Don Brash will give his speech to Massey University students today, more than two months after the university cancelled it citing security concerns.
The cancellation of the speech to the Politics Society at the Palmerston North campus sparked debate about freedom of speech after Brash said he believed the decision was based on his political views rather than security.
At 11am today he will finally get the chance to give his speech, although this time there are bound to be questions about the saga.
He told the Herald he was pleased to be able to speak at the University after the first roadblock.
During his last planned visit, he had notes and points on what he was going to talk about.
This time he had a fully written speech prepared which he has provided to the Herald.
"Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today – an invitation all the more appreciated because you've had to persevere given that your earlier invitation to me was over-ridden by the Vice Chancellor at short notice in August," his speech notes read.
"Certainly there should be absolutely no attempt to gag those who want to argue for equal rights for all citizens, irrespective of ethnicity."
Brash in his speech notes went on to say there needed to be some form of legislative intervention "to protect the right of people to express themselves freely at our universities, free both from the intervention of university administrators with strong personal opinions and from noisy students keen to enforce their own views on others".
Internal emails released under the Official Information Act last month seemed to confirm Brash's suspicions.
The documents showed that security was not the main concern, with Massey University vice-chancellor Jan Thomas saying she didn't want a "te tiriti led university be seen to be endorsing racist behaviours".
"I would like to know what are our options re [regarding] not allowing politics clubs to hold event on campus - free to hold any event but not with any inference of support by university," she wrote in an email to her assistant in July.
"Will hit the fan in the media if we go this way. However, racist behaviour of Brash - given te reo is a official language of NZ and we are a tiriti led university - can't be ignored."
However, it wasn't until August 7, the day before Brash was marked to speak at the Manawatū campus, that Thomas cancelled the speaking event citing security concerns.
Massey University continue to insist that "genuine" security concerns existed for cancelling the speech.
In a statement provided to the Herald a spokesman for Massey University addressed the emails requested under the Official Information Act surrounding Brash's planned visit to speak at the Manawatu campus as part of an event hosted by the University's Politics Society.
"It shows the vice-chancellor was first advised of the event several weeks beforehand.
"She held concerns because of the upset that a previous visit by Hobson's Pledge representatives to campus had caused but had been prepared to let it go ahead under conditions the students had signed up to," the spokesman said.
It was when a security threat was raised that Thomas made the decision to cancel the booking.
"Despite what others have claimed, the concern about the threat was genuine. Professor Thomas has subsequently said the University is reviewing how staff assess security threats at its campuses."
Earlier this month, however, Massey University chancellor Michael Ahie said the Council of Massey University was undertaking an independent review into the process surrounding the cancellation of the former National Leader's appearance on the Manawatū campus.
The review will be undertaken by Douglas Martin, a former Deputy State Services Commissioner.
Martin was scheduled to report his findings and make recommendations to the University Council by the end of November.
Don Brash's full speech at Massey University
Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today – an invitation all the more appreciated because you've had to persevere given that your earlier invitation to me was over-ridden by the Vice Chancellor at short notice in August.
Before I talk about my time in Parliament, it might be helpful to reflect briefly on my "pre-history" – the events which preceded my entry into Parliament in the middle of 2002.
I was brought up in a Presbyterian manse, with parents who were on the left of the political spectrum. I was educated at state schools, and did a Masters' degree in Economics under the influence of Wolf Rosenberg, a neo-Marxist.
In my fourth year of high school, I chose to opt out of military cadets, compulsory at the time, as a Christian pacifist. Nothing about that background would have led you to predict that I would enter Parliament on the National Party ticket.
But doing a doctoral thesis on the effects of American corporate investment in Australia persuaded me that most of what Wolf Rosenberg had told me about the evil effects of foreign investment was simply wrong, while seeing the way in which public sector aid was too often squandered when working at the World Bank made me increasingly aware of the benefits of markets.
Back in New Zealand, working as the chief executive of an investment bank, the New Zealand Kiwifruit Authority, and Trust Bank (in sequence of course) further strengthened my understanding of the benefits of markets, and the problems too often created by well-intended rules and regulations.
I became involved in advising various governments, and on the periphery of politics:
- I was appointed to the Monetary and Economic Council by the Kirk/Rowling Labour Government in 1974;
- And to the Committee of Inquiry into Inflation Accounting and the New Zealand Planning Council by the Muldoon National Government in 1976.
