Herald on Sunday column, 8 May 2011

Deborah Coddington's picture
Submitted by Deborah Coddington on Sat, 2011-05-07 22:13

[I also wrote that to be consistent, Brash should be targetting special courts such as the Employment Court and the Family Court, but this was edited out, for some reason.]

Treaty stands firm amid redneck one law vote bid

By Deborah Coddington

We're going to hear one-law-for-all ad nauseum in the next six months, but what does it mean? Let's start unpicking the seams.

As the Herald's John Armstrong wrote, new Act leader Don Brash's intention is to "renew his long-time onslaught on Maori separatism and what he sees as the misguided notion of 'partnership' as somehow being conferred by the Treaty".

Go back to 2005 when Brash, as National leader pushing his one-law-for-all policy, promised a "shake-up" of government agencies set up to deal exclusively with Maori or Maori issues.

This included Te Puni Kokiri, Te Mangai Paho, the Maori Land Court, the Waitangi Tribunal and the Office of Treaty Settlements.

Furthermore, as part of jettisoning this so-called partnership and moving towards our being "one people", he said references to the Treaty of Waitangi and Treaty principles in legislation were a source of divisiveness and "had to go".

I don't see Brash as racist, just artless. He said he would dump the Ministry of Women's Affairs but he has mostly trained his guns on race-based government departments.

Shouldn't one-law-for-all policy also obliterate other specially-tailored departments and courts, such as those that are age-based or occupation-based? There goes Child Youth and Family, the Children's Commissioner, Veteran's Affairs and the Retirement Commission.

Some might dismiss my argument as reductio ad absurdum but I'm trying to point out Brash can't posit his one-law-for-all policy as an excuse for dumping Maori-only departments and say it's not racist.

Furthermore, if Brash did manage to expunge all references to the Treaty and Treaty principles from legislation, it would have no material effect on the law.

The Treaty of Waitangi was signed by two parties. That is a fact of our history, whether people like it or not.

And Brash might like to chat with caucus member Roger Douglas about what happened in 1989 when his government adopted the "Principles for Crown Action on the Treaty of Waitangi" following Sir Robin Cooke's Court of Appeal judgment deciding on principles.

Included in the principle was the acknowledgement the Treaty did indeed establish a partnership - which did not mean fifty/fifty - and both partners have a duty to act reasonably and in good faith.

I consulted high up the Supreme Court food chain this week and confirmed nothing Brash promises will alter the effect of the kawanatanga or the rangatiratanga principles. The Treaty exists independently of all legislation. Brash is just appealing to rednecks for votes.

Article Three, which is often cited in defence of one-law-for-all, roughly means all New Zealanders are equal before the law. Do Maori get special treatment, as is claimed, by programmes such as Whanau Ora - "underpinned by racist policies", as Muriel Newman said at Act's March conference?

Maybe if you're ideologically pure it's better to leave Maori topping the child abuse statistics, crime and incarceration rates than spend money at the top of the cliff.

But Whanau Ora has nothing to do with inequality before the law. One-law-for-all is emotive nonsense. We have all sorts of varied laws for different categories of the population, age being the best example. Will Act, under Brash, get rid of the legal age for drinking, voting and obtaining a driver's licence?

If Act is serious about equality before the law it could take a cue from its mate Cameron Slater, who has waged a personal campaign against name suppression.

There is no need for name suppression except in sex abuse cases when the victim might be identified - but often the courts hand it out to those with the wherewithal to argue skilfully.

In the past week, two professional women, a barrister and a doctor, were convicted of drink-driving. The barrister, Sandra Grant of Auckland, had 11 court appearances, was represented by two QCs and fought for name suppression and a discharge without conviction.

The doctor, Lisa Edwards of Tauranga, a union negotiator, also sought discharge without conviction and name suppression. In the end, both were unsuccessful.

Neither wanted their future careers jeopardised. Fair enough, but I doubt an unskilled, seasonal worker, roughly-dressed Maori woman would get past first appearance in the courts.

Equality before the law is fertile ground for a campaign. But one-law-for-all is just unprincipled.


Apples and oranges

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Does he believe there should be a drinking age or one-law-for-all when it comes to the legal age for drinking, driving, and taking drugs, for that matter?

You're not comparing like with like. The drinking age is not a violation of one law for all. It applies equally to everyone. If there were an exemption for Maori, that would violate one law for all. (The question of the wisdom of having a drinking age at all, or if so, what it should be, is of course entirely separate.)

Is your article intended as an apologia for preferential treatment for Maori?

Yes, Linz,

Deborah Coddington's picture

But that's not what Brash is advocating. It would be interesting to see his answers if pushed on this. Will he jettison these courts, or these other government departments? Is this Act policy under Brash? What is his stand on the drinking age? Does he believe there should be a drinking age or one-law-for-all when it comes to the legal age for drinking, driving, and taking drugs, for that matter?

By the way, did you see Wodney declare on the Nation, to Duncan Gardner, this morning that "I'm a Libertarian"?

I think that I, with all my "back-sliding" and "going soft", could safely call myself more of a libertarian than authoritarian Hide.

What's Solo Thrust?

By all means ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Shouldn't one-law-for-all policy also obliterate other specially-tailored departments and courts, such as those that are age-based or occupation-based? There goes Child Youth and Family, the Children's Commissioner, Veteran's Affairs and the Retirement Commission.

Hurrah!!!!!!!!!! Bring it on!!!!!!!

I disagree with this article for reasons already canvassed. One law for all is the correct policy.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.