Although he's been pilloried by seemingly everyone over the distracting absurdities of Maori nonexistence, the most dangerous claim in Brash's latest oeuvre is that the health inequalities Maori face (despite not existing) are their own choice, and the state has no duty to address those inequalities.
An 'Asian' public health doctor friend of mine (and fellow AENer) was struck with the nagging feeling that seeking the advice of ex-Reserve Bank governors on the determinants of inequality in Maori health outcomes, and whether they had any relevance to the Treaty of Waitangi, was a poor substitute for maybe asking a doctor or two instead. Medical ones. So here's what he and his other (medical) doctor friend thought, in their Herald article today.
Not only do they believe, like good lefty doctors, that historical Treaty violations have an ongoing effect on Maori wellbeing, they also point out that Article Three of the Treaty guarantees equal treatment for Maori but that Maori are not receiving it. This is not because they are getting a better 'special deal' from the medical system - in fact hard evidence is accumulating to show that Maori are receiving a worse level of treatment and access. "This constitutes a modern, continuing violation of Article Three," say the docs, and Article Three's guarantee of 'equal rights and privileges' is "[o]ne of the few aspects of the Treaty that all New Zealanders seem to agree on."
We agree with Dr Brash that health services should be provided to all New Zealanders according to need. There is clear evidence that the greatest health needs in this country are for Maori and it seems unlikely to us that Treaty violations have made no contribution to the unequal state of Maori health. According to need, there would be a case for prioritisation of Maori health needs whether or not the Treaty existed.
If we want to organise our health institutions according to need, and aim to respect the guarantees made in the Treaty, we have to prioritise Maori health and allow that this might require "special" treatment for Maori communities - to enable them to enjoy an equal level of health to most other New Zealanders.
If we keep our heads in the sand about ethnic inequalities in health, we are saying that it is okay for Maori to have worse health than other New Zealanders. And that is just plain unfair.
It's good to see someone taking the 'one law for all' jargon back into the realm of substantive equality.
In Brash's original op-ed draft to the Herald reported on here, after his discourse on choice and smoking, Brash avoided that whole 'dying' problem, and skipped to a far more important indicator of equality:
"Nobody would suggest that because there are relatively few European New Zealanders in the All Blacks, there has been a breach of the Treaty.
You know, if Pakeha began dying ten years earlier than everyone else in the country, you can sure as hell bet they'd complain about a breach of *something*. I mean, once Pakeha started getting squeezed out of medical school by the 'Asians' last decade, they changed the entry requirements quick enough.
Not that it made much of a difference of course. It is telling through, that probably the biggest health system inequality that white people might face, is that once they're in Medical school, they're surrounded by 'Asians', and this might make them feel like they're in a mulitcultural country.
It's predictable that a neoliberal like Brash would stick by the 'individual choice' line to absolve the state of responsibility for producing equal outcomes for all citizens; but it's surprising that he would so casually dismiss Maori health with a freaking All Blacks comparison. Maori health stats probably carry the most disturbing examples you'll find of that accumulated history of injustice. However one wants to explain it (whether through neoliberal 'choice'; or blood-quantum's relevance to colonial treaty making...) saying the government has no responsibility for trying to stop Maori from dying nine years before everyone else just makes you sound like an asshole - and one who should never be tasked with the responsibility of caring for his mum, let alone the whole country.
Sample 'seemingly everyone' Brash-pillorying roll-call on nonexistence of Maori
To Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples, add also:
A Full Blooded Maori