Laws: Susan Devoy damned to irrelevancy

Last updated 10:12 24/03/2013
Sunday Star-Times columnist Michael Laws: Those who condemned a Porirua mother for leaving her child in her car with a note should get a life.

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Squashed in court of public opinion

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In justifying the appointment of former squash champ Dame Susan Devoy, as the country's new race relations commissioner, Justice Minister Judith Collins argued that Devoy had two outstanding characteristics.

OPINION: First, she was a woman. Second, she was a woman who spoke her mind.

Given that this qualification covers at least one half of the Kiwi population - particularly the stroppy sheila part - then one might wonder if Devoy's name was simply drawn by lot. In which case, the former tom-girl turned tom-woman, is a choice as sensible as any other.

Because, reviewing all the former race relations commissioners - all men - it is remarkable how none of them had any qualifications either. Whether Maori rugby coach Hiwi Tauroa, Jewish lawyer Wally Hirsh, South African migrant Gregory Fortuin, Pakeha poohbah Chris Laidlaw or Dutch socialist Joris de Bres … none possessed any great acumen or skill for this oddest of public sector roles.

And none have had any effect - positive or otherwise - in improving race relations in New Zealand. They have all been as useless as tits on the proverbial bull.

That is because the role itself is so silly. They have no real power beyond moral suasion, and de Bres singlehandedly dealt to any remaining gravitas with a succession of nonsensical statements and actions. That the latter had ten years in the role was simply risible.

Perhaps in reaction to the rampant PC liberalism of de Bres, this National government has chosen somewhere as mainstream as they could find. The Tauranga mum is no great brain and no especial communicator. Which means that she is unlikely to stray into any area that will cause embarrassment to anybody.

This did not stop the liberal left attacking her appointment on the basis of a nondescript column that she had written in a minor provincial newspaper over a year ago. In that column Devoy argued that New Zealand should find another day, apart from Waitangi Day, to celebrate the specialness (and multi-cultural diversity) of modern New Zealand.

This is heresy to liberals. They like to believe that there are Maori and then there are others. Which is why Devoy accurately observed what she did. Waitangi Day ain't for everybody.

Quite what else she believes, we do not know. Frankly, it doesn't matter. And it won't.

Besides she will spend her first year, very possibly her whole term, struggling with the staff that she has inherited from de Bres. They all work for the overtly PC human rights commission and you could hear their collective lip-curling from all parts of the country when Devoy was named.

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They are as out of touch with public sentiment as their office. Like the Families Commission, they are also a complete waste of taxpayers' monies, and contribute nothing to either our economy or society.

And in one sense, the government have this appointment right. Sport has created better race relations in this country than any bureaucrat ever will. And sex. But we're not ready for Nicki Watson just yet.

- Sunday Star Times


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