Yesterday night's Let's be Frank
on Alt TV (Sky channel 65) was worth watching. Oliver Driver may have been expected to go soft on the Prime Minister (she's also Minister for Arts), but the questions were tough and he had her perched awkwardly on the edge of the retro brown vinyl bucket chair the entire time - fixing him with that patented hooded glare - like prey... or some form of threat.
Driver was undeterred. He asked it straight, he let her finish without having to interrupt, and kept a thoroughly neutral pose. Unlike the John Key interview of the previous fortnight there was no rapport, no ease, no connexion. I don't think she knew how to react to his calm and relaxed delivery of often harshly couched criticism from a non-right wing/mainstream media perspective. Driver wasn't asking about why tax cuts are great, he was asking why anyone on the left could trust her. He wasn't asking why Maori supposedly get special treatment, he was asking why they get their foreshore and seabed confiscated off them. These were not the usual questions and this was not the usual format.
As far as gauging her personality goes it was all summed up at the end when Driver told her that when Key was on the programme and asked to describe what he most admired about Helen Clark he had replied (and it was with sincerity) "she's hardworking - very hardworking." When Driver then asked Clark to tender a positive aspect of John Key she let out a nervous laugh and said "I've no idea!" and then went on about how no-one really knows him and imply he wasn't really, well - honest enough. Yes, really. It was an embarrassing and (I must say) unexpectedly ungracious reaction to a political gimme. It was really too hard for her to say something - anything - nice. Which is an insight into where she's at and what sort of a person she is.
I missed the very beginning of the half hour interview, but some choice quotes were:
Took special care to call the farce that passes for our police watchdog the "Independent
Police Complaints Authority." As if putting "independent" on the front has magically solved the inherent conflicts of interest.
Last October's "terrorist" raids are all the doing of the police and the Auckland Crown Solicitor (Simon Moore) and has nothing to do with her. Although she underscored the "operational independence" of the police she never said what type of relationship the government has with Moore.
The SAS in Afghanistan "haven't been there for years" now.
She said she had met with Hans Blix and Kofi Annan the December before the Iraq invasion and said "there was no way" the UN would ever authorise an invasion. But she didn't say why she agreed to the US demand to send in our troops as soon as the UN did authorise the occupation
of Iraq shortly after the invasion.
She says she raises religious freedom issues behind closed doors with the Chinese (this was in relation to a NZ-China Free trade Agreement) and "they'll often push back quite hard." But she wasn't prepared to say anything about the details.
She tried to slide out of why she refuses to meet with the Dali llama by claiming that she doesn't usually meet with religious leaders as she's not into that stuff. Given she has been regularly mentioning "multi-faith" in the same breath as "multi-cultural" and "multi-ethnic" in speeches after she was a keynote speaker at an inter-faith conference a few years back that answer will not wash.
Party President, Mike Williams, was "very distressed" about being called a liar over his forgetting to mention Labour's billionaire loaning them $100k after the last election. But he's a good guy and he'll keep on trucking.
The NZ Herald's "a Tory paper [that's] given us no charity" over the 92 years of the existence of the Labour party. The Herald saw this and has run a story
(although without crediting the show or the channel). Which, albeit grossly over-stated, is probably the most accurate and credible thing she said besides:
Her reaction to whether she watched the state broadcaster (TVNZ): "No - virtually nothing" and then went on to praise BBC World. The Arts Minister. At least that's one time people wouldn't disagree with her - in spirit if not in practice.
If Driver was better equipped with deeper knowledge on some of these issues I think he could well have cored her out on some of them. And then again, given her legendary grudges, he might suddenly find his projects become, in a funding desirability sense - not so much yesterday's flavour-of-the-week as last millennium's flavour-of-the-Paleolithic age.
Clark summed up where she sees Labour and what her mission is, no doubt anticipating her preferred themes for the election campaign. It was very nationhood-oriented: "New Zealand [should be] a fair place... build New Zealand pride... build up the heritage... [a nation] at ease with itself." But it sounded like a blithe recital of so many slogans. "Build up the heritage."?
One of the more testy moments was when Driver asked her about the Foreshore and Seabed Act. Driver asks:The Maori party regard the seabed and foreshore legislation as confiscation – can the Labour Party and Maori party work together as MMP coalition partners?
She totally avoided speaking to the coalition part and retorted that "it's not confiscation" and predictably brought up the recent deal struck between her government and the historically pro-government, pro-Labour
sell-out, Uncle Tom, kupapa
tribal leadership of the East Coast Ngati Porou. And there I'm sure most mainstream interviewers - and even Maori interviewers like Willie Jackson - would have left it. But Driver was refreshingly undeterred:the UN special raporteur was highly critical of that law, your own Attorney-General at the time, Margaret Wilson, wrote a 10,000 word report that basically said "it's racial discrimination"NO!"
Cut right off. Fangs out now.
He didn't get to complete the rest of the question. She was away.
The UN man she insisted "had a [I think her word was pre-rehearsed
] script"... and he stuck to it, she said. So she doesn't trust the UN when it suits her. Same thing with another brave follow-up:NZ was one of only four countries to vote against the indigenous rights declaration at the UN along with the US, Canada and Australia. What sort of message do you think that sends to Maori...
