Wednesday 10 August 2022

The Way We Used To Want It – And, Maybe, Still Do.

Representing Pakeha Racism: The important thing to remember about Rob Muldoon, and the racist policies with which his name is associated, is that he drew his power from the hundreds-of-thousands of anxious, angry, and yes – racist – Pakeha who voted for him, and that his most effective campaign slogan was:
“New Zealand the way 
YOU want it.”

GREEN MP TEANAU TUIONO hopes to introduce a Private Members Bill repealing the Citizenship [Western Samoa] Act 1982. The Act, introduced by the National Government of Rob Muldoon, and supported by the Labour Leader of the Opposition, Bill Rowling, prevented Samoans born between 1924 and 1949 from exercising the rights of New Zealand citizenship.

Had the legislation not been passed, the decision of the Privy Council (then New Zealand’s highest court) affirming the New Zealand citizenship of all Samoans born when New Zealand exercised a League of Nations “Mandate” (later becoming a United Nations “trusteeship”) over Samoa, would have stood, and tens-of-thousands of Samoans would have enjoyed free entry to New Zealand.

Yet to be drawn out of the Private Members Bill “lottery”, Tuiono’s proposed legislation would presumably restore the citizenship rights of Samoans born between 1924 and 1949. Obviously, this would encompass a much smaller group of people than was the case in 1982. Samoans born in 1949 would today be 73 years old – coincidentally the average life expectancy of a Samoan citizen.

In much the same way as the formal New Zealand Government apology for the notorious “Dawn Raids” of 1974-76, Tuiono’s PMB would stand as a marker of both condemnation and regret for the racist policies inflicted upon Pasifika by the New Zealand state.

Given that any legislation would, after 40 years, be almost entirely symbolic – i.e. only a handful of Samoans would be in a position to take advantage of their restored New Zealand citizenship – the Greens stand to lose very little by their endorsement of Tuiono’s gesture. Slightly more challenging for the Greens’ would be the following counterfactual.

Let us suppose that Tuiono’s bill passes, and citizenship is restored to Samoans born between 1924 and 1949. Then, let us further suppose that a new legal case is mounted, and that the New Zealand Supreme Court ultimately determines that the Samoan descendants of the New Zealand citizens born between 1924 and 1949 are also New Zealand citizens. Suddenly the number of people affected by Tuiono’s legislation jumps from hardly any, to a just about all of Samoa’s population of roughly 200,000.

In these circumstances, the Greens would be faced with the same political dilemma as Labour’s Bill Rowling in 1982. Should they uphold the law and welcome 200,000 new citizens to Aotearoa-New Zealand, or, should they bow to the deafening racist clamour for closing the country’s borders to what would be, in effect, an entire Pacific nation?

Back in 1982, Rowling chose the second option. He calculated that Labour would sustain much less damage, electorally, by throwing in its lot with National, passing the legislation quashing the Privy Council’s judgement with all possible speed, and simply living with the loud moral objections of their Pasifika supporters and the increasingly vociferous anti-racist movements of the time.

As well as, it must be said, the loud objections of Labour’s own youth wing, whose president, Sean Fleigner, released a statement bitterly critical of his own party’s capitulation to the undisguised racism of Pakeha New Zealand. For this gutsy demonstration of moral fortitude, Sean and his fellow Dunedin radicals received a “visit” from the party’s dynamic young president, Jim Anderton, who, no doubt acting on Rowling’s instructions, warned them against any further gestures of public defiance which, in addition to being unsupported by all but a handful of party members, and therefore doomed to fail – were bloody embarrassing to the Leader.

Some young New Zealanders will be appalled at Labour’s open collaboration with the Rob Muldoon depicted in the 2021 television series about the Polynesian Panthers. The very same Rob Muldoon who set New Zealander against New Zealander by refusing to ban Apartheid-era South Africa’s Springbok Rugby team from touring New Zealand in July-August 1981. But, what appears outrageous with the benefit of 40 years hindsight, was almost always perceived very differently by the people living at the time.

The Privy Council’s bombshell decision had been handed down in September 1982 – barely twelve months after the civil strife that so shocked and dismayed New Zealanders the previous year. In a manner oddly foreshadowing contemporary New Zealanders’ determination to avoid any further lockdowns and just “live with” Covid-19, the Kiwis of 40 years ago wanted no more unpleasantness about racism, and were keen to put all the violent passions of 1981 behind them. Very few voters would have thanked Bill Rowling and Labour for dying in a ditch over the Citizenship [Western Samoa] Bill – and expecting them to do the same.

Labour’s concern for what was in the minds of its (overwhelmingly Pakeha) supporters was no less influential in March 1974 when Norman Kirk set in motion the policies that would culminate in Muldoon’s draconian Dawn Raids of 1976.

