I now pronounce you husband…. and husband

Niu Sila / New Zealand has always prided itself in its supposed history of social equality.  In 1883, it was the first nation to grant women the right to vote, and for decades was proud of its egalitarian society (albeit a facade).  But Niu Sila has come a distant 13 in the world to pass same-sex marriage into law.

I’ve previously written about same-sex marriage when the debate was raging in Amelika / America, at the time.  And since reigniting here in Niu Sila, my views have essentially stayed the same, but now tinged with a view that there was a possible missed opportunity.

As then and now I believe in a secular society, where we are all equal under the law.  As then and now I support same-sex couples being recognised under the law as equals to hetero-sexual couples.   As then in Amelika and now in Niu Sila, there has been great public debate and sometimes very divissive.  But unlike then, I now think equality under the law could have been achieved in a different way so as to avoid.

I’m not going to get into the religious arguments, but argue from the view that we live in a secular society.  Essentially, a secular State needs to treat every citizen equal.  So the argument goes, if hetero-sexual couples can get married, why can’t same-sex couples?  Shouldn’t all citizens, gay or straight, have the same rights under the law of the secular State?  But the main reason marriage is seen as a right, is because the State regualtes it.

Since 2005, Niu Sila legalised civil unions.  Back then there was an even greater public debate.  The Labour-led Government brought the law in.  Many Pacific voters have since stopped supporting Labour, the traditional political party of Pacific communities.  Civil unions are legally recognised relationships between same-sex and hetero-sexual couples, with almost the same rights as married couples.

Skip to 2013, and it’s a Labour MP who has pushed for this same-sex marriage law.  The political cost by Pacific voters may yet be seen in next year’s general elections.

But it’s this civil unions that I think could have been the way forward this time round.  As I said above, if the State stopped regulating marriage, it would no longer be seen as a right.  If the State only regulate civil unions, which is open to everyone, then all the moral arguments for and against would largely not be needed.  Civil unions for everyone would restrict the State to just registering relationships – people would then be free to celebrate their union in whatever fashion they want – a Christian marriage, a dinner at a restaurant, in a Hindu temple, or a BBQ at the beach.

Although my suggestion (and it’s a suggestion put forward and articulated far better by others) will still not satisfy some – as seen in the arguments made by the opponents to civil unions back in 2005.  Those opponents argue marriage, whether it’s a civil union or under any other name, is the foundations of families – families which are the building blocks of society.  Allowing, as the argument goes, same-sex couples to be recognised as having rights to raise a family will be detrimental to society, as familes need a mother and a father.

But at the end of the day, civil unions for all, will get the secular State out of what is a moral/religious social institution, and will be able to apply the law equally, irrespective of sexual orientation.  Furthermore, civil unions will allow religious groups to “take back” their institution of marriage and not have the State redefine that institution according to secular values.

And lastly, by removing the State from regulating marriage, this puts the ball back into the court of our churches to find ways of influencing society with Christian values, without using the State mechanisms to do it.  Because I think that’s the real area the church should be looking at.  It should be self examining, and see why marriage is no longer seen as a religious institution, with all the moral Chrisitan values it once had attached.  Because, then the Church will see it has failed to get its message out and failed to stay relevant in todays every changing society.

Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?

A few years back a famous New Zealand / Niu Sila sports women of Samoan descent was hosting the long running Pacific current affairs show, Tagata Pasifika.  She was a great host, except for one little… well not so little detail.  She kept on pronouncing the name of the show incorrectly: “Tanata” as opposed to “Tangata” (spelt “Tagata” in Samoan – apparently the missionaries that visited Samoa and Niue misplaced the letter “N”, so while all the rest of Polynesia the “NGA” sound is spelt “NG”, in Samoa and Niue it’s spelt only with the single “N”).  A friend of mine complained to the producers along the lines that it is unacceptable that a Samoan host fails to pronounce properly the Samoan name of the programme, particularly when it is the main vehicle in NZ’s mainstream media to promote Pacific Island language, culture, communities and peoples.  The producers responded with some sort of excuse that they had limited time in the studio to record each episode, and that the host may actually be reflecting the NZ born Samoan generation.  Reflecting is one thing, but promoting the incorrect nature of a Pacific language is something else.  Because we are use to palagi’s mispronouncing the names of our Samoan sports heroes.  But we don’t expect Pacific hosts of the premier Pacific current affairs show to mispronounce the shows actual name.

