2004-08-04 04:36:33 UTC
This hilarious debate as the collective range of
NZ'ers scurry to define and redefine ourselves.
John Armstrong: Who's indigenous? The only certainty is Luigi
Only one conclusion could be safely drawn from Parliament's attempt
yesterday to grapple with the question of who can claim to be an indigenous
New Zealander: Winston Peters is not an Italian.
That much became clear after a predictable bout of Peters-baiting.
But not much else did.
Pakeha New Zealanders confused about their identity may have been even more
confused after listening to the exchange between MPs sparked by last week's
speech from Race Relations Minister Trevor Mallard.
Of special note was the contribution of the Greens' Nandor Tanczos. The
Rastafarian MP with Hungarian lineage suggested that while Pakeha were not
indigenous, they did belong here by right of the Treaty of Waitangi and
could therefore call themselves "tangata tiriti", or people of the Treaty.
No thanks, grimaced National MPs, who are wary of Mr Mallard's obvious ploy
to woo Pakeha voters back to Labour by affirming his and, by implication,
Fortunately for National, there is sunlight between the positions held by
Wainuiomata Man and his Prime Minister, who prefers to call herself merely a
"New Zealander, full stop".
National's deputy leader, Gerry Brownlee, asked Mr Mallard what Helen Clark
had told him after she had read his treatise on the treaty.
Mr Mallard said he had a number of conversations with her, adding that one
of the "really interesting things"about speeches such as his was that it
prompted New Zealanders to discuss their country's future.
This sounded like a polite way of saying the Prime Minister did not entirely
agree with him.
But Mr Mallard was not backing off. He quoted historian Michael King, who
had declared that Pakeha became indigenous at the point when their focus of
identity and commitment shifted to New Zealand and away from countries and
cultures of origin.
All this navel-gazing was too much for Mr Peters, who suggested
international observers would find it pathetic that National and Labour were
arguing about all this.
Mr Mallard sarcastically thanked Mr Peters for his support, adding "and I'll
forget why we used to call him Luigi" - an old jibe directed at Mr Peters
for allegedly posing as Italian during his university days to hide his Maori
Sharing the joke, Mr Peters said that "disgraceful" allegation had first
been made by a number of envious people when he was at university, even
though he had captained the Maori rugby team.
But the levity was shortlived.
Next up was Mr Tanczos. To collective groans from other parties, he asked if
Mr Mallard was aware of the United Nations' definition of indigenous people
as "communities having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and
Mr Mallard swiftly dismissed that argument, saying its logical conclusion
was that all those who had arrived in New Zealand on other than the first
canoe would not be indigenous.
But the Opposition was not finished. Act's Ken Shirley asked if Mr Mallard
had bothered to run his views on indigenousness past Labour's Maori MPs.
Mr Mallard replied that a couple had read his speech in advance, and he had
been invited to "share his views" with the rest of them in the near future.
He did not add the obvious corollary that they may wish to share their views