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Dr Muriel Newman

Race Relations Commissioner Should Go

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The Prime Minister has said that New Zealand has far too many state agencies for a country of our size. He’s not wrong. It’s one of the reasons why government spending has escalated out of control.

With the government looking for new ways to save money, last week’s extraordinary announcements by the Race Relations Commissioner have highlighted an opportunity to save more than $10 million a year – abolish the office of the Race Relations Commissioner and the parent body, the Human Rights Commission and merge their functions into the Ministry of Justice.

The release this week of the Race Relations Commissioner’s report – Tui Tui Tuituia, Race Relations in 2009 – has shown how expendable his Office is.[1] Instead of addressing racial discrimination, his report advocates for race based seats on the new Auckland Super-City Council (as well as race-based representation on District and Regional Councils), in spite of the fact that the issue has been considered by the Government and a Select Committee of Parliament and rejected.

The Commissioner does not seem to understand that in a democracy like New Zealand, which is essentially colour blind, people from all ethnic groups have every opportunity to be elected to public office. There are many examples of credible candidates from so-called minorities gaining office on their own merits – see Breaking Views: Race based Seats on Councils. People who aspire to public office don’t need patronising, they need encouraging!

But the bigger issue here is that race-based privilege is something the Race Relations Commissioner and the Human Rights Commission should be actively opposing. By promoting racial superiority and separatism, they themselves are in breach of the spirit of the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which forms the foundation of New Zealand’s human rights laws.[2]

In reading through the Race Relations 2009 Report, it is evident that the Human Rights Commission sees everything through a race-based prism. According to them, the disproportionate rise in unemployment amongst minority ethnic groups is a clear demonstration of “racial inequality”. This race-based view fails to take into account a general lack of qualifications and the glaring truth that the many New Zealand industries that employ unskilled labour have become far more vulnerable to economic downturn over recent years, as a result of changes to industrial relations laws introduced by the former Labour Government.

In fact, the answer to this unemployment problem is not more ridiculous race-based regulation, but a firm focus on improving education and training, as well as the re-introduction of the freedom of contract to make it easier for employers and employees to freely negotiate mutually acceptable employment terms and conditions, without any need for the interference of the state – or the Race Relations Commissioner!

In its Report, the Human Rights Commission even tries to blame racism for the fact that over a half of all prisoners in New Zealand jails are Maori. There is no doubt that the figures do indeed paint a grim picture of the source of serious crime within our society – of the 8,244 prisoners in our 20 prisons on December 31st 2009, 50.75 percent were Maori (4,184), 33.52 percent were European (2,763), 11.94 percent were Pacific Islanders (984), 2.47 percent were Asian (204), with 1.32 percent prisoners of either an unknown or other ethnicity (109). For the race relations watchdog to try to blame the fact that Maori commit over half of the crimes serious enough to land them in jail on racism is a complete and utter cop-out.

Interestingly, the Report goes into some detail about the government’s “Drivers of Crime” project, and while it mentions family dysfunction, poverty, child maltreatment, poor educational achievement, harmful drinking and drug use, poor mental health, behavioural problems, and the intergenerational transmission of criminal behaviour, it fails to mention welfare dependency. This is an astonishing omission since official figures from 2002 showed that some 3,200 welfare benefits were cancelled due to imprisonment at a time when the prison population stood at around 5,800.[3] This shows a strong link between welfare and crime. In other words many of New Zealand’s worst serious offenders are using welfare to fund their criminal lifestyles. That means that if the government was to get serious about fixing welfare by rooting out the fraud and abuse that is now entrenched in the system, they would go a long way towards fixing crime at the same time.

This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator – with an article entitled Will this government end political correctness? – is Dr Greg Clydesdale, a senior lecturer in the Department of Management at Massey University, who has had first-hand experience of the activities of the Race Relations Commissioner having been a victim of a vicious attack over research he published in 2008 which showed a Pacific Island underclass is developing. It was an extraordinary assault by Joris de Bres that clearly demonstrated the danger to society when unelected and unaccountable officials are given too much power by the state.

“This week the Race Relations Commissioner expanded his mandate. Joris 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.”

In his article, Dr Clydesdale highlights the threat to public harmony caused by the doctrines of diversity and multiculturalism: “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.

“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 question of whether a nation’s culture needs protecting is at the heart of a controversy that you might have heard about that is presently raging in Holland. A Member of Parliament, Geert Wilders, who leads the Freedom Party, is being prosecuted in the Dutch courts for exercising his right to the freedom of speech by criticising Islamic jihad, saying that it poses a major threat to Western civilization. Further, he strongly opposes the views of ‘cultural relativists’, who promote the notion that all cultures are equal, stating categorically that it is not racist to say that your own culture is better. As a result of his outspokenness, Mr Wilders is attracting strong support and believes he could be in line to become the county’s new Prime Minister after the elections in June.[4]

The problem here in New Zealand is that there are many issues to do with culture and the sort of country we want to live in, that are being strongly influenced from abroad. Government agencies like the Human Rights Commission – that are proactively promoting Maori separatism, diversity and multiculturalism – are in effect doing the bidding of the United Nations, by pushing for their agenda to be adopted domestically.

That’s why in its Report the Human Rights Commission is pressing the government to adopt the UN’s radical Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, even though it is a shockingly racist treaty that even the Labour Government found it couldn’t support.[5] Promoted by the Maori Party and – astonishingly – being seriously considered by John Key, if the silent majority of New Zealanders really understood what this Treaty stands for, there would be an uproar!

It also explains why the Commission is advocating for the Treaty of Waitangi to be enshrined in a constitution – no doubt along with the Maori seats – and why in the past it pushed for the Treaty of Waitangi (along with Maori cultural and spiritual values) to hold a central place in our school education curriculum. These are all parts of the UN’s agenda for New Zealand.

There is no doubt that the Human Rights Commission – and the Race Relations Commissioner – have become conduits for radical ideas that are now damaging the social fabric of society and seriously harming the goodwill that has existed between races in New Zealand. They are agencies that have outlived their useful life. In the cost-cutting review of the public service that is presently being carried out by the government, they should be targeted for disestablishment with any residual functions still deemed necessary, transferred to the Ministry of Justice.

1.Human Rights Commission, Tui Tui Tuituia: Race Relations in 2009 
2. United Nations, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
3.Hansard, Parliamentary Questions  
4.Geert Wilders, Speech to the House of Lords 
5.No Mandate for Rights Declaration