Political Correctness erodes democratic rights

Dr Muriel Newman

Whangarei, January 17, 2018

Earlier this month, a gift shop owner on Waiheke Island was called a racist, for selling golliwogs. The situation has been described as Political correctness gone mad. The owner of the store, Kat, says that she explains to customers that golliwogs are an English thing.
They started off as talismans in England. They were based off chimney sweeps and chimney sweeps were actually white people. Kat believes that there are more important things for people to get offended about than golliwogs.

As far as I am concerned society has just gotten far too PC.Golliwogs are well and truly victims of the PC brigade.
Symbol of Racism?

These dolls, which had become enormously popular by the mid-20th century second only to teddy bears were declared a symbol of racism by activists in the sixties. British jam manufacturer James Robertson & Sons, which had adopted the golliwog as a company mascot in 1910 along with a slogan, Golly its Good, was eventually forced to drop its use in 2001.

Over time, the company issued some 20 million golliwog badges as part of its marketing strategy – badges that are now highly sought after by collectors of memorabilia.

Enid Blyton saga
Children’s author Enid Blyton wrote about gollywogs between 1949 and 1963 in her series of 24 Noddy books. The books were translated into 27 different languages, with more than 200 million copies sold.

However, under pressure from militant campaigners, the publishers were forced to replace the golliwog characters in later editions of the books. While golliwogs were once regarded simply as much-loved and slightly mischievous dolls, they are now portrayed by activists as symbols of abuse that they say humiliate and intimidate black people. That is also the view being taken by the Human Rights Commission, which has become a key driver of political correctness in New Zealand.

Wake Up, New Zealanders

In response to the fracas over the golliwogs in the Waiheke store, a spokeswoman claimed that they are racist caricatures that dehumanise black people.

She said that New Zealanders who think selling golliwogs is OK need a wake-up call. Despite what she says, the sale or public display of golliwogs in New Zealand is not against the law. While the Human Rights Act does outlaw inciting racial disharmony, the threshold is high and selling golliwogs or golly dolls, as some are now calling them does not breach the threshold.The golliwog debacle serves to demonstrate just how politicised and sensitive society has become. Nowadays, it appears that everyone feels they have to be extremely careful about what they say or do, lest they offend the sensitivities of others, and are victimised by activists promoting a cause. To most people, the prospect of attracting unwanted attention from the media or sharp-tongued radicals is so intimidating that what should be a fundamental right to free speech is now severely compromised.

Don Brash views
This was a point made by this weeks NZCPR Guest Commentator, Dr Don Brash in a speech to the Liberty Conference late last year.

The former leader of the National Party said that in spite of free speech being protected in law, there is now a massive intolerance towards free expression in New Zealand:In New Zealand, freedom of speech is enshrined as one of our fundamental rights in the Bill of Rights Act of 1990. Section 14 of that law, headed Freedom of expression, notes that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.But despite that, there are insidious pressures to discourage the expression of certain opinionsYou dare not suggest that the Enlightenment Civilisation brought to New Zealand by the early British settlers was significantly more advanced than the Maori culture of the early nineteenth century, even though early nineteenth century Maori had no written language, had not yet invented the wheel, and were still practising cannibalism. It is regarded as racist to suggest that all New Zealanders should have equal political rights, despite that being the clear meaning of Article III of the Treaty of Waitangi and the only basis for a peaceful society in the long-term.

OK the, but now a taboo
Dr Brash is right. There are now many issues that people will speak freely about with their family or close friends, but are now regarded as taboo with a wider audience.It has even got to the point where some people are afraid to sign their names and addresses on petition forms – if they deem them to be too controversial – just in case there are repercussions.This is presently an issue for those living in areas where their local Councils have voted unilaterally to create Maori wards. As the law now stands, such a decision can be challenged if 5% of residents and ratepayers sign a petition requesting that the matter be decided by the wider community through a binding public referendum. This is to reflect the fact that in a free democracy, convention provides that major constitutional change – such as introducing Maori wards should involve the wider community in the decision-making process through a binding public referendum.

Aggressive lobby
It now appears that in some local government areas, where the pro-Maori ward lobby has become very aggressive, many who oppose Maori wards feel intimidated and are now too afraid to sign the referendum petitions for fear of reprisal.Maori Wards, which sit alongside general wards and cover the whole district, are provided for in the Local Electoral Act 2001. They are similar to the Maori seats in Parliament in that only those on the Maori roll can vote for the representatives.
Maori Wards
Maori wards can be established through one of three ways. Firstly, a Council may resolve to establish Maori wards unilaterally through a Council vote. If they do so, a poll on the issue must be held if 5% of electors in the area sign a petition requesting it.Secondly, a Council may decide that whether or not there should be Maori wards is a matter for the community at large through a public referendum process.And thirdly, a public referendum on whether or not Maori wards should be established can be held at any time, if requested by a petition signed by 5% of electors.If a referendum is held, the results are binding on the Council for at least two elections.