- In the late seventies, David Lange (not yet the Leader of the Labour Party) invited me to join the Labour Party Policy Committee and be available for selection as a Labour Party candidate for Parliament, an invitation I declined, but not before giving the invitation very serious consideration.
- Totally out of the blue, I was asked to stand as the National Party candidate in the East Coast Bays by-election of 1980, and again in the general election of 1981 – fortunately, as it turned out, I missed election on both occasions despite being the third highest polling National Party candidate in the country in 1981.
- After the Lange-Douglas Government was elected in 1984, and while I was employed as chief executive of the Kiwifruit Authority, I chaired four successive tax committees for that government – the committee which designed our GST, and committees which recommended major change in the way we taxed the rural sector, life insurance and superannuation, and dealt with "accruals" of income and expenditure (happy to explain that if anybody has an hour or two to spare!).
In 1988, I was appointed Governor of the Reserve Bank, a role which took me to the heart of the Wellington bureaucracy, and over almost 14 years had me working with no fewer than seven different Ministers of Finance, from three different political parties. It was the most intensely satisfying part of my entire career, not just because being central bank governor is almost by definition a crucial role in itself but also because during my time as Governor we pioneered some world-leading initiatives:
- We became the first central bank in the world to engage in formal inflation targeting – an approach to monetary policy which is now virtually universal in developed country central banks.
- We pioneered a totally new relationship between central bank and government, whereby the government publically announced the inflation target which the central bank was to deliver and then held the central bank accountable for delivering that target.
- And we may well have become the most efficient central bank in the world – in terms of resource use – after the 1989 legislation deprived the Reserve Bank of seigniorage income (it is seigniorage income, derived from the fact that central banks can invest the money they get from selling bank notes, that explains why central banks the world over tend to be the least efficient part of the public sector).
But while central banks can do some extremely important things for any society, they cannot (and should not) get into policy areas which are beyond their legislative mandate, and by 2002 I had become increasingly frustrated at the inability or unwillingness of successive governments to deal with some of the biggest issues confronting our society – in particular, our very slow rate of growth in per capita income.
So when I was approached by Michelle Boag, the President of the National Party, to stand in the 2002 election, I accepted her invitation – though not without considerable anguish given that accepting the invitation meant leaving a job which I loved, accepting a very substantial reduction in salary, and totally disrupting my wife's career (if I was elected, she would have to leave her job in the Cabinet Office).
I was lucky. I was elected despite the National Party getting its lowest vote in history – with that low vote itself being to my advantage in the sense that the caucus was reduced to just 27 members, with nobody in the new caucus keen to take on the role of Finance spokesperson, the role which I eagerly sought.
I learnt a lot over the ensuing 15 months.
I learnt the trivial stuff – like not being allowed to leave the Parliamentary precinct, even to get a hair-cut, without the approval of the Party Whip.
I learnt how to make five or ten minute speeches devoid of any content at all if the Party Whip needed somebody to fill in time in the Debating Chamber.
I learnt the important stuff, like the tension which sometimes exists between the need for caucus unity and the need to be true to one's own conscience, a tension which is much more acute in the New Zealand Parliamentary system, with its very rigid party rules, than in democracies with looser rules around party discipline, such as the UK and the US.
With Bill English's encouragement, I wrote a 20 page paper on the policies which the next National Government would adopt to increase our rate of per capita growth, and got considerable support for those policies from both the caucus and the wider Party membership.
Late in October 2003, almost exactly 15 years ago to the day, I publically challenged Bill English for the leadership of the Party.
I had had no thought of becoming Leader of the Party when I entered Parliament. My ambition had been to be Minister of Finance in a Bill English-led National Government.
But by October 2003 the National Party was still polling well below 30% and there was talk in some circles, particularly in Auckland, of New Zealand needing a new centre-right party. So I challenged and won – I suspect rather narrowly!
My very first action after becoming Leader (and re-arranging caucus responsibilities to some extent) was to use a speech in Parliament to announce the five policy priorities which were to drive my agenda for the next three years. This is an excerpt from that speech:
- First, we have to start narrowing the gap between our living standards and those of our cousins in Australia, a gap which sees every Australian getting nearly $200 per week more than the average New Zealander. If we don't narrow that gap, we won't have the healthcare that Australians can afford; we won't have the roads that Australians take for granted; our teachers won't get the salaries that those in Australia earn; Mums and Dads will increasingly see their kids and grandchildren grow up in Australia – we end up as a distant Tasmania to the Australian mainland.