Kirk and his government were acutely aware of how deeply unpopular his decision to ban the scheduled 1973 tour of the Springboks was among Labour voters. While the Commonwealth Games held in Christchurch in January-February 1974 had given his government an enormous boost (which wouldn’t have been the case if the Springboks’ tour had gone ahead) Kirk was anxious to reaffirm Labour’s attachment to his country’s longstanding “White New Zealand” immigration policy. With the economy faltering, and mass unemployment threatening, sending the “Islanders” home appealed to his government as the least electorally damaging option.

Difficult though it may be to accept, such openly racist policy-making enjoyed solid bi-partisan support. Following Kirk’s death in August 1974, the anti-Pasifika feeling only intensified. Indeed, between September 1974 and November 1975, when Muldoon’s National Party decisively defeated the Labour Government, New Zealand shifted sharply to the right. Over the ensuing months, the New Zealand electorate expected – and was treated to – some of the most retrograde and vicious policy-making in New Zealand’s political history. The Dawn Raids were just one aspect of White New Zealand’s backlash.

Watching The Panthers television series, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Polynesian Panthers played a critical role in the Dawn Raids drama. The truth is they were never more than a minor irritant to the authorities. In spite of their name, they experienced nothing like the level of repression visited upon the Black Panther Party of the United States – most of whose leaders were either murdered by the Police and the FBI, or incarcerated for lengthy periods.

The Panthers’ obsessive focus on Muldoon unhelpfully obscures the fact that most New Zealanders were more than happy to limit Pasifika immigration. Politically, the Dawn Raids offered the public dramatic proof that the Government was “doing something”. Having demonstrated the requisite “hard line”, Muldoon quietly wound the theatrics down. By 1977 it was all over.

Herein lies the virtue of putting the Greens to the test of an historical counterfactual: to see whether they fully appreciate just how deeply racism remains embedded in the Pakeha population. Socially liberal New Zealanders have either forgotten, or been given the wrong information, about their country’s recent past. Much has changed since the mid-1970s and early 1980s – but an awful lot has remained the same.

It’s easy to say “sorry” when your apology can be made without political cost, and in the absence of a political leader capable of harnessing the popular resentments and prejudices it might inflame. 

The important thing to remember about Rob Muldoon, and the racist policies with which his name is associated, is that he drew his power from the hundreds-of-thousands of anxious, angry, and yes – racist – Pakeha who voted for him, and that his most effective campaign slogan was: “New Zealand the way YOU want it.”

White and Right.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 9 August 2022.


Archduke Piccolo said...

'New Zealand the way YOU want it!' Don't you just hate it when politicians take your name in vain?

The Barron said...

My understanding is that the children born before 1978 to those deemed NZ citizens would be able to apply for NZ citizenship by descent. So Samoans born before 1948, and their children born before 1978 would automatically qualify.

I know of no other developed country that passed a bill to strip thousands of legal citizens of their citizenship as the Muldoon government did (Chris being quite right that Rowling was an accessory). It was a wrong legally and morally. It should be remembered, the Privy Council confirmed the citizenship on the eligible Samoans as the legal historical and on-going status. Muldoon and others went to sell it to the public that the Privy Council had suddenly made the Samoan citizenship. That is as ridiculous as suggesting the Privy Council as the highest court made someone innocent. The court decides the legal facts, and on those people will be deemed guilty or innocent, citizen or non-citizen.

It is unlikely Tuiono's bill will be picked or passed, but if so it returns a legal status. If resources are required, so be it. Prior to Covid19, Immigration to NZ was between 48,000 and 64,000 per year. The passing of Tuiono's bill would make little substantive change. If the citizenship status was opened to all Samoans as is the case for the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau we would cope well enough, the infrastructure of Samoa would take adjustment though.

Archduke Piccolo said...

The amusing thing about this country's attitude towards the near Pacific Islands - one of benign(?) neglect, is the mounting concern being expressed about China's growing influence over the island nations. Personally, I don't 'get' it. The United States has pretty much assumed since at least WW2, and possibly since as far back as 1898, that the Pacific Ocean it its own swimming hole. And look what benefits that has brought!

Yeah. Right.

But let's pretend that this country's concern about China's policy in the Pacific is well-founded - or at least, not altogether misplaced. Then maybe this repeal of the 1982 Citizenship Act ought to be looked at with a favourable eye to offering NZ citizenship to all Samoans. Having said that, one might also be forced to ask what might be the consequence to Samoa. I'd hate to think that 'doing the right thing' by Samoan people might mean 'doing the wrong thing' by Samoa.

Maybe this country needs to take a good hard look at its own Pacific policy - supposing it has one something in the way of 'regional development', perhaps, to complement a revolving door policy e.g. for education, training, business development, and such?
Ion A. Dowman

David George said...

