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David Round

Time to Say “No” to Treaty Claims

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There is an old joke, which I am afraid I have used more than once on occasions where speeches may be required to run along very familiar lines, in which one remarks that ones job as a speaker is a little like the challenge which faced Elizabeth Taylor’s eighth husband on their wedding night ~ he knew what to do, but he didn’t know how to make it interesting. Something similar, I fear, must be the lot of those who write on the subject of the Treaty. There is only so much to be said. After that one can only repeat oneself.

But that is all right, because, as we are surely aware by now, repetition is necessary. Our opponents are not susceptible to rational argument. It is necessary, therefore, to repeat ourselves until we are blue in the face, because merely being reasonable and rational does not work. Treatyists phrase their claims in the language of rights and what they are entitled to; but then, to paraphrase slightly Mandy Rice-Davies’ immortal words, they would say that, wouldn’t they? As Jeremy Bentham reminds us, ‘rights’ are what people talk of when they want something and have no other argument as to why they should get it. Simply saying ‘I want it. Give it to me’ is not enough, and to admit their own laziness and covetousness would be counterproductive. So they say ‘We have a right to it’ ~ and if they say that often and loud enough then people may believe it. And then, once enough people do accept it, then the battle is won. They have a right to something? Then no further discussion is possible. There is only the duty to hand the thing over. Not even a thank you is necessary. (Have you, by the way, ever heard a ‘thank you’ after any Treaty ‘settlement’?) Our rulers certainly seem to believe the claim of Maori rights ~ either that, or they are cynically selling us down the river for no more than brief naked political advantage. Opinion poll after poll makes it clear that the immense wave of support for Don Brash’s Orewa speech (which, let us not forget, many columnists still commenting today instantly condemned at the time as a ‘racist’ tactic which New Zealanders would not support) was no flash in the pan but expresses the abiding belief and good sense of the country.

Some sort of enchantment has bewitched our rulers ~ our politicians, most of them, and the little self-reinforcing clique in the capital of bureaucrats, commissioners and what passes for an intellectual class. Treaty claimants are, obviously, motivated by the most blatant self-interest, yet it never seems to occur to our self-righteous rulers that this might be a good reason to look at their claims with some scepticism. The unthinking worship of the Treaty and acceptance of every increasingly outrageous claim allegedly based upon it cannot be explained in rational terms. Reason is immaterial. We produce good arguments (we modestly think) as to why neither law, justice nor commonsense require our current policies. Our arguments are never faced. No-one argues back. We are simply ignored. Our arguments are dismissed without a moment’s consideration, as the ideas of people of stupidity and ill-will. This is very frustrating. It is also very foolish. Pressure is building. Sooner or later we will get our point across. But by the time our rulers do actually start to take their democratic duties seriously, immense damage will have been done, and our nation will be not only sorely impoverished and deeply racially divided but also in a very angry and impatient mood.

The debates over the place of the Treaty in our law, constitution and national life are not legal debates. Maori prefer to phrase them in legal terms, because ~ they would, wouldn’t they? It would do their cause no good to see their claims revealed in their greedy racist nakedness. Far better to say, with an air of sadness and patience ~ and just a little hint that perhaps the patience might be starting to run out ~ that this is just a matter of law. All Maori want is what they were promised, what they’re lawfully entitled to under our legal system. And hey, who could complain about that?

But claims are not a matter of law. They are ~ I say this not as metaphor, but as actual fact ~ they are the colossal programme of confidence men, accompanied by carefully-judged doses of hard luck stories, flattery and menaces. It is highly convenient to disguise them as law, and Maori as artless lovable hard-done-by innocents, but it is not true. That is why, as I said on Close-Up with Mark Sainsbury the other night, Treaty claims will not end until we say ‘No’. It is not the case that there is, somewhere, some clear agreed list of ‘Things that Maori are entitled to by the Treaty’, and that once that everything on that list is ticked off we will all be living together happily again. The Treaty, as I have argued , says nothing at all about these things, and the list is being made up as we go along. Every time we agree to another demand, another completely new one is tacked on to the end of the list. We were assured that after historical treaty claims were (yet again) settled, that that would be an end of the mater, but that was a lie ~ or, much the same thing, politicians’ promises. (You may have noticed Willie Jackson on that same Close-Up saying openly that there would be no end to claims for ‘historic injustices’.) The foreshore and seabed was never mentioned as an injustice in those Treaty claims ~ but once the big Treaty settlements were done, it was time for that one. Then there was the United Nations Declaration on the extra ‘rights’ which the United Nations has discovered are possessed for all time by people whose ancestors arrive in the country six hundred years or so before the next lot of colonists. That simple fact magically gives their descendants extra rights for ever (although, equally mysteriously, it does not give European New Zealanders whose ancestors arrived 170 years ago any superior rights to immigrants who just stepped off the plane yesterday.) And now there is the claim of sovereignty, of course ~ the claim that Maori should actually be in charge of this country which the pioneers and their descendants, our ancestors, slaved away over a century and a half to build. If we are ever foolish enough to hand that over then New Zealand will be utterly and irrevocably stuffed. Yet that is where the forthcoming ‘constitutional review’ is leading us.

Treaty claims, of one sort or another, will never end until we actually say ‘No’. It is not going to be enough just to continue to be patient and wait until the end of the list is reached, because it will be reached only when our country is completely ruined ~ and the fault for that ruin, of course, will also be laid at the White Man’s door. Do not believe for a second that Harawira, the great socialist, is opposed in principle to the sale of public assets. He is quite prepared to see state-owned assets privatised ~ as long, that is, as they are transferred free of charge or at knock down prices to him and fellow members of his race. Yet, as I also said on Close-Up ~ forgive me for repeating myself ~ New Zealand and the world are entering very hard times, completely unprecedented in the experience of any of us in this amazing age of plenty ~ and in those hard times we will simply not be able to afford a fraction of our current generosity. Maori will have to start looking after themselves and pulling their weight. But they will not like that, or even be able to do so, probably, given their present state, imprisoned in the soft bigotry of low expectations and enfeebled by unthinking, wasteful and deeply addictive taxpayer generosity. And we will have far fewer resources even to look after ourselves, let alone support a growing bandwagon of spongers. So one way or another there will probably be an explosion. Not Guy Fawkes, but Parliamentarians themselves, are busy laying the barrels of gunpowder down right now.