More daggers. And a lot of waffly crap about how other countries voted for it but never intended to implement it and that other countries don't have indigenous populations so they don't know what it's like and that it says "traditional lands" should be returned and that meant "the whole of New Zealand." Yeah... only that's bullshit. The new Labor Australian government is now moving to change their vote to yes. The truth is she doesn't want Maori having anything like what the Treaty of Waitangi implies should be theirs... like all that land the government stole off them... just to pick one random example out of the air.
Her explanation of the Foreshore and Seabed confiscation was entirely in Pakeha terms unsurprisingly. But it was the emphatic ethnic basis and assumption of racial-cultural superiority that really alarmed me. That and the leaving out of the ulterior motives of the new aquaculture law (that will re-start the carve-up process of the Crown giving marine space up wholesale for Pakeha) which she never mentioned - even though that was the main cause that prompted that shameful law in the first place.
I know that many non-Maori might not understand what this is all about or can't see that Maori have been dicked over again in a way that they thought they never could be because they had earned the right in their own country to be respected as being equal recipients of justice. Clark told Driver that where there is a traditional link to a marine area then some rights will be recognised there - the minimal type ones being offered now to Ngati Porou from an utterly weakened position inside the framework of the confiscation law. The law from 2004 that her government rammed through in urgency against 9000 submissions and an outpouring from this country's native population and communities (amongst others) that instituted the white man's touch
rule as the threshold to test whether Maori have lost their rights. This is the law that says even if no white person had ever physically touched that area in all the years since 1840 any of the minimal and heavily prescribed "customary rights" they have can be countermanded merely by a policy
statement from a minister ie. the white man's word
. She made sure to mention that in a lot of areas the land adjoining the foreshore had been sold or gone out of Maori ownership and that it could only apply in rare circumstances. And that's the point isn't it? The Crown can thieve and rort and swindle and invade and confiscate that land and then that fact is now held against the rightful property owners in their claim for the adjoining property that the government forgot to steal before 2004. Basically: we took it then, cut you off from the shore, so now you have no rights over the shore area either.
The "Crown has legislated [it] to be in Crown title," she said, as if that was a proper answer. Native title wasn't extinguished, she means, but it should have been because "we" have acted like it had been. She said it as if it were axiomatic. But of course it is anything but. And Driver must have emitted his concern and lack of comprehension or belief in her reasoning because she then tried another tack on him.
This time she stripped it down to what the confiscation is all about in her mind:
"When my people
came to New Zealand," she said, "(and probably yours) we
" didn't want it to be like the UK where we
came from and you couldn't go down to some parts of the shoreline because it was in private title.
No, no - the avid tramper has in her mind the idea about what she thinks UK immigrants wanted when they immigrated here and therefore what we should want now. She must think this is part of "building up the heritage" - the colonial heritage - the way she put it. But she's not telling nearly half the facts - and it's probably because her racial trump card deems it irrelevant.
Maori had stated many times that they did not mind if the public were given general access rights in law over the foreshore and seabed. The exclusion argument is a fallacy and always was and yet it is always the main plank of her contention. Her class assumptions implicit in her framing of the UK context is also a window into her mind. The Aotearoa context is groups, often large inter-related famillies of Maori peasants or entire communities having title over and exercising many different types of rights over their area in a way that - as far as the foreshore and seabed go - can also be consistent with public access. This was never going to be a case of Lord Hurumph McHardarse-Robberbarron taking pot-shots from his cliff-top castle with a silver shotgun at the starving common-folk scavenging winkles - as she paints it. Indeed she is that character and it is the Maori who are being driven off by a rapacious over-lord keen to disperse their property without any compensation whatsoever to a class of profit-motivated outsiders. And it's all justified by her, articulated by the Prime Minister, in terms of a doctrine of manifest destiny.
This is utterly shocking - and yet one suspects will go completely over the heads of the media and most of the audience. I for one found her remarks inflammatory, disgraceful and unbefitting any leader of this nation. Her attitude was thoroughly prejudiced, overtly racist, and a throw-back to a lineage of hate and mistrust that I thought had vanished.
She's saying that "her people's" ideals must over-rule Maori people's property rights, customs, culture and everything. There's no misunderstanding her - she means the British, white race and the government set up by them and for their interests must dominate and indeed destroy the aspects of Maori existence that get in their way. It is a straight out pitch to the most ultra-conservative Pakeha, and displays every sickening, frightful, arrogant, mendacious impulse that has lead to war, death, misery, loss and marginalisation upon the Maori people since "my people" arrived. All her talk about nationhood and a country "at ease with itself" is a nasty fraud. Her thinking and presumptions follow what every political hue of our colonial regime has dictated: that this is the white man's country for the white man. End of story. And that, my friends, is a malignant racial war-cry which ought to be answered at the ballot box with total rejection at the very least.
There is no way that at this time, 2008, the Pakeha media will ever notice, comprehend, understand or for a second care about, value or report these comments. The day that confiscation law passed the Herald put it on page 5. This is what Maori have to put up with in their own country. This is why Maori get upset. This is why people who give the matter any thought get upset. And this shabby state of affairs is what I seek to resolve and that is why I regard her comments - as bald and offensive as they are - as inspiring. The motivation to fight against evil is overwhelming when it manifests itself so fully.