting this.

David George said...

Those intent on introducing this are too ashamed to be forthright with what they are doing. What does that tell you?
Lifting the lid on the lies regarding the implementation of Te Puapua:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should front up to the people of New Zealand about what has and has not been decided on a plan for two governments in New Zealand, one for Maori and one for everyone else, Hobson’s Pledge spokesman Don Brash said today.

Yesterday, ACT leader David Seymour revealed that a Cabinet Paper has been drafted about the next steps on He Puapua, a Cabinet-commissioned report which aims to give effect to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

On Monday, the New Zealand Herald reported that Ardern said that “the report put forward has been received by the Minister but has not gone before Cabinet and does not necessarily represent the views of Cabinet.”

Today, Seymour said that written questions to Maori Development Minister Willie Jackson confirm that he received three papers last month including a draft Cabinet Paper for feedback.

He also said that Health Minister Andrew Little is claiming that the Maori Health Authority had nothing to do with He Puapua when the submission to the UN says the Maori Health Authority and Maori Wards are examples of “practices and initiatives either already underway or to be established that can support the attainment of self-determination consistent with the Declaration.”

Either the Prime Minister is unaware of what is going on in front of her in Cabinet or she is aware and is not telling it as it is, Dr Brash said.

A plan for two governments in New Zealand, one for Maori and one for everyone else, monitored by a tribal committee, is a major constitutional change that can’t be sneaked into existence, Dr Brash said.

An open, honest Prime Minister should at least be straight with the people she represents, Dr Brash said.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Most Kiwis still regard segregated, race-based services as racist, including most Maori."

Anonymous said...

"One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool."

George Orwell


greywarbler said...

This He Puapua matter is very disturbing. There are dreamy hotheads around that consider a matter can be solved by one new law, one action, eg that all will be well in the social welfare scene if the housing problem can be dealt with. Unfortunately there are layers of dark matter underneath every curative that must be exposed and remedied. No sweeping changes are going to put the country securely on its feet, perhaps on one foot. And expectations being aroused unduly would be disastrous considering the generation of work that would be required to attain a NZ that would be fit for all citizens' purpose.

In Nelson oral submissions on our ten year plan are being held. I had noted I wished to do so, expected an email notice, find they are proceeding right now, have tried to phone and got what is usual 'We are receiving a higher than usual volume' and finally got through to someone who was a human voice mail, receiving but ignorant of any information. Is this the pattern for NZ - all smoke and mirrors - but actually behind a facade? There seem to be remote people making expedient decisions that satisfy a cabal of fixers, and an elite obsessed with capital accretion; leaving the rest of us with boots of concretion - helpless, going nowhere.

John Hurley said...

Blogger Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Most Kiwis don't regard segregated, race-based services as racist, including most Maori."


The Barron said...

Muldoon scolded the NZ Post telephone worker when she answered the pone "kia ora". That worker has become a Dame, and few areas of NZ communication is this not normalized at the highest level. Much of our cultural syncretism has simply naturalized into who we are and where we are going. Legislation has usually caught up with societal changes, not forced the changes through legislation.

The post-election Republicans have spent all their limited political capital tell the right press what the Binden Government are going to do. The latest is ban barbeque meat, for the record - they are not. The other trick has been scrambling for company decisions based on what they seem the consumer tends are for their brand. The Republicans blame the Government for Mr Potato Head and Dr Suess. Don Jnr blames Biden for the Muppets being cancelled - they are not. The electioneering Republicans, spent most of their time telling tall stories of what Biden would do if elected.

I think of our own 2020 election, National spent most of the debates not promoting their own rather limited policy, but telling Labour what they planned to do without telling the electorate. Most of this was farcical and scaremongering. The electorate voted.

Now National believe they can get traction by 'exposing' reports to Cabinet before they have been considered, and pass these off as Labour's secret squirrel plan. Unfortunately, issues arise - the Government get experts to put together a report. That is then considered by a Minister or a group of Ministers. That will be also reported back to Cabinet with recommendations. The Cabinet may take a position and the appropriate Minister's office may draft legislation. By now, the wider caucus and support parties have been given a chance to comment.

If it goes before the House, it will go to select committee. Public submissions will be called for. Between the public, the committee and the House changes can be made to a Bill.

He Puapua is a report at the beginning of consideration. A response and was required from our signing to the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples. What ever proceeds from the report is way down a track which has consolation at every turn.

