The column Stuff wouldn’t publish
Stuff.co.nz was happy to run a column from John Tamihere accusing David Seymour of an “insidious, sophisticated and covert form of race-based politics” but they wouldn’t publish David’s below response because they didn’t like the “tone” of the article.
If you wonder why Stuff is stuffed and people don’t trust the media, here is the perfect example.
There’s a dilemma we all face when personally attacked. Just ignore them, (like most people probably have already), or set the record straight. Ignoring them is easier, but maybe they think throwing enough mud will see some stick. Setting the record straight takes more time, and risks giving them and their argument more attention than deserved.
The dilemma is harder when the attack is dishonest, but from someone who’s done little to earn your respect. We’ve all been there, and John Tamihere’s article about me, The subtle dig at Māori in race-based politics and how it’s swinging voters’ judgement, is so filled with outright mistruths, that the record needs to be set straight.
Tamihere’s argument is summarised in his words: ‘Act Leader David Seymour plays a far more insidious, sophisticated and covert form of race-based politics.’ He goes on to say that my criticism of the Reserve Bank spending $400,000 on a monstrous piece of artwork is really an attack on Māori because the artwork was supposed to represent Tane Mahuta, the god of the forest.
He goes on to say that I wouldn’t criticise the America’s Cup losing hundreds of millions of dollars because it’s a white man’s sport. Here’s the problem. I am on the record criticising the America’s Cup getting taxpayer money. Just Google ‘David Seymour America’s Cup circus.’
Tamihere goes on to ask ‘Can you imagine a Waka Festival losing thousands of dollars being swept under the carpet by Seymour?’ Well, actually, something similar did happen when I was responsible for charter schools in the previous Government.
Te Kāpehu Whetū, a charter school in Whangarei was attacked for using its flexibility of funding to buy a waka. I believed, and still do, that charter schools were a power of good, and defended that school for that action among many others connected with the policy. They were a policy supported by ACT and the Iwi Chairs Forum because they were good for Māori.
That’s where the wheels really fall off Tamihere’s argument. On the basic facts, he’s not only a little bit wrong, but shilling the exact opposite of the truth. But on the wider issue of who really cares about Māori kids’ opportunity, it is Tamihere who’s played politics.
He forgot to mention his Waipareira Trust applied to operate a charter school, apparently believing in the power of the policy. He went through most of the application process then tried to renegotiate the terms he’d signed up to at the last minute.
He thought he could steamroll the young first term MP in charge of charter schools. Big mistake. When he didn’t get his way, he publicly trashed the policy that was working for disadvantaged kids, including those at his old friend Willie Jackson’s charter school, Te Kura Māori o Waatea.
It would be easy to dismiss Tamihere. He had a short parliamentary career, that ended with losing his seat, before losing his radio show for gross misogynistic comments, then running a disastrous campaign for the Auckland Mayoralty, then failing to win a seat in a short-lived revival as co-leader of the Māori Party. Why give him time?
The problem is that he’s doing such a terrible disservice to the very people he claims to represent. Just like his disgraceful conduct over the charter school affair, he is prepared to play politics without truth on the very important cause of solving poverty and improving education for Māori.
In his mind, to attack egregious waste at the Reserve Bank, gangs, and welfare abuse, is to attack Māori. Really? Do Māori speak with one voice? If we listen to John Tamihere, being Māori means you can’t want responsible Government spending, gangs to be treated with the contempt they deserve, and welfare dependency to be reduced.
ACT says all New Zealanders benefit from better policy. All New Zealanders want less crime, less tax, and greater independence. The idea we can’t have honest conversations about the challenges our country faces because we might offend Māori doesn’t just stop us making progress. Ironically enough, it is patronising and belittling of Māori who, unlike John, overwhelmingly want a better world through better policy.
John was once billed as a future Prime Minister. Now the best lesson he shows young New Zealanders of all backgrounds is not to waste their talent on hubris.