I took a brief look through Judith Collins’ speech to the New Zealand National Party’s northern convention today and uh …
“Article 2, Tino Rangatiratanga, confirms the property rights of all people. It establishes that all iwi, families and individuals have rights over their own land and property. Property rights are again a key democratic principle and core to National party values.”
Now … what I suspect has happened here is that Collins has not realized the problem.
That problem being that while, yeah, that’s what Article Two broadly sets out in the English version – she’s mixed it up a bit by terming this “Tino Rangatiratanga”.
Which, again to be fair, is what is in the Te Reo Maori version of Article Two.
It’s just that “Tino Rangatiratanga” very definitely does not (just) mean “Property Rights”. And, if we are running on the Te Reo version of the text, I’m also very sure that the definition of ‘taonga katoa’ (i.e. what Maori thought they were maintaining rangatiratanga over) is quite a lot broader than “land and property”.
I haven’t actually checked the jurisprudence upon the matter in any great depth, but it does appear that for Treaty purposes, (Maori) Health does indeed constitute a Taonga [c.f the Wai 2575 Treaty claim]
Which, yes, we can have an open conversation about how to protect and uphold. Whether this is best done as part of a unitary state system … with a specialized Maori component; or whether a patchwork of DHBs is the better answer, for example.
Or, to take things further – whether Iwi can themselves act, in a much closer manner to what the Te Reo Maori version of Article Two seems to have envisaged (intentionally or otherwise) as the active authorities themselves.
Previously, National hasn’t had too much issue with this. It’s an integral part of the settlement they were quite proud to negotiate with Tuhoe that the Iwi would be able to work in partnership with the Crown to deliver key services – including with relation to welfare and healthcare.
It’s also something which somewhat underpinned the previous National-led government’s very expansive welfare ‘reform’ project, Whanau Ora (which Collins talks up in her speech). Although that went far further in the degree to which it was open to non-Governmental components playing a role in Maori (but also Pasifika .. and in theory, other New Zealanders as well … in theory) service delivery in that sphere.
Tariana Turia put it best, I feel –
“I’m a firm believer in the private or NGO sector carrying out a lot of functions of the state – that is what rangatiratanga is about.”
Which probably explains why she got a standing ovation when she spoke to ACT’s 2006 party convention.
And it’s that kind of thinking which provides a potential ‘Option Two’ for the interpretation of the relevant portion of Collins’ speech … namely, that it’s deliberate, and is part of a subtle culture-jamming ‘privatization’ of Maori political ethos. Although to be honest, I doubt the Nats of 2021 are clever (or long-term focused) for that.
Either way, the incipient ‘redefinition’ of a cornerstone of Maori political aspirations – whatever one may happen to think of various demands for ‘Tino Rangatiratanga’ and its various forms – into mere material attainment is something odious.
Although I suppose, upon closer inspection, that that’s simply National all up – taking the supernal, the transcendental, the actively meaningful … and saying “these are values, that means they’re convertible into dollar-signs”.
To bring things back to the specific Labour proposal which Collins is attempting to attack –
I must admit I haven’t seen enough detail upon it to decide one way or the other whether I support it or not. I am not a fan of having separate this that and the other thing ‘just because’ – but also feel that this is not a case of ‘just because’ being the sum total of the justification for exploring the possibility of a Maori Health Authority.
Even leaving aside the direct claim that such a structure might be Treaty mandated (which I’m not sure that it would be, for reasons I’ll soon address) – there is a practical dimension to the consideration. What we’re doing at the moment for healthcare in general isn’t succeeding optimally for many New Zealanders, and is failing quite dismally for a variety of reasons for many Maori over and above this as well.
If there is evidence to suggest that the Maori Health Authority proposal would meaningfully improve performance, then what is wrong with that? It would surely take a hard heart indeed to insist that a philosophical commitment to the same kind of ‘egalitarianism’ which holds things fair and equal as both the rich and the poor are legally prohibited from sleeping under bridges … means that a useful health reform proposal cannot go ahead.
The way I’ve generally thought about the Treaty is that it has by necessity become a compromise between the two versions. In theory, the Te Reo Maori version has legal precedency – but it is quite plainly apparent that in reality, even its terms are not absolute. In the strictest literal sense of the words, ‘Tino Rangatiratanga’ remains held by the Crown – hence why some are still quite keen to protest for it.
The specific maintenance and performance of various Taonga related rights and duties have likewise been vested in the state. Hence why there was a wave of Treaty claims upon these when the state divested itself of these during the waves of privatization slash vandalism carried out in the 1980s and 1990s. Because if the State wasn’t going to look after these things which had – somewhat involuntarily – become invested in it by Maori … then Maori would quite understandably be rather keen to be having them back, thanks. [The various developments around radio broadcast frequency – for the support of Maori language and culture – are an interesting case-study, perhaps … but more upon that some other time]
One of these Taonga, as we have noted above, is Health. Which, in terms of the exercise of rangatiratanga, would entail healthcare provision – something that is both a core Crown capability and responsibility (via the public healthcare system), and which also exists in the private sector sphere.
There is a quite legitimate perception that the Crown’s provision and custodianship of this Taonga of Maori Health … hasn’t been an unqualified success – indeed, by comparison to much of the rest of the population, on equity grounds, it’s been … well, something else.
National started the week by claiming that a Maori-focused health unit would be “segregation”. They’ve since changed tac, and claimed that while they’re not opposed to the general principle of Maori-oriented service delivery vehicles … this particular one is Iwi/Kiwi, replete with the multi-coloured billboards awaiting in the wings.
They have their reasons for that, of course – even if they might be different to the ones they started out the week professing to believe so ardently in.
Yet ultimately, it’s all just so much politics. You read through the bullet-pointed list of “TWO SYSTEMS” exemplars Collins has singled out as purported Labour insidious social engineering (“by stealth”) .. and the majority of these things are elements which actually got rolled out to a significant degree under National during its previous nine years of Government anyway.
Gosh, I guess it really WAS Labour working very much “by stealth” if they were so stealthy they had the National Party do it all for them whilst they were stuck in Opposition!
National’s looking for a Shiver to send up the collective Spine of Middle New Zealand (via way of the Talkback belt), and the delicate double-speak Collins has to engage in in this speech of hers shows just how difficult it might be for her to turn the clock back on the John Key era to the Don Brash era – without bellyflopping herself all the way back to the Bill English error in the process.
She can’t make succinct stands on nice, easy, white-shining Principle, because National’s own record sells her out at almost every other turn. She can’t do Pragmatism in lieu of principle, because the pragmatic approach may just turn out to be the principled one as well – on this issue, at any rate.
So she’s left with the inchoate endeavour of redefining words as she dances upon the head of a pin, giving voice to the people who used to call in to MagicTalk Radio to tell us all how voiceless they now were, and seeking to (New)Con her way back to the lifelines of electoral relevancy.
As Matthew Hooton put it earlier this week in his own writeup of this ungainly display of the twilight hours of her political life –
“At least Don Brash had a sense of theatre.”