Dr Michael Bassett

Dr Michael Bassett

< Columns

Hapless Hipkins and his Racism


Without so much as batting an eyelid, Chris Hipkins told an audience on Saturday that there had been "more racism" in this election campaign than ever before. And he blamed it on the opposition parties, National, Act and New Zealand First. In those statements he indicated his unworthiness to be the Prime Minister of New Zealand. It doesn't seem to have occurred to him that whatever racism has been apparent during this 2023 campaign stems directly from the racist crusade the Labour ministry embarked on immediately after the 2020 election. Without mentioning their intentions, ministers set out deliberately to give Maori greater rights in New Zealand than all other ethnicities, using the full resources of the state to do it. To hell with Article Three of the Treaty guaranteeing equal rights and duties for all. Within minutes of Labour's election victory, a campaign by the Maori members of the Labour caucus pushed the government into a full-throated promotion of Te Reo, and authorised state agencies to give pre-eminence to Maori names for government departments; they changed road signs, and insisted on untranslated Maori flooding the airwaves. Calls for co-governance stepped up. Maori alone were allowed to fish in exclusive high protection areas like the Hauraki Gulf; they are the "priority population" for Pharmac; and they must be pushed up the priority lists when it comes to public hospital surgery. The Three Waters scheme that is designed ultimately to give total control of water to Maori was advanced by Nanaia Mahuta, and despite promises from Hipkins, it still hasn't been fundamentally changed. A phoney history syllabus that ignores all the shocking events in Maori history and accentuates all past wrongs done to Maori has been inflicted upon our school children; while at exam time ethnicity, not merit, now determines whether a student passes. We are being constantly told that Te Ao Maori and superstition are superior to modern science. Moreover, we are expected to accept that Maori are indigenous to New Zealand when, by their own traditions, they aren't. The Maori Party, whose support will be indispensable if Hipkins is to put together a coalition after the election, has told us that Maori possess superior intelligence to everyone else. Those who question such nonsense "are deliberately trying to persecute minorities", says the Prime Minister.

Alongside all of this is the phoney narrative, which the Prime Minister obviously believes, that our current system of government is uniquely disadvantageous to Maori. No other ethnicity, including the 150 different ones that have come to New Zealand over the years, is so put upon as Maori when it comes to accessing state resources. Daily we are spun balderdash that it's colonisation and an unfair system that means that Maori die younger than Pakeha. We must overlook the fact that Maori make choices in life like smoking, eating junk food and doing drugs that take years off their lives. We must also ignore the fact that more Maori than Pakeha parents fail their children by allowing them to truant from school, become over-represented amongst young ram-raiders, join gangs, get involved in drive-by shootings and engage in shop-lifting. Last year Maori formed 17% of the population, but were 53% of the men in prison and 67% of the women. Hapless Hipkins would have you believe we must overlook all this and give even more special privileges to Maori because his government's crazy interpretation of our Treaty of Waitangi demands it. And every one who campaigns against his racial policies is a racist.

When I was growing up, New Zealand was a fair society. The first Labour government introduced public health nurses who travelled the countryside ensuring that as many young as they could reach could be vaccinated. Babies were weighed and Maori schools visited so that children could be taught how to take care of their health. In several rural areas which happened to be ones where Maori were plentiful, some general practitioners were put on to state salaries so that poverty was no barrier to accessing their services. When I was Health minister in the 1980s I bumped up their number. Hospital boards and then district health boards spent countless hours trying to ensure that Maori heard about the specialist services available at public hospitals. Board members pored over the "Did Not Attend" statistics trying to work out better ways of reducing them. Those were the days when the welfare state was a "hand-up", not a "hand-out". When offered assistance, the recipient was expected to put his or her best foot forward and make the most of what was provided.

Things have changed in the modern era of "hand-outs". After the introduction of the Domestic Purpose Benefit in 1974 expectations that the state would provide people with a living that required little individual effort began to grow. Significant numbers of Maori in particular warmed to the idea that incomes, housing, school lunches and medical care would be delivered to them with little energy required from them. Today, we are dealing with the results of a couple of generations of the hand-out mentality. Low achievers, and especially their advocates, many of whom are on the public payroll and are part of the huge industry that now farms disadvantaged people, assert loudly that closing the inevitable gaps that have opened up requires even more special privileges. And Hapless Hipkins and his political colleagues have naively bought into this fundamentally flawed narrative.

On Saturday, when he concluded his complaints about racism, the Prime Minister said that he himself intended to "lead by example". If that means another three years of policies based on race, ordinary Kiwis will shudder and realise that the Labour Party that once led the way in shaping a fair society, has lost its mojo.