- Second, we have to ensure that every child, whatever his or her race, whatever the affluence of his or her parents, whether he or she lives in Auckland or in rural Southland, has access to quality education, so that every child comes out of the school system able to read, able to write, able to take his place in a modern society. At the moment, they don't, and that is a disgrace to us all.
- Third, we have to end the creeping paralysis of welfare dependency. It is surely a scandal that at a time when the economy is buoyant, 350,000 working age adults and tens of thousands of their children are dependent on hard-working New Zealanders for a hand-out.
- Fourth, we need to head off the dangerous drift to racial separatism in New Zealand, a drift which this Government seems intent on encouraging. We must deal, fairly and finally, with historical grievances, but then ensure that all New Zealanders, of whatever race or creed, are treated equally before the law.
- And finally, we need to ensure that all New Zealanders feel secure. And that means not just dealing firmly with crime, and drugs, and gangs, and vandalism, but also ensuring that our relationships with new friends in Asia and old friends in Australia, the UK, and the US are put on a firm footing.
Months before I became Leader, when Bill English was urging his front bench colleagues to get some media coverage during the quiet Christmas/January period, I had re-established a tradition begun by Rob Muldoon of giving a major positioning speech to the Orewa Rotary Club at their first meeting of the year in late January.
At the time, that speech did what Bill had hoped, namely it generated some media coverage, mainly about an idea for welfare reform.
Now, as Leader myself, I had to decide whether to continue giving a positioning speech to the Orewa Rotary Club and, if so, what I should talk about. It was easy to decide to give a speech given the association of that Club with the National Party Leader.
And it was almost equally easy to decide what the speech should be about, given that, at the time, the most controversial issue on the table was the Labour Government's plans for legislation affecting the so-called "foreshore and seabed".
So my "Nationhood" speech came into being, now almost universally referred to as "Brash's Orewa speech", or frequently as "Brash's infamous Orewa speech", even though in total I gave four major speeches to the Orewa Rotary Club, three of them as Leader, in successive Januaries.
The first draft was written by one of my staff, but there were several others, both within the caucus and outside it, who saw the draft and had input to it. Some of those who saw the draft were Maori New Zealanders. In the end, I was very happy with the text, and remain happy with it.
The speech had an impact which was both surprising and extraordinary. Surprising in that I was not aware of saying anything which previous National Party leaders had not said before.
In May 2002, for example, Bill English gave a very important speech to the Centre for Public Law on the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi, drawing heavily on the work of Simon Upton and Bernard Cadogan.
In it, he asserted that "the Treaty [of Waitangi] created one sovereignty and so one common citizenship… Unless New Zealanders accept Te Tiriti o Waitangi at something much closer to its face value, we could destroy something unique."
A year later, when addressing the Lower North Island regional conference of the National Party, he pledged that a future National Government would scrap separate Maori electorates, as the Royal Commission on the Electoral System had recommended in 1986 if New Zealand adopted the MMP electoral system.
And of course, this was all consistent with the National Party's own constitution, which then and now pledges "equal citizenship" as one of the Party's core values.
So I was greatly surprised at the reaction to the speech in January 2004. For it certainly was extraordinary.
The mainstream media almost literally went berserk, with one of the two main Sunday papers devoting its entire front page to a photo of Pauline Hanson (of Australia's One Nation Party) and me, staring at each other.
When TV One's regular polling company, Colmar Brunton, did their first "post-Orewa" poll, the jump in support for the National Party was so dramatic that they assumed that they had made an error, and re-did the poll.
In mid-January, before the speech, National was polling at 28 per cent. One month later, National was polling at 45 per cent, ahead of the Labour Government on 38 per cent, and one month later still National was on 49 per cent. For a brief time, I was polling above Helen Clark as preferred Prime Minister, a most unusual result for a Leader of the Opposition.
There were of course all kinds of things which contributed to that outcome, including my being the target of some well-aimed mud when I appeared at the entrance to the Lower Marae at Waitangi a few days later.
But it appeared clear that a great many New Zealanders wanted a strong affirmation of our common citizenship, and an end to the gross misrepresentation of what the Treaty actually meant.