I hope our politics does not continue to follow the party of the elephant. I would much prefer to debate things a government is doing (and especially debate what it should be doing), rather watch panic over wild 'what ifs'.

CXH said...

Guerilla, certainly unable to prove either way at present. However, considering the protests that developed over racial segregation in South Africa years ago, the likelihood of a majority considering it wrong and racist is high. Or we have changed a lot in the ensuing years to become a people that supports oppression and advantage along racial lines.

David George said...

The Barron: "He Puapua is a report at the beginning of consideration.......... what ever proceeds from the report is way down a track which has consolation (sic) at every turn"

That is what you would like to believe but, despite your misleading and unnecessary preamble, completely wrong.

Many of the recommendations of the report have already been or are being implemented. Indoctrination of children with a partisan history curriculum, separatism in health, justice, welfare, education, democracy, local body governance, resource management, housing and child protection. The plan for a separate, unaccountable(?) parliament has been denied, for now at least.


Phil said...

A read of He Puapua and easy to the get the impression the Government has started the implementation process by some margin. National for once have behaved like an Opposition party and done their job well.

The Barron said...

...and yet devoid of any direct correlation for any of that with He Puapau. David, that the government and society are embracing a progressive approach to Maori and indigenous rights is not because Cabinet has become a secret cabal but simply the direction New Zealand has been developing towards for decades.

The Barron said...

The idea that the education advisors and history teachers, health advisors, local government advisors, legal advisors and welfare officials have all based their Ministerial advice under the direction of a single paper, that few cabinet members (inc. the Minister of Health and Treaty Settlements) have read speaks to a coordinated conspiracy beyond the capability of the NZ civil service and government.

Still, given the Government freeze on public sector wages, now is the time to reveal those darkened meetings huddled around the He Puapau report, sworn to secrecy, as they plan the 'indoctrination of children with a partisan history curriculum, separatism in health, justice, welfare, education, democracy, local body governance, resource management, housing and child protection'.

David George said...

I'm happy to concede that some level of separatism has been in place for decades, the Kura Kaupapa schools for example but, no, there has been little or no general debate or consultation into much of these recent changes. The removal of the right to petition on structural changes to local authority make up for example or any of the changes I mentioned above come to that.
The He Puapua report was completed two years ago, it was kept hidden and only became generally known (heavily redacted) thanks to an OIA request, further digging was required to unearth the thing in it's entirety. Further, and damningly, there was no mention of any of this at the last election. A "secret cabal"? Looks a lot like one.

A "progressive approach"? God help us if a divided future is seen, by those in power and their apologists, as progress.

David George said...

From Chris's essay on The Daily Blog today:

It took a journalist of Richard Harman’s insight and experience to identify the real reason. Writing on his Politik website, Harman put it like this:

“[S]ources close to NZ First believe the decision to keep He Puapua from Cabinet was deliberate. Once it had gone to Cabinet it would have been seen by NZ First’s four Cabinet Ministers and they would have been able to campaign on it; veto it and thus kill it. But now, NZ First are out of Parliament and the document is public.”

Like all shrewd observations, when you see it written down in black and white Harman’s conclusion seems obvious. Had Peters known of its existence, he would have fallen upon He Puapua as a gift from God. No one has a more fearsome reputation for “fighting Maori separatism” than Winston."

So yes, hidden but by who? Despite their feigned innocence it's obvious the senior Labour party leadership were aware of it's contents, were keen on it's implementation and aware that it would be toxic to a large swath of their (deceived) voters.
Secret Cabal or open and transparent government?



Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Guerilla, certainly unable to prove either way at present"

Then why say it?

" However, considering the protests that developed over racial segregation in South Africa years ago, the likelihood of a majority considering it wrong and racist is high. "

The situations are completely different, and even if they weren't, it doesn't necessarily follow.

"Blogger Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Most Kiwis don't regard segregated, race-based services as racist, including most Maori."


I certainly did John, and this is why I don't read most of your posts.

John Hurley said...

[25:00] Katryn Ryan suggests that it won't get Collins far as she is playing to a demographic that already votes for National.

On an earlier interview she tells Andrew Holden [3:40] she excuses pushing agendas on a need to serve "a diverse range of people that you're trying to serve"


Next item up was The Detail on Hate Speech.

It confirms that they are gunning for speech that has a "societal effect". As Chris pointed out "multiculturalism is state ideology".

Of course if it is so robust it doesn't have to ban argument/evidence to the contrary?