David Seymour: Why I published the priority access code for Māori

OPINION:

The breathless furore from certain politicians, journalists and commentators about my publishing a “Priority Access Code for Māori” has itself been illuminating.

The publication had no practical impact. The code was not private information and it had already been widely shared on social media. The vaccinators have since said they vaccinate all comers anyway. Nobody missed out. In fact, by publishing the “Priority Access Code for Māori”, I’ve done more to promote Māori vaccination than the Government’s taxpayer-funded advertising this week.

The codes were not targeted at people who needed to be vaccinated. Two of the people sent the code that I know already had been. Whatever the problem with Māori getting vaccinated, it’s unlikely they were just waiting to be emailed a priority access code.

In other words, the whole exercise was symbolic. So, why the outrage? Why did commentators swear on TV, politicians write surly columns, and journalists blow their cover? Their problem is the code was a perfect symbol of something the left worships as sacred.

They believe New Zealand has sinned, and the path to redemption is by forming a new kind of state. A partnership between tangata whenua, here by right, and tangata treaty, here because the treaty allows them to be. In other words, a state where your political rights and your place in the world depend on your birth.

This belief is woven through the current Government’s approach to every area of policy.

The new history curriculum teaches the next generation that “Māori history is the foundational and continuous history of New Zealand”.

Three waters assets are to be put under co-governance between Māori and the rest.

You may not have heard about the Plant Variety Rights Bill, but it will set up a special Māori Plant Variety Rights Committee. Apparently Māori are born with a special connection to some plants that other people don’t have. I wish I was making this up.

The Natural and Built Environments Act, set to replace the RMA, will require that all land and resource use decisions “give effect to” the principles of the Treaty.

Most of us recognise all of this for what it is. For some folks it is an article of faith beyond criticism. Me having the temerity to mock the priority access code for Māori mocked their faith, and out the hornets swarmed.

The reason I highlighted the code as all was because I want all New Zealanders, regardless of race, to have the opportunity to be vaccinated. I don’t care if you’re pakeha, Māori, Pasifika or Chinese – we should all have equal access. But none of us should be prioritised above the others because of who our grandparents were.

Like anyone who wonders aloud whether having different laws for different people based on ancestry might not work out so well, I was accused of racism. Just to be clear, opposing racial discrimination is racist. They never explain how much discrimination you must support to avoid being called racist.

It’s a real pity so many people have become so enchanted with the partnership project. We do live in an unequal world. Social services including health and education could be much better. We need to innovate and find better ways to deliver services that engage all people.

It would have been helpful if the Government had been prepared to partner with GPs, pharmacies, iwi, churches and workplaces months ago. By making the rollout so difficult to access, they made it a challenge to get vaccinated. I know of highly organised people who would go to vaccination centres when they heard of extra supply along the grapevine.

The real criticism should lie with the Government for running such a hopeless rollout.

My own proudest achievement in politics is the role I played in bringing charter schools to New Zealand. They were not a policy just for Māori, anyone could apply to start one.

Nevertheless, they were enthusiastically embraced by many Māori who felt they were getting a raw deal from the state system. Some examples of that raw deal were actual racism where union-protected teachers told Māori kids they wouldn’t amount to much.

The Labour party shut down charter schools for one day, and reopened them the next, with two major changes. They had to use union contracts, and they didn’t have to meet targets for student attendance.

How many of those now breathlessly saying its racist to mock a Priority Access Code for Māori stood up against that? Not one of them issued a tweet in anger.

David Seymour is the Member of Parliament for Epsom and Leader of ACT New Zealand.

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