Over the ensuing months until the election in September 2005, polls waxed and waned as we promoted all our other policy priorities – sometimes National was a little ahead of Labour, sometimes a little behind.
In the event, National got 39.1 per cent of the Party Vote, by a substantial margin National's best result under MMP to that point, and indeed a slightly higher proportion of the total vote than National had achieved in the last First Past the Post election in 1993.
We had 48 MPs, a huge increase on the 27 MPs we had had following the 2002 election. Labour had 50 MPs. I needed 61 (out of a total of 120) to form a Government. I couldn't see how that could be achieved.
It was Rodney Hide, then the leader of the ACT Party – a party which had seen its MPs fall from nine to two as a result of National's resurgence – who pointed out that with ACT's two MPs, Peter Dunne's three, and the Maori Party's four, there were 57 MPs wanting me to become Prime Minister – exactly the same number that were firmly behind Helen Clark (50 Labour MPs, six Green MPs, plus Jim Anderton). Winston Peters had the remaining seven MPs, needed by both Helen Clark and me to form a Government.
And of course, having done a deal with the National Party in a similar situation in 1996, he chose to go with Labour on this occasion (as of course he did again last year).
There are all kinds of theories about why National didn't quite win in 2005. I certainly made some mistakes, but in my own view, Labour was able to squeak to a victory because of the very buoyant economy at the time (with unemployment down to 3.8 per cent, the lowest in the OECD), because of some very extravagant "bribes" (the commitment to make student loans interest free was described by Bill English at the time as the most outrageous electoral bribe of all time), and by Labour's gross over-spending the legal limit on election expenses (by about 25 per cent).
I had planned to resign as Leader immediately if we didn't win on election night. Judy Kirk, the Party President, urged me not to do that in order to give the caucus time to think carefully about who should be my successor. In the event, no result was known on election night, or for several weeks afterwards.
So I continued on as Leader.
Over the next year or so, there were various challenges.
The most immediate was how to rank the caucus of 48 given that I knew only a few of them, and eventually I ranked almost all the incoming MPs in alphabetical order behind the "returning MPs". The two exceptions to that ranking were Tim Groser, a person with enormous international experience on trade issues; and Chris Finlayson, a person with great experience in the law.
I promoted them both into the "top 27" (Parliament's seating has a group of three rows of nine seats on each side of the Chamber where the more senior members of both major parties get to sit).
Another challenge was managing the tension between the National Party and ACT. Rodney Hide had been a personal friend since long before either of us were in Parliament, but there was considerable animosity between some members of my caucus and him. Yet we were both on the same side in opposing many of the policies of the Labour-led Government.
A third challenge was what appeared to me to be the political bias of the Speaker. Even though I had known the Speaker personally for many years before either of us got into Parliament (when we had both been members of the Auckland Committee on Unemployment in the seventies), she refused again and again to insist that Ministers give substantive answers to even the most direct and unambiguous questions.
We came close to getting a Member's Bill through the House which would have provided for a 90-day probationary period in all employment contracts. Indeed, we got the Bill through its first reading with the support of the Maori Party – the Maori Party leadership fully understood that those who would benefit most from such a law would be those on the margins of the workforce who often find it hard to get their first job. Many of those are young Maori.
Unfortunately, before subsequent readings of that Bill, one member of the Maori Party persuaded his colleagues to shift their position, so the Bill was defeated and a probationary period had to wait until after National became Government in 2008.
We also worked very hard to try to find a solution to one of the most intractable problems in welfare spending, and that is the extremely high effective marginal tax rates facing those wanting to get off a benefit.
When New Zealanders complain about tax rates they usually talk about the 33% tax rate, and complain that that rate kicks in at too low a level of income.
But by far the highest effective marginal tax rates in New Zealand are those facing beneficiaries – if they earn more than a modest amount, they not only pay income tax but start losing their benefit, perhaps a housing allowance, and other benefits, with the result that it often simply isn't at all attractive to get off a benefit. Lockwood Smith in particular worked very hard on this challenge and thought that he had cracked it. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to convince the rest of his caucus colleagues that he had the answer.
As 2006 wore on, support for the National Party remained for the most part in the high forties. By late October, National's support in the Colmar Brunton poll was 49 per cent, and for me as preferred Prime Minister at 17 per cent.
