- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Native Affairs: Brash versus Sharples

One almost has to feel sorry for Don Brash in regards to his Native Affairs performance last night. Up against fellow former academic Pita Sharples, the two Doctors battled it out in a performance that made Brash's arguments seem woefully inadequate and trivialized. Presenter Julian Wilcox was in form, highlighting the incendiary language that ACT has used over the last few weeks in contributing to a race-baiting electoral climate. Sharples won hands down, in another signal since ACT sacked campaign manager Ansell that a repeat of the 2003 Orewa speech on forced assimilation is falling like rocks to the bottom of a pond in a political climate that is rapidly changing.

Brash seemed incapable of explaining why the constitutional differences in the way Maori, Pakeha and tau iwi (immigrants) mattered. This is perhaps not surprising, as the constitutional 'apartheid' that ACT have been claiming does not hold so well when translated into the actual social statistics for Maori. What looks good on paper does not translate directly into overall advantages for the entire group, and the argument that Maori are privileged over Pakeha is quite easy to refute, particularly for those who know the impact tight economic conditions are having on one of our most marginalized groups.

Brash's inability to provide clarity over his central argument then descended into a variety of claims through which he fumbled, seemingly embarassed at some of his own assertions. Brash then brought up the unelected Maori wards for Auckland, to which Wilcox replied that this was the result of Hide's legislation. Brash then attempted to frame Hide as not wanting the legislation, but being forced by others into accepting it. Ouch. Wilcox then brings up the issue of ACT calling Maori 'separatist militants', Brash replies that Sharples is one. Round three down and Sharples is still maintaining his cool, while Brash looks increasingly flustered. Round four begins with highlighting the phrase in the ad that insinuated that under Maori amendment to the Resource Management Act, farmers will need to "bribe the tribe" to succeed. Brash hits back with anecdotal opinions, which are never a strong position to argue from in politics, and argues for a group of enraged farmers in Tauranga, before backing down to concede that there is a bit of "poetic license" in the phrasing. Sharples then asks why the race-based inflammatory framing when this could be handled by his party in Government? Brash replies that only Rodney Hide is there, which only serves to highlight how the party is beginning to fracture. Wilcox interjects with "you did that", and Brash is still failing to gain traction. Brash claims that Maori politicians are attempting to enforce an animist view of society that does not wash with Pakeha or Maori. Oh dear.

There is then some discussion over the WAI 262 claim going through the Waitangi Tribunal. While Brash attempts to leverage the animist assertion to conclude that Maori are in a pre-European world, Sharples gives solid examples of how protecting New Zealand plants from foreign patents is protecting all New Zealanders. Anyone who has followed the Monsanto debate over 'Terminator' seeds, or the Indian battle to keep Basmati rice from being patented or the mass suicide of 1,500 farmers in India due to the impact of GM crops (a plight highlighted by Prince Charles), might see some benefit in keeping our food stores local. Sharples future-thinking response to insults that imply a primordial world view still left him firmly in front.

So, the debate returns to the H in Whanganui, to which Brash replies "I was born there so I feel a bit more sensitive than others". Maori, he says, had no written language so it is fine for Pakeha to spell it in the way they see fit. When asked if he believes that Maori should have control over their own written language, Brash replies that "for me, it's not a huge issue, I just resent the fact that 77% of Wanganui residents didn't want the h". A classic flip-flop that makes their issues appear petty and trivial (which it is).

To add insult to injury, Key has called Brash's claims over the Marine and Coastal Areas Act "factually incorrect". Even the Herald editorial today is calling ACT's claims those of yesteryear. The outbursts from ACT seem to be making little dent on their polls, or be doing little to quell claims of a fractured party. One thing is clear, that ACT is going to need to change tact if they want to be a serious player, or at least come up with arguments that have clarity under pressure rather than those that are emotive but weak and based on underlying racist assertions. At least if politics fails Brash this year, he may still have a career on talkback.


At 12/7/11 3:20 pm, Blogger Lady said...

I'm pretty sure it was Pita who interjected with "you did that" concerning Rodney Hide being the only Act member able to table documents concerning Act's policies. This was proposed as a alternative to Act's racist advertising.