Our innocence is our curse. We like to think of ourselves as better than the rest of the world ~ innocent, generous, trusting, kind. Other nations’ soldiers kill people ~ ours hand out lollies to children. We want to be universally loved. This is our national folly. Look at The World’s Fastest Indian, for example ~ a lovely little film, but also a deeply pernicious one. There was Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins), the innocent abroad in the United States , trusting everyone, and no-one took advantage of him. Our stupid national delusion is reinforced, that ‘as long as you’re nice to everyone else they’ll be nice to you’ Trust and believe everyone, and nothing bad will ever happen. That may, or may not, have been what actually happened to old Burt ~ but it is not what happens to everyone else. But we believe every hard luck story unquestioningly, and we are therefore the easy gullible prey of any plausible rogue. Treaty claims become increasingly outrageous ~ but we, instead of telling these con-men where to get off, simply wring our hands guiltily, roll over and say ‘**** me again, brown man’. Maori radicals, I am sure, often simply cannot believe their luck at the stupidity and gullibility of the nation they are so blatantly fleecing.

Hone Harawira, Willie Jackson and their sleek well-dressed cuzzies maintain that Maori have a ‘special place’ in our country’s laws and constitution. The claim was even made on Close-Up that I had somehow failed to mention that Maori have special ‘constitutional rights’ now. It is true, I did not mention that, because I have never heard of these special rights. (I do not think we can classify the Maori seats, say, or special mention in the Resource Management Act and other statutes, as special ‘constitutional rights’.) We get the impression, to put it bluntly, that Mr Harawira’s, and Mr Jackson’s, understanding of Treaty principles is that those principles entitle them to sit on their big fat backsides and be waited on hand and foot by everyone else. This puts the case too colloquially for sensitive ears, but it seems to be a pretty accurate summary. It is Metiria Turei’s cry that Maori want ‘independence ~ and more funding’. When Maori get sovereignty, they will be able to enforce these rights as they please. At present, however, they still claim that they are entitled to them because the Treaty offers them a privileged status as partners of the Crown. How many times have we heard it? ‘The Treaty is about partnership.’

The Treaty is not about partnership. The Treaty never mentions partnership. The arrangement the Treaty describes is the very opposite of partnership. The Treaty says that the Queen has sovereignty, and that Maori are her subjects like everyone else, enjoying the rights of subjects as everyone else is and bound by the law as everyone else is. The Treaty says this in the English version, and it says this in the Maori version. Do not feel bamboozled by plausible Maori talking about ‘kawanatanga’ (enjoyed by the Crown) and ‘rangatiratanga’ (to be enjoyed by Maori, and now maintained by Maori sovereignty advocates to mean ‘sovereignty’). Both these words are missionary words, unknown before then in the Maori vocabulary, and invented by the missionaries who translated the draft Treaty into Maori for the purpose of expressing in Maori the meaning of the English draft. The idea that the translators, honest men knowledgeable in the Maori tongue, would deliberately translate the Maori version of the Treaty to mean something different from the English version they were working from, has only to be raised for its absurdity to be apparent. Maori knew perfectly well what the Treaty meant. It did not mean partnership. In 1860 the great Kohimarama Conference, attended by over two hundred chiefs, including many who had signed the Treaty, very firmly repeated their acceptance of the Queen’s sovereignty. Any uncertainties about sovereignty which might have existed in 1840 would certainly have been dispelled twenty years later.

The idea of ‘partnership’ only appeared in 1987, when five judges of the Court of Appeal, called upon to interpret the brand-new concept of ‘Treaty principles’, which Parliament had just inserted in the State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986, spoke in several places of partners and partnership. It is absolutely clear, however, that the judges did not intend the words to have the weight of politically-charged and even seditious meaning which is now loaded onto it. The words were used very loosely and generally ~ ‘partners’ was used interchangeably with ‘parties’ to mean no more than the parties to the Treaty ~ a ‘partnership of races’ was also spoken of, not (as is now alleged) a partnership between Maori and the Crown. A partnership between Maori and the Crown is constitutionally-impossible nonsense. It would have to mean that Maori are not the Queen’s subjects (as the Treaty says they are) but the Queen’s equals, and therefore not subject to her government. (And who, then, would be subject to this government of Crown and Maori treaty partners? Why, non-Maori, obviously, and them alone. The inevitable consequence of a Maori partnership with the Crown simply has to be the inferior subjugated status of non-Maori New Zealanders.) In a later case even Sir Robin Cooke, obviously worried by the implications which Maori activists had chosen to read into his foolishly-phrased 1987 judgment, specifically said this ~ that the words partners and partnerships had not, in 1987, been used by the Court in a strict narrow legal sense. Indeed, he pointed out that even in actual legal partnerships there were senior and junior partners. The 1987 case also recognised as another Treaty principle the duty of obedience to the laws and loyalty to the Queen’s government, which is hardly consistent with ‘partnership’. Of course it is in the interests of Maori to tell us about partnership. But do not automatically believe everything that everyone tells you. Sacred Scripture, if I might offer that in support, advises us that we should be ‘as innocent as doves, but as wise as serpents’. We should be good people, if we can; but we are not called on to be gullible. On the contrary.