John Key had appeared in the polling a few months earlier, and by late October was on 11 per cent. Media speculation that I would step aside before the 2008 election was strong, with many commentators noting that I would be 68 by the time of that election. (I pointed out to a few journalists that John McCain was at that time running to be President of the US in 2008, and he would be 72!)
In any event, I decided to step down in November, handed the reins to John Key, and left Parliament early in 2007.
I was persuaded to challenge Rodney Hide for the leadership of the ACT Party in 2011 but that was a mistake. I succeeded in wresting the leadership from him, but saw ACT's Party Vote shrink to the point where ACT had only a single MP after the 2011 election, the electorate seat of Epsom, taken by John Banks.
So I am out of party politics. But not quite out of politics entirely.
Two years ago, a number of New Zealanders persuaded me to set up the Hobson's Pledge Trust to promote the only logical interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi, namely that all New Zealanders, irrespective of when they or their ancestors came to New Zealand, should have equal political rights. (It was named after Governor Hobson who said as each chief signed the Treaty "We are now one people".)
There are those of course who contend that the Treaty did not confer equal political rights on all of us, but rather that it created some kind of "partnership" between those with a Maori ancestor (always with ancestors of other ethnicities today of course) and the Crown.
But the word "partnership" simply does not appear in the Treaty – not in the English draft from which Henry Williams translated the Treaty into te reo Maori, not in the Maori version of the Treaty, and not in the subsequent so-called official English version of the Treaty. Nor is there any synonym for "partnership" in any version of the Treaty.
People as different as David Lange and Winston Peters have both declared that the idea that Queen Victoria was willing to enter into a partnership with some 500 tribal chiefs, many of whom were illiterate and almost none of whom she had ever met, is "absurd", and so it surely is, despite the status of those who, for their own personal reasons, choose to argue the contrary today.
And it is surely just as well that there is no mention of partnership in the Treaty because I know of no society which long endures when one group has some kind of preferential status based on race or hereditary status.
It is imperative that together we make it clear to those who would promote this view that there will be no enduring peace down that path. Fortunately, it is very clear from polling that the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders – in excess of 90 per cent - want a "colour-blind society".
Similarly huge majorities in favour of treating all New Zealanders equally were found when ratepayers in
Palmerston North and Manawatu were asked recently whether they wanted a racially-based electoral system.
My other recent involvement in politics as broadly defined has been my strong support for free speech. This began in a formal sense when I was asked by Paul Moon, professor of History at AUT, whether I would be willing to sign a petition in favour of free speech last year.
I readily agreed, and people as different as former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Maori educationalist Sir Toby Curtis and Maori Party co-Leader Dame Tariana Turia all signed up to its vital importance.
Then of course just a few months ago, Phil Goff, the mayor of Auckland, purported to ban two Canadians from speaking at a city-council-owned facility in Auckland because he found their views offensive.
When challenged, it turned out that he did not have the legal power to ban the Canadians, and that the ban had been implemented by Regional Facilities Auckland on security grounds.
And just a few weeks later I was banned from speaking at this campus, allegedly on security grounds, though of course we now know that the Vice Chancellor had been trying for weeks to find some kind of excuse to ban me on the off-chance I might say something outrageous, like that all New Zealanders should have equal political rights.
Despite that banning, I'm optimistic about the future of free speech in New Zealand. People from right across the political spectrum supported Paul Moon's petition; people from right across the political spectrum supported the creation, in extraordinarily short order, of the Free Speech Coalition; people from right across the political spectrum have been in touch with me to offer moral support; people within the Tertiary Education Union have expressed grave misgivings about my banning.
It is, indeed, imperative that all who care about the future of New Zealand speak strongly in favour of free speech, no matter whom it offends.
Nobody should be allowed to shout "fire" in a crowded theatre of course, or urge violence against people or property; but everything else should be allowed.
Certainly there should be absolutely no attempt to gag those who want to argue for equal rights for all citizens, irrespective of ethnicity.
There may even be a case for some form of legislative intervention to protect the right of people to express themselves freely at our universities, free both from the intervention of university administrators with strong personal opinions and from noisy students keen to enforce their own views on others.
The Canadian province of Ontario has already moved in this direction. It may be time for New Zealand to make a similar move.
- Don Brash