Right wing plays anti-Maori card in dash for votes
Friday 26 November 1999
The choice of venue was deliberately provocative. One Tree Hill was the site of a Maori pa (fortified village), and it was once crowned by a totara, a native tree sacred to the Maoris. The totara was felled by the Europeans in 1876 and replaced with a pine, now leaning at a perilous angle after a recent attack on it by chainsaw-wielding Maori activists.
In tactics reminiscent of those employed by Pauline Hanson's One Nation party in Australia last year, ACT has waged an unashamedly populist campaign for votes in tomorrow's general election. It is demanding a 10-year time limit for the settlement of land claims, and also wants a 20 per cent flat tax rate, harsher prison sentences and a clampdown on welfare "scroungers".
While the party is not openly racist in the manner of One Nation, which opposed immigration and Aboriginal land rights, its message has struck a chord with disaffected blue-collar and rural New Zealanders. Opinion polls suggest that its share of the vote has risen to 10 per cent, from 6 per cent at the 1993 election. As the prospective coalition partner of Jenny Shipley's ruling National Party, ACT politicians will be given cabinet posts if the Nationals win the most seats tomorrow.
With Helen Clark's Labour Party 10 points ahead in a poll in today's New Zealand Herald, that scenario looks unlikely. However, ACT - which uses resonant phrases such as "One Country" - is poised to send up to 15 MPs to the 120-seat parliament in Wellington.
It is the party's anti-Maori platform that has proved most divisive in a country that prides itself on good race relations. One Labour MP, David Jacobs, accused ACT of being fascist and warned that a National-ACT government would lead to "blood on the streets".
At an ACT rally in central Auckland yesterday, attended by elderly people and businessmen, plus a scattering of shaven-headed thugs, many of the speeches were drowned out by chanting demonstrators. Mr Prebble, nicknamed "Mad Dog", taunted the protesters, telling one: "Madam, help is on its way. We are going to find you a job. Yes, you're going to enjoy working. I know it will be a new experience."
ACT has tapped a vein of racism in New Zealand by attacking the "grievance industry" of claims made under the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, in which Maori tribes ceded sovereignty to the British Crown in exchange for the rights and privileges of becoming British subjects. A tribunal set up 10 years ago to process compensation claims has become a focus for the frustrations of white New Zealanders who resent what they regard as hand- outs to the Maoris.
The demand for a time limit, while unpopular with most Maoris, is relatively mild. ACT knows that the race card must be played with caution in New Zealand, where most people regard themselves as fundamentally fair-minded. Race relations are far better than in neighbouring Australia, not least because Maoris make up 15 per cent of the population and are well integrated.
ACT was founded by Sir Roger Douglas, architect of New Zealand's radical economic agenda of the Eighties, and Mr Prebble was a minister in the Labour government that implemented it. Speaking at ACT's campaign office, which is located in a seedy area of Auckland full of strip bars and massage parlours, Mr Prebble shrugged off the racist label.
"People make those sorts of statements because they're not willing to debate," he said. "We have had the courage to raise the issues that the other parties have run away from."
- 1 'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
- 2 Black Mass trailer: Johnny Depp might have started making good films again
- 3 Jacob Lescenski and Anthony Martinez: Straight student asks gay friend to High School prom and makes a million Twitter friends
- 4 Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
Top 20 misconceptions people believe are true
Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
Head transplant: man will be attached to new body in under an hour and aim is immortality, doctor says
Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...
£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...