This is an article that my good friend Derek Fox has penned as guest commentator in the daily newspaper of the Cooks, (and I will drop him a line asking his permission to publish it here in a day or two!)
The dubious benefits of citizenship
At the outbreak of the Second World War Apirana Ngata – he’s the guy with his picture on our $50 note – persuaded the government to form a Maori battalion. The 28th Battalion was formed on tribal lines and the different iwi kept up the numbers to maintain the fighting unit. Men from the pacific also served in the 28th.
Ngata did this because he believed it was part of the ‘price of citizenship’, Maori should not only enjoy the benefits of New Zealand society, but should also share the hardships – like fighting in a world war.
History tells us that the 28th (Maori) Battalion served with great distinction winning every decoration for bravery that it was possible to win; but the cost too was enormous. Two thirds of the men were either killed, wounded – sometimes up to three times – or taken prisoner.
The price was indeed high.
That’s why I’ve found three snippets of news in recent days very interesting.
As I write Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is challenging Maori to take ownership of the fact that about half of the children abused in this country are allegedly Maori and Maori should put their hands in their pockets and pay to fix this situation.
Also this week the Race Relations Commissioner – Joris de Bris – has expressed his concerns about the high numbers of Maori unemployed – double the Pakeha numbers – and worse still the very very high number of unemployment amongst Maori youth.
The third piece was a study of life expectancy taken from the official statistics. It compares how long we live to how we earn and what race we spring from; you’ll be surprised to learn that Maori have the shortest life expectancy – even high earning Maori live shorter lives than low earning Pakeha.
Well so what, I can hear some of you saying, well here’s what
The reason Paula Bennett is in a government in this country is because of the Treaty of Waitangi – not because Maori were conquered but because they were persuaded to sign a treaty.
Paula has probably read the Treaty – but I continually come across people with very strong opinions on it – who haven’t.
Basically there are three articles and this is roughly what they say:
Article one signs governance over to the Crown – our governments like that part.
Article two guarantees Maori undisturbed possession of their land forests etc – successive governments have violated or ignored that part.
Article three guarantees Maori the rights of British citizens – those were the ‘benefits’ that Ngata saw – good health, employment, housing, an education, justice and so on.
So where are they, why is it that Maori must now pay for their own social services; and next week will Paula Bennett be telling whoever owns the other children who are being abused that they will have to pay too, or will the taxpayer do that – along with Maori taxpayers?
In fact all governments including this one have failed to provide the rights guaranteed under article three and that failure is the root cause behind the social ills that plague Maori including unemployment and child abuse.
Each year we’re told how Maori children are failing at school – but who’s really failing? Maori children aren’t paid tens of thousands of dollars to educate themselves – an army of civil servants is.
Will the next step be that Maori need to pay for their own education, and health services and so on? What then will the role of the government be, and if two of the three premises on which the Treaty was signed are no longer valid – then should the treaty itself be null and void and should we revert to the ownership and other arrangements that preceded it. That’s what happens if a contract fails.
There can be no doubt whatsoever that Maori are not getting the same level of service as Pakeha under article three. Poorly educated people end up in poorly paid employment if they get work at all. They live in poor housing and suffer poor health, to survive they may resort to crime which will see them locked up which will leave their families without a breadwinner, they will not be able to afford health care so simple and easily avoided illnesses will go untreated they will die earlier and the cycle will start all over again.
You might be interested to know that Apirana Ngata was a contemporary of Ernest Rutherford – he’s the guy on our $100 bill. They were mates at Canterbury University and graduated at the same time – both were high achievers.
Rutherford wanted the two chums to head off to Europe –where he went on to win fame by splitting the atom a precursor to the atom bomb.
Ngata turned down the trip and instead went home to serve his people on the east coast, later exhorting them to go to war to pay the price of citizenship.
I reckon we paid too much, and I’m picking today he’d agree with me.