Friday, November 27, 2009

Remember Tau and Tuku? Not much has changed

[First published in the Curmudgeon column, The Dominion Post, November 24.]

DEFENDERS of MMP pooh-pooh the notion that it’s an electoral system in which the tail wags the dog, but the evidence has rarely been clearer than in the past week.

All the weasel words in the political lexicon can’t disguise the fact that the National Party has bought Maori Party support for its dodgy climate change legislation at the expense of the taxpayer.

Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples saw that National was in a fix and sniffed the opportunity for a deal favourable to Maori interests. National obliged.

As a result, an already prosperous Maori elite will get richer still by pocketing carbon credits worth a potential $25 million a year, according to one estimate.

The Maori Party won just 2.39 percent of the total vote in the last general election, yet National panders to it because it needs the party’s backing to push through legislation that no one else wants.

This is a travesty of democracy but it’s nothing new. Back in 1999 Tau Henare, then leader of the renegade Mauri Pacific Party – which no one voted for, since it broke away from New Zealand First – boasted that he had screwed $170 million out of Jim Bolger’s National Government as the price of his party’s support.

Mr Henare, of course, is now back in Parliament as a National MP. Meanwhile his ex-Mauri Pacific colleague and fellow member of the infamous “Tight Five”, Tukoroirangi Morgan, has re-invented himself as a sleek front man for the wealthy Tainui tribe. You have to admit there’s a certain synchronicity here.

* * *

PERHAPS the most obnoxious aspect of the sweetheart deal with the Maori Party is that it will place still more economic power in the hands of a tribal elite that shows little interest in spreading its wealth among less privileged Maori.

This powerful iwi coterie fought tooth and nail through the courts to prevent the spoils of Treaty settlements trickling down to so-called “urban Maori” who don’t have the right connections. Their success in fighting off claims by urban Maori is measured by the continuing existence of a substantial Maori underclass that has been cut out of the Treaty bonanza.

It is in this underclass that the problems of Maori unemployment, drug abuse, domestic violence and welfare dependency continue to fester while the Maori aristocracy looks the other way. Not their problem.

* * *

SIR WILLIAM Gilbert, the half of Gilbert and Sullivan who wrote the words, came up with the perfect name for public officials who suffer from an inflated self-regard. He called them pooh-bahs.

Oddly enough, that was the word that flashed into my mind when I read that Children’s Commissioner John Angus had urged people to stay away from last weekend’s “march for democracy” in Auckland, organised to protest at the government’s decision to ignore the 87 percent of New Zealanders who voted in a referendum against the criminalisation of smacking.

What a cheek. What business is it of the Children’s Commissioner if New Zealanders want to exercise their democratic rights by marching up Queen St? What extraordinary conceit makes him think we could benefit from his moral and political guidance?

No one outside the social welfare bureaucracy had heard of Dr Angus before his appointment earlier this year. Perhaps this silly statement was his way of letting people know he exists.

Like his colleague, Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres, who gratuitously stirred up the squabble between Michael Laws and a group of Otaki schoolgirls over the spelling of Wanganui, Dr Angus needs to pull his head in.

* * *

AT THE risk of sounding treasonous, isn’t it time for a reality check after the hysteria over the All Whites’ win against Bahrain?

Fact: New Zealand is at odds of 750 to 1 to win the 2010 World Cup. It shares these ignominious odds with North Korea.

Fact: New Zealand is 77th in the world football rankings. It jumped six places following its win at Westpac Stadium but still languishes behind such football giants as Togo, Cyprus and Benin.

Fact: All Whites coach Ricki Herbert said it was the enthusiastic backing of the Wellington crowd that got his team “over the line” against Bahrain. Conclusion: Unless New Zealand’s World Cup games can all be played in the Cake Tin, or the government charters fleets of Boeing 747s to carry noisy Wellington fans to match venues overseas, the 1-0 result against Bahrain was as good as it’s going to get.

Commentators who say that rugby needs to watch its back clearly had their judgment clouded by the euphoric mood at the Westpac Stadium. All it proved was that Wellington loves an excuse for a good party, which we already knew.


kassto said...

My reasons for supporting the All Whites are these: Anything that reduces the dominance of rugby in this country's attention is good; NZ always tends to punch over its weight in sport so poor odds don't put me off; and myself and my kids went to watch the All Whites train in my suburb before the Bahrain match — they were friendly, approachable, grateful for the support — unlike those rich, unapproachable superstars sometimes called the All Blacks.

Unknown said...

Hey kassto,
Do you think that in places like Italy or Portugal, the situation might be a bit similar only reversed? I think you'll find the All Blacks have had more public trainings that any other code, and actually have showcases where the kids can come along SPECIFICALLY to meet their heroes. Lets not forget the All Blacks are the most bankable brand in the country. Enjoy the success the All Whites are providing, but don't bag others who have higher profiles on the world stage for having some infrequent time out of the spotlight.