The H in Whanganui was rather inconsequential if you ask me. The far greater argument concerned the protection WAI 262 could give New Zealand against GE and patent on what is clearly items belonging to Aotearoa.

It's great to see Act totally failing in their bigoted and racist campaigning. Clearly the public has become intolerant of racially divisive propaganda. Changing tact isn't going to fix the damage already done.

A very good post Phoebe.

At 12/7/11 4:13 pm, Blogger Tragik said...

And Brash managed to bring $50 along to show that he can't be racist because he commissioned some artwork that depicts Maori.

Another classic Brash moment.

At 12/7/11 4:54 pm, Blogger Another Kiwi said...

The bit that was the give away to me was when Wilcox asked Brash how important he thought these issues were to New Zealanders and Brash said that when he went around the country it was one of the first things ACT supporters brought up.
Mr Ansell has done a good job on them.
But they can't hear how out of touch they sound.

At 12/7/11 6:52 pm, Blogger Fern said...

Native Affairs is one of the few TV programmes I truly look forward to. Sharples won the debate hands down without even trying very hard.

At 13/7/11 11:51 am, Blogger Frank said...

A recent media report on Don Brash seeking Maori candidates for ACT…

ACT leader Don Brash has tried and failed to woo Maori candidates to the party’s list.

Former Federated Farmers head Don Nicolson confirmed yesterday he would stand against Deputy Prime Minister Bill English in Clutha-Southland. Dr Brash expected ACT’s board would give him a high place on the party’s list.

The list will be finalised at the end of the month.

Dr Brash expected to announce other “strong candidates” in the coming weeks but admitted attempts to woo non-European contenders, including “two or three Maori”, were unsuccessful.

“A couple of them weren’t suitable. One of them would have been suitable but wasn’t willing to stand at this point. He was quite a young person. He thought about it for quite a while but on balance decided not to.”

He declined to say who they were.

ACT ran a newspaper advertisement over the weekend that asked: “Fed up with pandering to Maori radicals?”

Asked if he was being deliberately provocative, he said: “We are trying to draw attention to that particular policy, absolutely.”

Dr Brash admitted he was “disappointed” with how ACT was polling….

Source & More: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/5275700/Brash-tries-to-attract-Maori-candidates

Now isn’t that interesting: Don Brash announcing that ACT is seeking Maori candidates.

Now aside from the patently ridiculous aspect of this – kinda like vegans looking for chefs who can cook steaks – why is ACT seeking Maori candidates?

Isn’t that a race-based selection?

I thought ACT ideology was supposedly “blind” to race and preferred “merit” instead?

*sniff, sniff* Methinks I detect a hint of… hypocrisy? Double standards? Contradiction?

At 13/7/11 12:32 pm, Blogger Frank said...

Rodney Hide must be laughing his head off about now...

At 13/7/11 3:40 pm, Blogger Chris Trotter said...

In purely formal terms, the debate between Dr Brash and Dr Sharples can only be described as a draw.

Both men articulated their arguments clearly and forcefully, and neither of them committed any major errors.

A person cannot be said to have "won" a debate simply by saying things with which you agree. Victory goes to the person who presents his or her case best.

Personally, I felt that Dr Brash held to the core of his argument with commendable tenacity. Dr Sharples, on the other hand was guilty of begging the question - i.e. employing a type of logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proven is assumed implicitly or explicitly in the premise.

In a purely political sense, however, the debate - if screened to a representative cross-section of ordinary New Zealanders - would almost certainly be judged to have been won by Dr Brash.

In the big, wide world, Phoebe, bi-cultural liberals are pretty thin on the ground.

At 13/7/11 6:17 pm, Blogger Phoebe Fletcher said...

If Don had held up well, he should have been able to deal with the damage caused by the Ansell ad, who you call 'a formidable propagandist'. Yet Ansell clearly missed the message that this was not a repeat of the 2005 election, and that the ACT Party is clearly in a much more fragile position with a leader that is out of the house. Brash signed off on this, and then couldn't come up with a cohesive argument. 80% of the discussion was dragged towards his inflammatory language and list of trivial issues, which in PR terms is an epic failure to stay on message.

