30 Jul 2014

Parties vie for redneck vote - Flavell

2:22 pm on 30 July 2014

The ACT Party and New Zealand First are vying for the redneck vote with their rhetoric around what they call race-based law, Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell says.

Jamie Whyte.

Jamie Whyte. Photo: RNZ

ACT Party leader Jamie Whyte and New Zealand First Winston Peters both say ordinary Maori do not benefit from what they call race-based laws.

Dr Whyte said in a weekend speech that Maori were legally privileged in New Zealand today, and that one of ACT's core principles had always been that the law should be colour blind and should treat everybody equally.

Dr Whyte told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Wednesday that New Zealand law made a citizen's rights dependent on their race and cited the Maori seats in Parliament and Auckland Council's Maori Statutory Board board as examples.

Despite that, Maori continued to suffer social disadvantages and that was one reason many people in New Zealand were comfortable with the way laws were written, Dr Whyte said.

"Although Maori have legal privileges, they don't have material privilege. That's to say, they have lower average incomes, they have lower life expectancy, lower educational outcomes.

"But I think that people in New Zealand look at those facts and feel somehow that it then doesn't really matter if the principal of equality before the law is violated."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ

Winston Peters, meanwhile, said Maori bureaucracy did not benefit ordinary Maori and that his party would not do post-election deals with either the Maori Party or Mana, which he described as race-based.

Mr Peters said separate policies did not work. "Is there a Maori bureaucracy? Of course there is. And of course they're screaming out of the defence of Whanau Ora and all these other programmes.

"You've got the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights, which says indigenous law will override the nation's law, we've got two flags, we've got social welfare and business systems separately developing, and it's all standing by."

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell.

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell. Photo: RNZ

However, Mr Flavell said both parties were vying for the redneck vote - and that the same thing happened each election.

"This isn't about a race issue, this is about a rights issue. It's about a Treaty that was signed in 1840," he said.

"It's about a constitutional issue that seems to come up every time there's an election, and we've got three parties scrambling for that redneck vote, to sort of shoot the Maori, get rid of the Maori."

Laws were set by Parliament and there was one rule for all, he said. He conceded ACT could get some votes because of its comments but said the Maori Party worked only with the National Party and not its other support parties, such as ACT.

Mr Flavell's co-leader Tariana Turia said Dr Whyte should be ashamed of himself.

"He's just trying to appeal to the racist rednecks around the country, and he should be ashamed of himself in the first instance. The statistics tell us that, in fact, we're not doing so well ... so I'm not sure what he's reading, but it's from another planet."

Dr Whyte promised to keep talking about scrapping the Maori seats despite being labelled a racist and said he was disappointed but not surprised by the strong reaction to his argument that everyone should be equal before the law.

"It's quite extraordinary for me to be called racist, when I'm trying to get rid of race-based law," he said. It's a complete topsy kind of a world. It makes absolutely no sense but it's not really an attempt to engage with the issue - it's just an attempt to shut me up."