By Willie Jackson
I had a debate with NZ First leader Winston Peters on TVNZ's current affairs programme Close Up recently.
Winston had decided that it was Maori bashing time and raised the question of “What is a Maori?”
Anyone, he says, can declare themselves to be a Maori no matter what percentage of blood they have and more people are doing this so they can claim special privileges. He says the whole Maori identity argument is a rort and something needs to be done about it.
Winston of course is talking his usual rubbish when it comes to Maori issues.
I constantly tell him it's unfortunate when he goes down the Maori-bashing track because it is a distraction from the usual good work that he does.
He is a hypocrite when it comes to Maori issues and I pointed out that while Winston accuses Maori of getting special privileges and special parliamentary seats, he has conveniently forgotten that he was an administrator of the ‘privileged' Maori funding that he now rallies against.
Yes, Winnie gave out plenty of funding to Maori when he was minister of Maori Affairs and in 1996 he won all the Maori seats.
Sadly Winston now talks about Maori like we're beneficiaries of apartheid.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
Maori funding and Maori seats are not about privilege, but about the rights Maori have as tangata whenua.
Ironically Winston knows all this but the worst thing about him is that he is an opportunist and so when he gets bored and he's not doing well in the polls he brings out the old “Maori special privilege rubbish". He then gets traction with the rednecks.
Winston knows that the best way of defining a Maori is through their whakapapa or ancestry, whether he admits it or not.
Maori were opposed to being officially measured by a blood quantum criteria which was the classification used in 1953 under the Maori Affairs Act. The days of Maori being called quarter-caste and half-caste are thankfully well over.
The self-identification criteria that was first used in the census in 1986 is the best way of determining who is a Maori.
OK, so you'll get the odd Pakeha who wants to be a Maori, but then you'll also get Maori who declare themselves to be Pakeha.
In fact a Chinese person could declare themselves to be Pakeha, so it's not foolproof but it's a far better way of determining ethnic identity.
So Winston should stop the nonsense - otherwise we might disown him from being a Maori and just refer to him as a Scotsman which he is on his mother's side.
Auckland Now, 28th September 2012