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Unfranked 34 – Is the Devilish Mr Peters Dumping the Treaty or Its Principles?

  • February 11th, 2005

An elderly relative advised me that successful gamblers were in a pact with the devil. But then a brother-in-law who finds it hard not to win raffles is so non-Satanic that I had lost faith in that childhood advice.

Now I’m back to worrying for my brother-in-law. Only the devil could give Winston Peters the gambler’s luck that won a Parliamentary slot so near to the election for his “Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi Deletion Bill”.

Richard Prebble and I have each had a Bill with similar objects in the ballot since the middle of last year. With Mr Peters I’ve pestered Ms Clark and Ms Wilson to define the so-called principles.

Meanwhile I’d had fun at Mr Peters’ expense, drawing attention to his continuing votes (up until yesterday), for bills referring to the “principles”. But Winston struck back. Late last year he drafted his Bill then noisily called on all other MPs to boycott the ballot to ensure his Bill was drawn.

Of course Richard and I thought we had at least a two to one chance of being drawn before him, and his Bill was so crude I feared it would actually discredit the cause. So for months each ballot has had three bills to abolish the principles.

So what does the winning Bill do?

In a page and a half the Peters bill lists sections from 27 Acts containing the words “the principles of the Treaty” or variants, and simply repeals those sections. It also omits those words “from every preamble and every schedule” of those Acts, and it revokes “every regulation made under any of” those Acts where it “contains references to” those words.

What the Peters bill doesn’t do

It doesn’t try to make sense of legislation after creating gaping holes, by deleting Treaty references supposed to indicate the intent of other provisions. For example it removes Section 4 of the Local Government Act 2002, a thoroughly racist piece of law, but does not touch 10 other sections directing councils to give privileges to Maori.

Judges required to plug the gap would probably reinstate the spurious principles and the mythical partnership, in spite of the removal of section 4.

The Peters bill does not worry about certainty. It will leave bizarre sentences without objects. Does revoking a regulation cover the entire order, or simply the rule containing the offending words? It does not touch the myriad charters and protocols and guidelines now entangling officialdom all over New Zealand.

The Act Bills

My Bill deemed all official references to the principles to be references to the actual and literal words of the Treaty without extrapolation as a “living document”, and without implications of partnership. If the actual words would not apply without strain the relevant rule would be treated as if the reference had no effect.

Richard Prebble’s Bill defined three exclusive principles from the Treaty. For example, his second principle stated, “the Crown has a duty to uphold citizens property rights. No property may be taken by the State without good cause and full market consideration paid”.

The political significance of the Peters bill

For political purposes the deficiencies in the Peters bill are mere quibbles. Plainly I could have stopped when I had enough words to generate political theatre. But I’m cursed with a passion for law that means what it says. I spent hours working through solutions to such problems for my Bill.

If Labour, United Future and the Greens do not stop the Peters bill from reaching Select Committee, it can be repaired, drawing on the Act work. But even the first reading debate will be a watershed event. The people’s representatives will confront squarely what the people have been saying. It marks the end of decades of suppressed debate. Until now the anointed have managed to scare the media into self-censorship. They have characterised opponents as ignorant.

My five years of argument that the partnership is a myth have gone unreported. It was unfashionable. When Derek Quigley of Act won a ballot in 1998 for a Bill that proposed time limits on Treaty claims, all other parties howled “racist”. Now it is the Prime Minister’s policy.

Mr Peters’ explanatory note encapsulates our key concerns. ” these principles have become a diversion away from the true pathway to success for both Maori and non-Maori: a strong education system, reliable healthcare…and a spirit of entrepreneurship and vision. The principles have allowed some Maori to continue to portray themselves as victims constantly in grievance mode, a mentality which leads down a dead-end path from which no true progress can come… These principles are a divisive mechanism which has set one group of New Zealanders against another.”

Will excising these pestilential principles be enough? Mr Peter Dunne has a member’s Bill to change the name Waitangi Day back to New Zealand Day. The arguments for changing the name are the same as the arguments for dumping the entire Treaty industry. In my obligatory Waitangi Day speech < [A href="">] I argued that we should debate the underlying issue.

If the Dunne Bill and the Peters Bill force the anointed into that debate we should all be grateful for that gambler’s luck.

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