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Dr Greg Clydesdale

Will this Government End Political Correctness?

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This week, the Race Relations Commissioner expanded his mandate. No longer content to give certificates to school girls opposing right wing politicians, he is now entering the super-city debate. In fact, it seems there is no issue that Joris de Bres believes is beyond his influence.

De Bres justifies his activities by the broad interpretation he gives to race relations. It seems that any difference of opinion between a minority ethnic group and the majority is a race relations issue. In theory this istrue because two races are relating, but it is not what the Human Rights Act was designed for, nor is it in the spirit of act. The legislation aims at issues that threaten racial harmony, not every issue involving more than one race. De Bres interprets his function so broadly that tax payer funds are used for political causes.

Most New Zealanders recognise the need for an office to deal with racial discrimination, but de Bres goes far beyond this. He channels tax-payer resources into political issues. The irony is, we live at a time when racial ill-feeling has reached a level we have never been seen before in this country. In south Auckland, every Asian knows or knows of someone who has been a victim of Pacific Island crime. This has fuelled a rise of ill-feeling that has fallen under de Bres’s radar. Notably, this ill-feeling in south Auckland does not involve white people. The Race Relations Commissioner ignores these very real issues of racial ill-feeling, preferring to focus on political issues. When true race relations issues arise, his office appears impotent.

De Bres appears to have a bias for issues that involve white people. This can be seen in his reluctance to do anything when Hone Harawira made racist comments that generated 752 complaints. De Bres originally hesitated, quoting freedom of speech, and only acted after an avalanche of criticism. However, when I personally noted that Pacific Island migration was fuelling the development of an underclass, he had no hesitation in acting. After only two days, he started a campaign that included four public meetings and wrote a 65 page report attacking me and my university. He did this even though he received no formal complaints. It seems freedom of expression does not include white academics.

At a time when the government is looking for ways of reducing expenditure, the Race Relations Commissioner has drawn attention to himself in a way that cannot be ignored. It is possible that he has exceeded the spirit of his functions as described in the Human Rights Act; if not, they are too broad. It is also possible that New Zealand is too small to justify a full time commissioner. Racial discrimination cases could be handled by the Human Rights Commission.

The Human Rights Commission was created in light of New Zealand’s commitment to a number of conventions on human rights and discrimination. At a time when the government is evaluating government efficiency, it may be time to re-visit the Commission’s functions to see to what extent our office goes beyond our international commitment.

The Human Rights Commission also has broad functions that allow it to venture beyond handling disputes. For example they, have an Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner who writes reports on women’s labour participation. There is clearly duplication with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. However, when the government considered ending this duplication by examining whether we need a Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the propaganda began. The Minister made an announcement that the wage gap between men and women still exists.

The Minister’s announcement suggests that the Ministry is still needed. However, this masks the obvious. Her statement acknowledges that despite 25 years of action, the Ministry has failed in its goals. When Anne Hercus created the Ministry she never expected it to last so long. It has pro-longed its existence by its failure to achieve its goals. When assessing the use of tax funds, we must not judge a department by its intention, but by its effect.

No thinking person can take a racist standing in today’s society. Yes, there are racial differences; Polynesians are stronger, some groups of African descent can run faster, but with what we know about neuro-plasticity, it is hard to hold a view that someone is mentally inferior. The brain’s biological structure is such that all humans can re-wire their brain and achieve great potential. Neural pathways are built by daily activity which puts the spot-light on culture passed through parental behaviour. Some cultures do a better job at developing their member’s potential than others.

Culture is an issue that we should be able to discuss as it is man-made and can be changed. Some cultures provide welfare for their members better than others. Similarly, some cultures are more compatible than others. For that reason some migrants do better in NZ than others. Sadly, the threat of being labelled racist means it is hard to discuss this issue.

One distortion of the racial equality issue is the value we now place on ‘diversity’. We are in a politically correct age where diversity must be valued. We are told that an ethnically diverse population is more desirable than a bi-cultural or homogenous society. However, if we are truly colour blind, a workforce of one race would be as desirable as one with many races. In reality, diversity is no better than a homogenous society. In some circumstances it can be an advantage, but in many others it can be a problem, particularly when cultural and language differences create conflict. By definition, different cultures have different values and this can create a sense that one culture is rude or inferior; a recipe for conflict.

Many Chinese employers are aware of the importance of culture and the problems with diversity. They prefer to employ fellow Chinese workers, but if a white New Zealander employs on the grounds of cultural similarity, they are accused of discrimination. The Office of Ethnic Affairs wallows in this debate. It uses your tax payer money in an attempt to tell New Zealanders that diverse organisations are more productive than those that are culturally homogenous – this simply is not borne out by the facts.

Understanding the dynamics of cultural shift can also affect our explanation for much of what we see today. For example, Maori economic potential might not be great, but when we fully understand the complexity of moving from a tribal society to a market society in a hundred years (whites had 2000 years), Maori and Pacific people appear relatively successful. However, for more improvement, we need to identify culturally inherited behaviours that inhibit success. Hence the phrase “I blame the parents”.

The New Zealand government treats culture in a simplistic manner. A multi-cultural society is valued more than a melting pot society in which people become one. In a melting pot society, all members are accepted regardless of their race, but they are expected to adhere to that society’s rules. In such a society, we would expect migrants to come to NZ and try to assimilate. Under a multi-cultural society, there is no need to assimilate.

Although both melting pot and multi-cultural societies reject racism, government departments tell us that a multi-cultural society is superior. There is no logic to this. It is merely a political view imposed on New Zealanders, and it runs the danger of leading to un-wanted change in New Zealand culture, which raises the questions ‘does NZ culture have merit and should it be protected?’

The government department in the vanguard of multi-culturalism is the Office of Ethnic Affairs. Its position is not politically neutral, but reflects the politically correct views embodied in multi-culturalism. It is time to question whether tax payer funds should be used for this purpose. Perhaps it is time to stop placing diversity on a platform and become truly colour blind.

Middle New Zealand has had enough of political correctness, but these values are embodied in many government institutions. If the government used its efficiency campaign as an opportunity to cull political correctness, it could be a substantial vote-winner.