Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dr Sharples vs Dr Brash: Māori Radicalism

"We might have our differences, but we are one people with a common destiny in our rich variety of culture, race and tradition." 
Nelson Mandela, ANC victory speech, Johannesburg, 2 May 1994

Dr Don Brash (leader of ACT Party, PhD in Economics) and  Dr Pita Sharples (leader of Māori Party, PhD in Anthropolgy)  went head-to-head in a tevleised debate on Māori Television's 'Native Affairs' show, sparked by the advertisement the ACT Party published in the New Zealand Herald newspaper. The advertisement is headlined "Fed Up With Pandering to Maori Radicals?"

I watched the debate live on TV, with respect already for both Dr Sharples and Dr Brash, and having expectations for Dr Brash having met the man and supporting his policies up to that point. The impression most objective thinkers were under was that Dr Brash was campaigning on 'one law for all' as his maxim whereby all New Zealanders were given perfectly equal treatment before the law, eliminating affirmative action and discrimination towards any group; and Dr Sharples representing a party concerned with Māori rights and perspectives, but with a holistically positive goal in the future. Dr Sharples reiterated the idea of a better future for EVERYONE. Who won the debate is a an answer I will not give as it depends on each person, I support 'one law for all' and also a better future for everyone, not some. In my opinion, having one law for all is THE KEY to creating a better future for all.

Pragmatism, Not Populism
As a usual supporter of ACT and Dr Brash, the policies that he offers are of freer markets with less barriers to entry. Dr Brash is probably the most qualified and respected economist in the country. We trust his judgment in economic policy. So why is he focusing so heavily on race relations and not the economy? 

We understand the ACT position on equal rights and equal opportunity, which gives everyone equal access to the economic benefits available in this country, Dr Brash for some reason ignored the economic advantages of his perspective and just argued against Dr Sharples' view and quarreled over quotidian points like the Wanganui/Whanganui debate. Is this really the kind of issue we need to focus on? Is the rate of economic development and the level of poverty in the country not more important?

Dr Brash's theory has colossal economic benefit, but this was strangely absent. Equal access to the benefits of a free market economy and increased accountability of government spending is the way to go, where spending by the government is for every New Zealander that needs a hand. A united approach where we all have the opportunity to strive for our own success makes us all capable of becoming what we want, realizing our own potential. Having discriminatory policies obviously creates another barrier to this kind of opportunity, and in the case of affirmative action, gives a group of people opportunities and benefits they may not want or need at the cost of those who would appreciate them.

The ACT party has gained it's reputation for being promoters of small government and strong economic policy; these are the policies that have kept ACT in Parliament and built up its support base. The idea is that ACT's economic policies should solve social issues.

And the winner is...
Dr Sharples was good to rebut Dr Brash with the saying that the Māori are concerned with a united way forward that gives a future to all New Zealanders. Dr Sharples did not explain exactly how this would happen in his perspective, and unfortunately my understanding of Māori Party policy is that it would involve affirmative action policies and some socialist economic management. All New Zealanders should be able to agree with the idea of a better New Zealand for all of us to share, Dr Brash did not elaborate enough on how this better New Zealand comes from equal laws that give equal opportunity to gain the fruits from this country. Dr Brash still made many good points, those of us that believe in one law for all stand by this principle, however Dr Sharples may not have been convinced what kind of benefits could be made through the policy.

What next?
The target audience for these policies are people who value personal and economic freedom, equal opportunity, and want to see a better and stronger economy for New Zealand. Labeling most Māori politicians as 'radicals' may not advance the cause, but the real vote-winner for Dr Brash and the way forward is to concentrate on economic policy, reminding people of the benefits of a strong economy and equal access to making gains from it.

The way forward should be a united one, having a colorblind and non-discriminatory legislative policy (one law for all) ensures the equal treatment of people, leaving individuals personally responsible for their own gains and losses compared to others. While Māori seats and other legal issues are a small formality, the key is to pave a way forward that is to create the new economic policies to benefit New Zealanders in a way that advantages everyone.

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