He was also speaking to a predominantly Maori audience and not to a mainstream audience. Furthermore, his appearance did more to promote speculation of fissures within ACT, which is contributing to their bouncing along on the margins of error. Rodney might have agreed to smooth the path of this transition in leadership, but he's certainly not going to not take an opportunity like this to get a dig at Brash. Consequently, we have Hide and Coddington together with the Human Rights Commissioner critiquing the campaign, Boscawen and National distancing itself from ACT's opinions (the latter as far as they could without highlighting how they also hired the guy). Even the Herald wrote a negative editorial on Brash, signaling that by and large, his opinions were in the "too far" basket. I'm not sure what your definition of winning is, but it's certainly not having to appear in the paper pushing for more women and Maori candidates or still bouncing along the margins of error. It's certainly not an Orewa, that's for sure.

At 14/7/11 12:21 pm, Blogger Chris Trotter said...

Once again, Phoebe, you're arguing a point that has nothing to do with the actual debate.

If you want to make the case that Act is in trouble, or that Don Brash's mishandling of the Act leadership has been spectacular - you'll get no argument from me.

But did he "win" or "lose" the actual debate with Julian Wilcox?

No. He did neither - it was a draw.

However, had that debate been screened in prime-time on either TVNZ or TV3, I rather think you'd be looking at a considerable surge of support towards Act.

The main reason Act is doing so poorly is simply because National is doing so well. The mainstream media have already decided the election for Key and are not disposed to see the right-wing block fractured by the likes of Ansell.

Ironically, it was Brash, himself, who consolidated the Right between 2004-2006 - not least by playing the race card.

At 14/7/11 2:45 pm, Blogger Phoebe Fletcher said...

Chris, I'm not sure you've understood what I was even arguing in the first place, given that your original patronizing first comment completely shifted the goal posts to mainstream New Zealand from what I was discussing.

In terms of your debate interpretation, I'm not certain that your perspectivist position is the only opinion. I'm sure I don't need to get into the finer points of hermeneutics to knock down the basic fallacies in your laws of debating, particularly as I have better things to do. From a PR perspective, which I am trained, practiced in, and have taught on, he lost.

I'm also not convinced of your election by numbers formula. True, ACT's support went up with a weak National, but as you know matters are far from being that simple. To claim so would be to ignore the way that surges in public opinion are temporally based and can swing elections. Otherwise what would be the point in watching? And for the record, I do understand that you are making a distinction between the debate and the ad, but I'm not certain you are correct.

At 15/7/11 12:35 pm, Blogger Chris Trotter said...

Aha, Phoebe! Not only a practitioner of the dark arts of public relations, but a post-modernist to boot.

I retire from the field - spraying holy water, strewing garlic and making the sign of the cross as I depart ;-)

At 19/7/11 9:58 am, Blogger eaglewatch said...

Whilst I have the utmost respect for Sharples and Turia (they accept the reality that politics is not a stage for foul mouthed activists etc.), Mr Sharples is actively promoting racism, why you ask ? heres why... Nobody can deny that Maori are over-represented in all the wrong statistics and as a people - do need assistance to address this but what Mr Brash is trying to get across is this... regardless of race or creed - if somebody needs help to better themselves be they black, white, yellow, brown or red then the same programes, courses and/or higher education should be available to EVERYONE !!! to say to a New Zealand citizen that they cannot attend a course or have the same access to welfare, waiver of course fees etc because they are not of Maori decent is racism in its purist form... it is exclusion based on race... end of storey. The problems do not lie in a lack of opportunity for Maori, the problem lies within the homes and families of Maori. Exclusion of rights and opportunites based on race is simply disgusting regardless of who is missing out on what. People have an INDIVIDUAL decision to do what they will with their lives, Mr Sharples made this decision years ago and he is now a very well respected (and well paid) academic/politician... it certainly isn't lack of opportunity or oppression that is getting in the way of others to do the same.

At 19/7/11 10:18 am, Blogger eaglewatch said...

Furthermore... I think that a worringly large majority of this countries inhabitants have somehow put their own little twist or spin on what the true definition of "racism" is. Respect of any given culture or beliefs is a two way street... dont expect to receive it if you cant show it, regardless of your take on this countries history or supposed wrong doings. Try opening your mind instead of the palm of your hand !


Post a Comment

<< Home