Monday, 28 June 2021

Free Press, 28 June 2021


The Haps

The Government launched a one-month consultation on the Hate Speech laws it signed off in December. Neither the Minister of Justice nor the Prime Minister have been able to explain what it will cover. ACT’s campaign against the laws has been flooded with sign-ups. The Delta variant is wreaking havoc in Australia. With hospitals full, vaccination rates miserly, and testing and tracing no more advanced than a year ago, locking down remains the New Zealand Government’s only defence.

Letter to Andrea

Last weekend Andrea Vance wrote a bizarre piece for the Sunday Star about what David Seymour thinks. The Sunday Star Times refused to run this response, which is a shame. We think it’s an outstanding defence of liberal democracy, and the inherent dignity each person deserves regardless of identity. Here it is special to Free Press readers.

Andrea Vance didn’t call before penning her column about what I think. She probably should have but, in the end, I’m glad she didn’t.

What she provided instead was much more valuable. A window into the mind of a Welly-dweller. She was shocked by hearing from hundreds of ordinary New Zealanders after she criticised the Arden Government.

What did she hear that made her burst into print?

To borrow a phrase, a basket of deplorables. People who find the modern world “bewildering,” people filled with “white grievance.” “They are deeply uncomfortable with this much-needed awakening to societal ills,” she writes.

It gets better. Apparently, I’m after their votes! “Seymour thinks harnessing this pent-up resentment will shift votes to his party,” but I won’t get them. “He is wrong.” Aww.

Turns out ACT can’t appeal to the deplorables because I’m “too thoughtful a man to successfully carry-off populist dog-whistling.” Thanks! I think.

I talk to half a dozen journalists most days. Usually it’s not about me, but all this insight into ACT’s beliefs and political strategy was written without picking up the phone.

Instead, we got to hear that “a much more progressive society that emphasises kindness and thoughtful language.” Anyone who disagrees is either a racist, bewildered, or a venal politician out for their votes.

Really? What would I have told Andrea, had she picked up the phone?

Liberal democracy matters. Every adult New Zealander gets one vote. Their superficial characteristics, race, sex, sexuality and religion are not relevant to their rights. Being world-first to achieve that is New Zealand’s greatest political achievement.

As for me inventing all this to get votes from deplorables, here’s 31-year-old me making a maiden speech to Parliament:

We have moved towards the light of liberty by removing distinctions in law that once treated people differently depending on their religious conviction, gender and race. Most recently, this house decided to remove sexuality from the Marriage laws.

Many countries have never achieved that. But it is extraordinary that, as if engaged in some form of historic shuttle run, we who were first to touch the cone are now rushing back to create new distinctions in law. 

I refer to those who claim that the only way to achieve material equality between the Maori side and the British side of my family is to create more legal inequality.

As foretold, many of the Government’s proposals today are totally incompatible with liberal democracy.

Governance in areas from education to fishing reserves to how plant varieties are patented (there will soon be a Māori Plant Variety Rights Committee to gatekeep the patenting of new plant varieties if they are indigenous to New Zealand) is being converted to co-governance.

Under this ‘partnership state,’ there is an equal partnership between seventeen per cent of the population and the other 83 percent. That is what the infamous He Puapua report calls for.

In the Partnership State, the Government and its sympathisers have rediscovered feudalism, the caste system, the Chinese system where Communist Party Members get the inside running.  In other words, the systems so many Kiwis fled and so many have fought against to be free and equal.

Now a system with different political rights for different people is being promoted as some sort of brave innovation. Vance calls for redefining racism with “a more updated definition of systemic oppression.”

The problem is, once you commodify people into identities, it’s so easy to ignore their dignity as individuals. From there, the quest for kindness becomes weaponised as people who’ve failed to pay correct homage to the correct group are belittled.

The great irony of Vance’s column is that it falls for this trap. On that note, Andrea, next time, feel free to phone.