Comment on UnHerd by Penny Adrian

"I was volunteering with homeless people in downtown Austin during the protests against Trump’s immigration policies. Every week, I saw people with dementia, head injuries, and psychosis sleeping in their own feces under the 6th street bridge. I saw mentally ill women being trafficked behind dumpsters (some economically privileged men “get off” on the depravity of street prostitution – it’s considered a “kink” that should not be shamed. Grrrr..). Yet I saw no one protest on behalf of those who were suffering right on their own doorsteps.
I begged the downtown churches to offer their sanctuaries to the city as spaces where homeless women could be sheltered at night (homeless women are raped multiple times a year, and “disappear” with horrific regularity). The churches refused, even though their large buildings sit empty every single night while homeless women – many of them elderly – suffer and die outside their doors.
These same churches, who refused to provide sanctuary to their disabled neighbors, put up big signs advertising their support for immigrants and sanctuary cities for undocumented people. Their hypocrisy made me choke.
To the “woke”, poor people in the USA are not worthy victims – especially poor people who are white and conservative (almost all of the homeless people I worked with, including black, hispanic,and native american homeless people, were deeply religious and expressed fervent support for Trump).
The “woke” only care about attractive victims, not victims they can actually see, hear, and smell.
That’s why the “woke” care so much more about historical slavery than they do about the modern day slavery (sex trafficking) happening right under their noses: historical slaves only exist in books and movies, so they all smell sweet, have perfect teeth, and are visually appealing. Modern day trafficking victims have bad breath, broken teeth, severe addictions, inconvenient opinions, and horrific body odor. Who wants to help THOSE people? It’s easier to just shrug them off and say “sex work is work”.
Anyway, thank you for expressing concern for the poor and working class in the USA, and not sacrificing their interests to serve your own ego, as the “woke” love to do."

Guerilla Surgeon said...

And if any of this is taught in schools – and some of it used to be, don't know if it still is – there will be moral outrage and cries of Critical Race Theory. Because in the words of the meme, (which you still can't post here and I would urge the organisers of the site to maybe modernise it a bit)

"They're not against Critical Race Theory, they just don't want to explain to their kids what Granny is doing in the background of that pic from social studies class."

It doesn't have quite the same impact without the picture, but I'm sure you can either use your imagination or Google it.

Anonymous said...

You cannot see Muldoon’s (or Kirk’s) political stance in isolation. Look closer at the economic situation at that time, too. This was a time of global oil shocks, inflation, and the associated employment issues that went with it. Muldoon was responding to an electorate who were fearful of jobs disappearing and saw the economic threat of supporting a migrant population from the Pacific during a period of high unemployment, worried also about the potential rise in crime. That the segment of the population who wore the brunt of their decisions were not citizens or permanent residents at the time and were deported is construed now as racist. In comfortable economic conditions it was far easier for Ardern’s government to offer an apology for the Dawn Raids than it might have been a year or two later as our economy begins to appear more similar to the 1970s again.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Funny David, 30 seconds of googling uncovers dozens of sites for churches that help the homeless. Of course, there are some run by the "anti-woke" who are against migrants and don't even provide shelter for people forced out of their houses by natural disasters. They rail against migrants and care only for themselves. So there are obviously two sides to the story of which Ms Adrian and yourself are determined to ignore one of them. As usual.

David George said...

Thanks GS, that was from someone, a volunteer, there at the time. There is a link above, you can argue/accuse her directly.

There was a comment (re Penny's) you might like to consider first:

"The thing is, though, they don’t actually care about any *individual* people, at all. They care about the idea of victims that they have have formed *in their own heads*. So it’s very much a form of solipsism, or selfishness, or lack of empathy; that is, that one’s ideas and perceptions of the world matter more than the actual reality of what is happening to real individual humans in the real world.

But what all of us – “woke” or whatever the opposite of that is – need to keep to the front of our minds is that the “they” that I refer to is actually an “us”; that we all can and do partake in this egotistic othering; that he who commits no sin shall cast the first stone; and that there is absolutely no use, truth, justice, love, or beauty in getting ourselves trapped in a false-binary culture war. Doing so only aids and abets the tiny minority of sociopaths who want to control us, just for the sake of it. I know that you were not advocating that but I just wanted to say it."

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It won't let you comment or at least it won't let me comment David. But to be honest, I feel that in the US at least it is the white Christians who operate the victim culture. MTG has just apparently said that the reason why white men watch porn is that they are the most persecuted group in the country. That's beyond delusional.
But Christianity, particularly fundagelical Christianity is all about control. Hence when they do help the homeless, they often force them to listen to a sermon for an hour before they give them a drink and a sandwich.
I would like not to have to fight the culture wars, but I also feel that it's the right who are responsible for them, particularly in the US. They lose absolutely no opportunity to twist things around to score points and "own" the libs.
Interesting though that according to research, politicians and CEOs have a higher proportion of psychopaths or whatever than average. And this is probably best expressed in the extreme right who regard everyone but themselves as of no consequence. This individualism fractures society, you only have to look at the social and economic position of red versus blue states in the US to see the results. Pretty much all of them behind in every metric.