Redneck views may not be too far from the centre

CHRIS TROTTER
Last updated 08:40 22/05/2012

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Chris Trotter

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OPINION: Louis Crimp could have come straight from central casting. His narrow face, those pinched features: all the Invercargill businessman needed to complete the quintessential redneck ensemble was a greasy pair of denim overalls and a shotgun.

Certainly, his reported assertion, "All the white New Zealanders I've spoken to don't like the Maori, the way they are full of crime and welfare", fitted him out perfectly for the redneck role.

How did New Zealand's liberal intelligentsia respond to this "racist" eruption from the deep south? Curiously, with considerable satisfaction. Here, in all its brutal honesty, was living proof of the Left's fondest prejudices. In Mr Crimp they were confronted by the sum of all their cultural fears.

"But wait" (as they say on the infomercials), "there's more!" Not only was Mr Crimp guilty of (ahem) cultural insensitivity, but he was also a millionaire and a major donor to the Act Party. Talk about your "three-strikes" policy!

Strike one: guilty of being a redneck. Strike two: guilty of being a rapacious capitalist. Strike three: guilty of donating $125,000 to the Act Party's election campaign.

For the promoters of a bicultural, decolonised, anti-capitalist New Zealand, Mr Crimp is the political gift that keeps on giving.

But are those for whom Mr Crimp's unapologetic expressions of racial unease constitute a weird sort of vindication genuinely representative of majority opinion in New Zealand?

What if the dream of biculturalism, now so deeply embedded in the social policy agenda of the political class, is most emphatically not the dream of those who live outside the magic circles of elite policy formation and its unmandated bureaucratic implementation?

What if, three decades of bicultural propaganda notwithstanding, a majority of New Zealanders continue to harbour attitudes toward Maori not all that dissimilar to Mr Crimp's? What then?

Before answering that question, let's see if we can find any evidence that might help us to determine whether the bicultural message has been accepted by a clear majority of New Zealanders; or if it is only among Maori that the concept of a Treaty of Waitangi-based "partnership" between coloniser and colonised continues to resonate.

On the same day as Mr Crimp's remarks were published, the people of Nelson, in one of those curious historical coincidences, concluded a postal ballot on whether or not their city council should guarantee Maori representation around the council-table by creating a special Maori ward.

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According to The Nelson Mail, the voters' answer to this biculturally based question was an emphatic "No!". Of the 15,387 votes received, 3131 were in support of the proposal, with 12,298 in opposition.

The turn-out was 43 per cent. At 79 per cent of those participating, the result was within one percentage point of the findings of The Nelson Mail's own opinion poll on the issue.

Nelson city's response matches closely the response of voters in Waikato District who, in a similar ballot, concluding on April 5, 2012, voted 80 per cent to 20 per cent against separate Maori representation.

Nor is this opposition to separate Maori representation limited to provincial New Zealand.

A survey of 1031 New Zealanders conducted by Consumerlink (a department of the Colmar Brunton polling agency) found 72.4 per cent of Pakeha who answered yes or no supported the abolition of both the Maori roll and the Maori seats, with 70.08 per cent also favouring the abolition of the Waitangi Tribunal.

On the question of separate Maori representation on local bodies, 73.29 per cent of Pakeha voted against.

It would be quite wrong to extrapolate these figures into some sort of confirmation of Mr Crimp's caustic assertion that most "white" New Zealanders "don't like the Maori".

They do, however, raise some serious doubts about the actual level of support for the entire bicultural project.

It is at least arguable that what most Pakeha New Zealanders really "don't like" is the whole notion of Maori separatism.

Were Pakeha given a choice between the present approach to race-relations, and one that advanced the principle of undifferentiated citizenship in a unitary and colour-blind state, all the evidence suggests that the latter option would win the support of more than two- thirds of the general electorate.

In other words, the bi- cultural project cannot withstand the audit of democracy and must be imposed from above.

That, at least, is the opinion of the Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres.

He responded to the Nelson ballot by saying that the law should be changed so Maori seats are a right, rather than subject to a vote of the majority.

"To put it to a general vote without a very informed electorate, I think, always runs the risk of the minority being told where to get off," he said.

Better, presumably, for a minority to tell the majority where to get off?

Call me a redneck if you will, but I "don't like" that at all.

- The Press

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