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August 20, 2018 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

A Brief History of Brash

He’s a man who is offended by Guyon Espiner saying “kia ora” on Morning Report, the public broadcaster’s flagship news show (“Why should I listen to Māori?” he asked in a fiery interview with Kim Hill).
He’s a man who’s dismissed early Māori society as “cannibalistic”, and he’s a man who last month fronted a lobby for the rights of two Canadian neo-Nazis, in an effort to protect “free speech”.
It’s clear that former Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash has no appreciation for Māori. To many, he’s just a flat-out racist. Worse, a racist who is wheeled out by the media, cobwebs and all, whenever a contrarian take is needed for anything Te Ao Māori.
As his comments have popped up in the past year like a whack-a-mole, Brash has been dismissed as an anachronism. A sign of a whitewashed past, with views that no sane person with even the most cursory knowledge of New Zealand History could possibly hold.
But many people do hold those views, and many more don’t even have that cursory knowledge of New Zealand history. In fact, Don Brash’s views nearly saw him become the Prime Minister of New Zealand only 13 years ago.
On 27 January 2004, Brash, the then leader of the National Party, stood before a Rotary Club in Orewa, a beach suburb and retiree’s haven north of Auckland, and delivered a speech now infamous for racial discord.
He castigated “separatism” and “Māori privilege” in New Zealand, such as Māori seats in parliament — an “anachronism,” he called them. He questioned the use of powhiri at official events, and the treaty settlement process or, as he put it, the “Treaty of Waitangi grievance industry”.
That speech set the benchmark for the 2005 election campaign, a campaign that had just been infused with the race card and billboards emblazoned “Iwi vs Kiwi”.
And quarter-acre-section living, Heartland rugby watching, Lion Something beer drinking, overdone mutton eating Mr and Mrs Average New Zealander lapped that shit up.

Immediately after the Orewa Speech, National received a 17 percent surge in the polls. The election campaign was now neck-and-neck between Brash and Helen Clark’s Labour.
“He would’ve done a lot of opinion polling on that and he knew it would strike a chord,” said Clark last year on The 9th Floor, an interview series with former Prime Ministers. “Why do I say that? Because we had opinion pollsters too. And we knew that policies which aimed to support Māori were not popular.”

But 13 years later, why do we see Don Brash so often, and why does he keep going with this? One only needs to go to the bottom of a Stuff article, listen to the torrent of feedback Espiner receives when he speaks te reo, or look at the debate regarding Māori representation in New Plymouth, to see that the spirit of Orewa still resonates.
Don Brash persists because he knows he still has support. He knows that beneath a placid surface of rolling hills and dairy cows is a bubbling undercurrent of resentment towards anything Māori that isn’t rugby players.


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