Salient. Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 8. Monday, July 1, 1963
Politicians Hedge on Racial Issues
Politicians Hedge on Racial Issues
Big party politics may prejudice the chances of true equality between Maori and Pakeha, Questions asked by Salient reveal that the two major parties in New Zealand are largely influenced by selfish motives in deciding their policies on Maori political representation.
A Spokesman for the Labour Party accused the National Government of delaying the abolition of Maori seats in Parliament because the influx of Labour-voting Maoris into ordinary electorates would seriously reduce the chances of a National majority.
A National spokesman denied this and said the Labour Party were pushing the issue too quickly in their eagerness to gain larger representation.
Both parties turned on the weary old line about "keeping in touch with the Maori people on the question."
Salient found that the smaller parties had little idea of what to say when asked whether Maori seats should be done away with. The Social Credit Political League gave a tentative "yes"' to the question. "We would prefer an immediate change-over." said a spokesman.
Mr. R. Nunes, of the Communist Party, said his party did not support an immediate change-over in Maori representation. "At present the Maori does not play a big enough part in public affairs," he said. He added that complete social equality for the Maori was not possible under capitalism and would only become a full reality under socialism.
Asked whether they would introduce a law banning all racial discrimination, Labour said that such a law was not urgently necessary and would raise legal and practical dangers. The National and Social Credit Parties agreed with this but the Communist Party advocated the complete outlawing of all racial discrimination.
The Maori lands question produced a mixed response from the parties interviewed. Social Credit wanted to "call a round table conference of interested parties, including the Maori leaders." The Communist Party said it would be reluctant to interfere with Maori customs with respect to inheritance of Maori lands but would "endeavour to convince holders of Maori lands of the advantages of farming on a larger scale than is usual at present."
Labour favoured the unifying of Maori land titles by buying out sellers in appropriate cases. National's "steady does it" policy seemed to extend into this question. The party placed its faith in the operations of the Maori Lands Court.
Policies on the Islands Territories varied. The Communists considered the Islands colonies of New Zealand imperialism and claimed that the recent decision of the Cook Islands Legislative Assembly to retain close ties with this country had been influenced by New Zealand business Interests.
Mr. J. M. McEwen, Secretary of Island Territories, denied this and said Government policy in the islands allowed the people as much autonomy as possible without being completely independent. He pointed out that the Island Territories would not be able to exist economically without New Zealand's help.
He said the Island people did not want direct representation in the New Zealand Parliament as this would remove the decisionmaking centre away from Raratonga.
The Labour Party thought the Cook Islands should be given representation in Parliament.
At the time of the interview Social Credit had no policy on this question.
The racial factors in Immigration policy produced a few frowns. All the parties interviewed seemed to agree that immigrants of British stock should receive preference in assisted immigration schemes.
Asked why no subsidised immigration scheme was pursued in Asian and African countries, a senior official of the Immigration Department said: "We offer subsidised passages to New Zealand only to skilled workers. There would be no point in recruiting skilled workers from under-developed countries where they are needed more than here."
He denied emphatically any hidden "White New Zealand policy." "More than a thousand Pacific Islanders settle in New Zealand each year," he said.
All parties wanted strictly controlled immigration.
All but the Communists hedged on the issue of attitudes to racial policy in other countries. Mr. Nunes criticised the "hypocritical attitude of the Federal Government of the United States in failing to back up its words with actions in the Southern States." He condemned the "fascist actions of the Southern States ruling class."
All parties were emphatic in their condemnation of South Africa's apartheid policy. Labour would probably, but not necessarily, support a censure motion against South Africa in the United Nations. Social Credit would probably not support a censure motion, while the National Government had not voted for the two most recent resolutions directed against South Africa. The Communist Party would support any censure motion.—G.Q.