Why Collins must ignore critics who claim she is playing the race card and keep challenging the PM on the meaning of “partnership”

Left-wing commentators are cock-a-hoop.  Labour is up 2.7% to 52.7%; National is up 1.4% to 27%; the Greens are down 0.8%; ACT is down 0.7%.

In the latest preferred leader poll results, Jacinda Ardern is down a bit but Judith Collins’s support has gone down by two thirds.

On The Daily Blog, Martyn Bradbury posted an item under the heading Why National’s Māori segregation bashing has failed in the polls.

He seized on the responses when TV3 asked voters if they thought Labour was being separatist, and National divisive…

In our latest Newshub-Reid Research Poll, we asked voters: Do you think Labour is being separatist, and do you think National is being divisive?

A majority – 43.6 percent – said no, Labour is not being separatist. 

On the other hand, a majority of 44.5 percent said yes, National is being divisive. That includes 23.5 percent of National voters – one in five think the party is being divisive.

Despite National going on and on and on and on about segregation and separatism the majority have shrugged.

The simple truth is that National’s race baiting isn’t working.

And:

National have squandered what little political capital they had left by actively attempting to rehash racial grievances based on fear rather than genuine criticism. Trying to paint a report as innocuous as He Paupau into a secret agenda to take over NZ Democracy is Qanon lunatic level misinformation and the people of NZ, forged into a unique solidarity by the universal experience of the pandemic, want unity, not division.

At The Standard, Micky Savage hooted:

“Blowing the racist dog whistle clearly is not working.”   

Not working at achieving what?

Left-wing commentators muddy the waters by insisting Collins has mounted a campaign aimed at creating or widening racial divisions.

They contend she has been trying to win political support by enflaming non-Maori passions about – for example – the over-riding of legal obstacles to introducing Maori wards and establishing a Maori   Health Authority to provide better health services to Maori.

But the polls show this tactic has not worked.

Another view is that Collins is asking questions that should have been asked long ago about the Treaty of Waitangi and the concept – a comparatively recent one, its meaning constantly changing – of a “Treaty partnership”.

Most certainly those matters should have been thoroughly discussed with the public before the first-ever co-governance arrangement set a precedent for a flood of them.

Trouble is, it is difficult to avoid mentioning “Maori” when debating such questions about the Crown-Maori relationship.

Does that mean the debate should be scrapped and questioners silenced?

For example, Collins last Wednesday asked the PM about the He Puapua report, when public engagement on its proposals will take place, and what form the engagement will take?

The PM’s response was instructive.  She doesn’t know because Ministers have yet to consider this issue.

But that is why He Puapua were asked to come together and to provide not only their expert opinion on the delivery of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples within New Zealand but actually how we as a Government should engage with the people of New Zealand—

The follow-up was:

Hon Judith Collins: Does she endorse her Minister for Māori Development’s statement last night that he would first talk to Māori to, “see where they see things are going, particularly in terms of the constitution… We want to get their view and then we want the public’s on where we go in terms of the partnership.”?

Yes or no would have done the trick but Ardern obfuscated on whether Maori would be the first to be consulted:

I would be very surprised if, had the National Government fulfilled its commitment in its Cabinet minute in 2014 to set up a pathway to fulfilling the declaration—I would’ve been very surprised if that did not involve engagement with Māori, because, after all, it was meant to be about a pathway to seeing the declaration lived up to within New Zealand, and it is a declaration on the rights of indigenous people. So, somehow, the idea that you wouldn’t talk to Māori about that seems slightly farcical to me.

Ardern was pressed further on the elasticity of interpretations around Treaty relationships and the implications for constitutional and governance arrangements.

Hon Judith Collins: Does she in any way accept the view in He Puapua that New Zealand has two spheres of governance, the Kāwanatanga sphere that represents the Crown and the rangatiratanga sphere that reflects Māori?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I see that as a reflection of the basic principles of the Treaty of Waitangi that’s being reflected there by the members of He Puapua. However, again, you know, I come back to this very simple premise that we spoke about a little bit in the House yesterday: it is 2021. You know, in my view, I think New Zealand generally accepts that we have a relationship between the Crown and Māori that does make us unique. I don’t think we should be afraid about seeing further progress in the way that we build and improve that relationship. My question to the National Party would be: you seemed willing to see that progress in Government; you seem wholly unwilling from Opposition.

Hon Judith Collins: Is this dual Government model what her Minister for Māori Crown Relations was referring to yesterday when he asked her if she agreed with the “comments made at the Iwi Chairs Forum in Porirua on Friday that when kāwanatanga and rangatiratanga work together in partnership, we’ll see great things happening.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I see that all that the Minister for Māori Crown Relations was reflecting are the three principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

That’s when Maori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer revealed she regarded those questions as part of “continued attack on Māori” and asked if it was racist.

