Across the media and blogosphere there are cries of "playing the race card". And my immediate impression when I heard the commentary was to think much the same thing.
Now I'm not sure. I've read the speech a couple of times and, disturbingly, I agree with much of it. Am I a racist?
Before you denounce me furiously, hear me out.
And let's also inject a bit of sanity into the debate. Goff is no Brash: let's get that clear right away. Let's not have such false equivalents being thrown about.
In his speech, Goff actually makes a number of valid points. So why the issue? Is it the overall tone? I'm not sure.
Perhaps the impression that Goff is playing "race" arises because of the efforts he goes to in order to paint a picture of two New Zealands: one where Maori and Pakeha live happily together, and one where there are deep racial divisions.
He also accuses the Maori Party of creating divisions between Maori and Pakeha. But it is at least arguable that Goff is doing no more than stating the obvious: the ETS deal, Harawira's idiocy, and the reopening of the foreshore and seabed issue, have the potential to stoke racial tensions. Well he's not actually wrong on that, is he?
Like Goff I have some serious difficulties with the deals done between the Maori Party and National.
- The reopening of Treaty settlements made in the 1990s in full and final settlement, at a time when nobody had ever heard of or contemplated an ETS, is wrong. The settlement process is supposed to resolve issues once and for all. That's what "full and final settlement" means. We now face the risk of those settlements being reopened and relitigated, each and every time the Government changes the law. The argument that this is justified because the value of the settlements is less under an ETS is a ridiculous one: everyone in the country is taking a hit under the ETS. How about I demand to pay less tax because my power and petrol bills are going to go up?
- The ETS deal favours a small number of Maori. Goff makes this point in the speech. There's very little in it for most Maori.
- The secret deals being done over the foreshore and seabed issue are a worry. I believe in open democracy, and the prospect of secret deals and trade-offs being done between the Maori Party and the Nats concerns me. I'm not pretending the current law is fine and dandy, though let's be honest: is there an easy solution? Of course not.
And for those people thinking they'll never vote Labour again, get real. What alternative do you have?
He's not Brash.