Six-Year Review
Every six years, Councils are required to review their representation arrangements. This includes whether or not there should be Maori wards, what voting system should be used, whether ward boundaries need to be changed, and whether community boards should be established. If Councils wanted to introduce Maori wards in time for the 2019 Local Body elections, they had to have made their decision by November 23, 2017. Five Councils – Palmerston North, Kaikoura, Manawatu, Whakatane, and the Western Bay of Plenty – decided to establish separate Maori wards through a Council vote. Some had asked locals for submissions on the matter, but none had resolved to allow their community to make the decision through a public referendum. In Palmerston North, Councillors voted 11 to 4 in favour of Maori wards, despite two thirds of the submissions they had called for being opposed to the move. In Kaikoura, Councillors voted unanimously in favour of Maori wards. In the Manawatu, Councillors voted 6 to 4 in favour, with two abstentions. In Whakatane, Councillors voted 6 to 5 in favour, and in the Western Bay of Plenty, Councillors voted 9 to 3 in favour.

The decision to introduce Maori wards in each of the areas is now being challenged, with petitions underway to collect signatures from 5% of local electors to force the Councils to hold referenda on the issue.
The Auckland scene

The Auckland Council also voted in favour of Maori wards – with nine Councillors plus the Mayor in favour and five opposed (six were absent) – but only if the Government changes the law so they do not lose any existing seats. In other words, they want a Maori ward as long as none of the sitting members loses their seat!When the Super City was created in 2010, the government not only capped the number of Councillors at 20, but also rejected Maori seats in favour of an Independent Maori Statutory Board to sit on committees and advise the Council. While the Auckland Council does not need government approval if it makes one of its existing 20 wards a Maori ward, it does need a law change to lift the 20-seat cap, if an additional Maori seat is to be created.If approval for more seats is given to the Council, and a decision is made to establish Maori wards, it could, of course be contested.

A petition signed by 5% of residents about 51,000 could demand a referendum on the issue, which is likely to cost the Council around $1 million if it was held separately, or $150,000 if it was held in conjunction with the local body elections.

Democratic Right tampered
Unfortunately, there are some in our community who want to remove the publics right of veto over the creation of Maori wards from the Electoral Act. Leading this attack on local body democracy is the former Mayor of New Plymouth, Andrew Judd, who reacted badly when locals challenged his Councils decision to establish Maori wards in 2014. When the referendum was held, an overwhelming 83% of New Plymouth locals rejected the Maori ward proposal. But rather than accepting that local democracy is about letting people have their say, and respecting their views, he arrogantly called his constituents racists, stated that half of all local authority Councillors should be Maori, and demanded a law change to remove the right of locals to hold a poll.

Andrew Judd Petition
With cooperation from the Maori Party, Andrew Judd presented a petition to Parliament calling for the House of Representatives to consider a law change to make the establishment of Maori wards on District Councils follow the same legal framework as establishing other wards on District Councils. In effect, by removing the publics democratic right to call for a referendum, the petition would result in Maori wards being introduced throughout the country.Andrew Judds petition became the basis of the Local Electoral (Equitable Process for Establishing Maori Wards and Maori Constituencies) Amendment Bill – a Private Members Bill in the name of the Green Party MP Marama Davidson.

The Bill was drawn from the ballot last year and a first reading debate was held in June.

It was defeated by 71 votes to 48, with National, New Zealand First and ACT opposed, and Labour, the Greens, the Maori Party, and United Future in favour.
Persisting concern

With Labour and the Greens now in Government, there remains an on-going concern that they might be planning another attempt to try to change the law, despite most New Zealanders not wanting to be defined by race not even those of Maori descent. The only people wanting to divide the country by race are a small but vocal minority of tribal activists and their supporters, who will stop at nothing less than Maori sovereignty at all levels of government. It is this racist agenda that we all need to stand against. I will leave the final word to Defence Minister and former Carterton Mayor Ron Mark, who said, in the debate about Maori wards:

There are those of us in Maoridom who subscribe to a view that we attain and achieve on merit. We either succeed or we do not on our own abilities Carterton is a conservative rural district yet Carterton elected Georgina Beyer, who was not only Maori but a transsexual as well I did not run on a banner that I am Ngti Kahungunu therefore, I have a right to have a reserved seat and to be the Mayor. I stood on the name of Ron Mark, and people judged me on my merits and elected me.
Dr Muriel Newman is Director of the New Zealand Centre for Political Research, a web-based free weekly Newsletter, NZCPR Weekly. The above article appeared in her weekly edition dated January 16, 2018, published here with her permission.

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