The Speaker deemed this to be well outside the Prime Minister’s responsibility.

Collins resumed her questioning:

Does she agree with former Prime Minister David Lange, who stated that “Democratic Government can accommodate Māori political aspiration in many ways. … What it cannot do is acknowledge the existence of a separate sovereignty. As soon as it does …, it isn’t a democracy.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have no doubt that if David Lange had the ability to remark on what we are doing as a Government in the area, for instance, of health reform, he would applaud it. What the member characterises as separatism I characterise as partnership, and it is just unacceptable, I would hope, for any member in this House to stand by while we have a health system or systems across the board that lead to different outcomes for different people in New Zealand. Our job as Government is to make sure that we see opportunity and the potential of all New Zealanders realised, and our current systems do not always achieve that.

Instead of making the changes needed to ensure our current systems deliver the intended results, in other words, the PM would scrap them and introduce new systems.

And now Maori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi rose with a point of order.

Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance and advice. Over the past two weeks, there has been racist propaganda and rhetoric towards tangata whenua. That not only is insulting to tangata whenua but diminishes the mana of this House.

SPEAKER: I thank the member for his point of order. I think I relatively ineloquently made comments in this area last week, and that is that we are a House of Representatives, that there are a broad range of views within the House, and part of my responsibility is to allow those views to be aired. Many things in the time that I’ve been a member of Parliament have resulted in discomfort to other members because the views are very different, and there are almost certainly some views that were expressed earlier in my career that would now be regarded as out of order for the reasons that the member has expressed. In my view, we are not at that point now.

Before Collins could continue with her questions, Waititi was raising another point of order.  This time he was claiming that issues of importance to “indigenous peoples” should be discussed only by “indigenous people”.

He assured the Speaker it was a fresh and different point of order.

“When it comes to views of indigenous rights and indigenous peoples, those views must be from those indigenous peoples for the indigenous rights of our people. They can’t be determined by people who are not indigenous. So what I am asking, e hika mā, to this House—tēnā koe e te Pirīmia—is that if we find this attitude acceptable in this House, the constant barrage of insults to tangata whenua, then I find this House in disrepute and—

SPEAKER: Order! Order!

Rawiri Waititi: —Te Paati Māori—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member’s mike’s off, so he will resume his seat. [Member performs haka] Order! The member will now leave the Chamber.

Rawiri Waititi withdrew from the Chamber.

Collins’ concluded by asking the PM:

Does she agree with He Puapua that our current Government does not reflect the Treaty and that honouring the Treaty requires a rebalancing of the Crown and Māori spheres of governance?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, a demonstration that this was a report—a group that we brought together to provide us with ideas, advice, and their views. It was not a Government report. As that statement then demonstrates, the member cannot have it both ways. I’ll say again what I said last week: we have not yet considered the report, including the views that sit within it.

Racist dog-whistling?

Or matters of huge importance to every citizen as the Government deals with a report that recommends significant changes that deal with sovereignty and the way we are governed?

We say the latter.  Therefore if Collins steps back from asking important questions about the Treaty and its role in policy-making because this is not lifting political poll support for National and her leadership, she certainly would be admitting she has been cynically playing the race card.  And has played a losing hand.

3 thoughts on “Why Collins must ignore critics who claim she is playing the race card and keep challenging the PM on the meaning of “partnership”

  1. The media largely wants the Maori sovereignty debate shut down (as does the govt of course). It’s a shocking attempt to stifle vital debate. Here’s hoping Collins and Seymour don’t let up.
    They must be very well aware that nearly 40% of those polled thought the govt was being separatist (with 18 per cent undecided). That’s a lot of traction given that Collins only raised the topic a fortnight ago and the media has given her mostly unfavourable coverage so far.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You are quite right. Collins is asking questions of the Government about matters that are of tremendous importance for every New Zealander. She has been grotesquely misrepresented by a highly partisan media. She must not be deterred but, along with David Seymour, she must keep holding the Government to account. The Government commissioned He Puapua and regardless of Ardern’s protestations they have begun implementing it without taking New Zealanders into their confidence. As for the Declaration (which was substantially drafted by Cuban diplomats), it is non-binding and New Zealand has no “obligations” under it.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Media are being bribed by Ardern and her mob. It is criminal surely, for government to waste taxpayers’ money procuring favourable narrative from the so-called fourth estate, of which many would no longer survive on merit.

    Liked by 2 people

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