Like a heritage rock act out on a greatest hits tour, Don Brash is on the road replaying his Orewa speech of 2004.
This time though he’s formed his own organisation to back him up and he’s become part of a small but growing movement on the right of New Zealand politics attacking the Treaty and the way the Government interprets it.
Last night he was in the Wellington retirement town of Waikanae before an audience of around 100 mostly grey-haired supporters.
In 2004 Brash asked what sort of nation we wanted to build.
“Is it to be a modern democratic society, embodying the essential notion of one rule for all in a single nation state?” he asked.
“Or is it the racially divided nation, with two sets of laws, and two standards of citizenship, that the present Labour Government is moving us steadily towards?”
Brash then quoted William Hobson’s famous remark to each chief as they signed the Treaty “He iwi tahi tatou.” ( We are one people.)
He has now taken that line and used it form the basis of his new organisation which he calls “Hobson’s Pledge”.
After reminding his audience that his 2004 speech led to a surge in National’s popularity and that it won a greater share of the vote at the 2005 election than anytime since 1993 he said that 13 years later “racism still rules the roost.”
“The push for privilege persists, and the politicians still pander to it,” he said.
“Make no mistake – our Parliament has done this; our politicians have done this.
“They have been so busy passing racist laws and branding other people as racist that we are stuck with a very serious situation.”
Predictably he focussed on the section of the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill which provides for Mana Whakahono a Rohe – agreements between iwi and Councils on how the iwi will participate in planning and what role they will play in monitoring the implementation of those plans.
Opposition to the proposal has been simmering away for some time now, and there were signs at last year’s National Party regional conferences in the North Island that some members of the party were opposed.
Over the weekend the former ACT MP, Muriel Newman, ran newspaper advertisements containing a letter she has written the Prime Minister calling for the clauses in the Bill to be withdrawn.
“It’s an appalling piece of legislation with very profound constitutional implications,” said Brash.
Brash attacks what he calls the tribal elite – by which he means the Iwi Leaders’ Forum – for seeking privileges while ordinary Maori miss out.
“For some years now the Government has been talking behind closed doors with tribal leaders about giving them a special right to fresh water despite the Government’s long-held contention that nobody owns the water.
“Last year we saw the Maori King express the hope that by 2025 Maori would be able to share sovereignty.
“Nobody has pointed out to him that Maori already share sovereignty as all Maori have a vote.”
And then Brash went on to approvingly quote his old political nemesis Winston Peters who said earlier this year that “partnership’ was either legally, creatively and constitutionally wrong or every New Zealander had to be in partnership with the Crown.
Later, during question time he joked: “It pains me to say this, but I think I might have to vote for Winston because he’s saying the right things.”
But Brash’s main message went back to Hobson’s “one people” argument.
“We are saying that all racism is racist.
“We are saying that no one race should have any kind of constitutional preference.“
“We want New Zealand to be a country where every citizen of every colour and creed has the same political rights no matter when their ancestors came to the country we share and that we are building together.
“To call that racist is the epitome of Orwellian double speak.”
Brash shares the platform with Tracey Costello, a Ngapuhi former police officer who was the Manager of Security and Operations at Parliament.
She said she became involved with Hobson’s Pledge because to continue our current path of separatism was wrong.
“I stand here with Don Brash.
“Every effort has been made to undermine his comments and attack the validity of his statements with cries of racism.
“Yet I have never worked with anyone who operates with his level of respectfulness and integrity.
“He stands here with no agenda other than to do what we at Hobson’s Choice believe is vital for New Zealand.
“What is happening in New Zealand now is wrong’ patronising to Maori, destructive to our democracy and divisive to our national identity.
“If you take nothing else away tonight know that it is not racist to demand equal recognition before the law for all ethnicities in New Zealand.”
But Brash and Costello’s logic and pleas appeared to have fallen on deaf ears when it came to question time.
Questioners wanted to know why we had to sing the national Anthem in Maori; how to prevent the country being called Aotearoa, why Maori had to be taught in schools and so on and on.
There was some mild disruption when Greg Rzesniowiecki, a long time anti-TPP and anti neo-liberalism protestor and frequent submitter to Parliamentary Select Committees challenged Brash on his role as Reserve Bank Governor.
One of the few people there under 60 was Jordan Williams, the executive director of the Taxpayers’ Union who wanted to know what people at the meeting could do to help Brash and his campaign.
But Brash was at pains to say this was not a political campaign as such; rather he hoped everyone there would question all their candidates about the issues he had raised.
But perhaps one elderly woman hit the nail on the head when she pointed out that there were no young people there.
Without them, she suggested, the campaign was unlikely to succeed.