Some of the mispronounced names of Samoan sportspeople which come to mind:

Sportsperson

Proper pronunciation

Incorrect pronunciation, as heard by sports commentators on TV

[Sam] Tagataese (Rugby League player)

Ta-nga-ta-e-se

Tan-ga-teazy

[Maria] Tutaia (Current Silver Ferns netballer)

 Tu-ta-‘ia

Two-Tyre

Va’aiga Tuigamala (Legendary All Blacks Rugby player)

Va-‘ai-nga   Tui-nga-ma-la

“Inga the Winger”

The New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa is a Government body which assigns, approves, alters or discontinues the use of names for geographic features (eg place names), undersea features and Crown protected areas in New Zealand, its offshore islands and its continental shelf and the Ross Sea region of Antarctica.  It’s decisions are regularly bandied out in mainstream media when it involves Maori names.

I wrote an entry about Whanganui/Wanganui a couple of years back.  Recently, it announced it will be looking at the names of the main islands which make up Niu Sila.  And for those of you outside of Niu Sila who don’t know the current English names, you only need to imagine names which have no imagination in them.  For example, the north island, is called… drum roll… the North Island.  The bigger island to the south of the North Island is called… you guessed it… the South Island.  Under consideration, is officially using the Maori names for the North and South islands, in conjunction with English names.  Of course the latter end of my previous sentence is overlooked by many a red-neck who think Maori are taking over this country.

While North and South islands are geographically accurate, that’s about all you can garner from the name.  The possible Maori names being looked at by the board are, Te Ika a Maui for the North Island and Te Waipounamu for the South Island ooze with history and meaning behind each name.  Te Ika a Maui or the great fish of Maui goes back to the Maori legends of Maui.  Maui was the youngest brother of gods, who had hid in the boat (Te Waka a Maui – or the South Island) as the older brothers went fishing.  When Maui popped up out of the boat the older brothers would not let him fish.  So Maui used the magical jawbone of his grandmother to fish, and he caught the largest fish of all, Te Ika a Maui – or the North Island.  Te Waipounamu on the other hand, relates to the much prized greenstone found in the South Island.  This precious stone was used to create adzes and other implements, as well as ornaments.

The sooner the name change the better.

One name change, in our local area that hasn’t gone down too well, is that of the events centre formally known as the TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre.  TelstraClear is a multinational teleco company which was recently bought out by a rival, the well known global giant, Vodafone.  As part of the buy out Vodafone has renamed the events centre to Vodafone Events Centre.  You might think, so what?  Isn’t that the perogative of the holder of the naming-rights?  Except, public land and money was put into the Pacific Events Centre.  After a push by the Pacific communities in Aukilani Saute / South Auckland, the then Manukau City Council donated land and money to the charitable trust to build and operate an events centre.  Furthermore, the design, theme, motifs and art which adorn the centre is Pacific focussed!

The Trust nor Vodafone have been forthcoming in their reasons for dropping “Pacific” from the name.  But it seems as though this is what happens when corporate money gets involved with what is meant to be for the community – decisions are made with out community input or consultation.

Shame on you Vodafone!

Failblog

Ok, this isn’t about the youtube channel, failblog, where I’ve spent too many hours cracking myself up at stupid things like people face-planting themselves, pranks gone wrong, or live television not going to script.  This post is simply to say that I have failed this blog.  I have failed to keep this blog alive and updated.  I can’t promise that I’ll change, but there have been many times when I thought “OK today’s the day I’ll post up an entry”… then fail, no entry.

The rest of this short entry will be on a personal note – 2012-2013 New Zealand / Niu Sila summer has been awesome!  Apart from the drought for the farmers, pretty much everyone else in Niu Sila has been lapping up the great weather and enjoying the outdoors.  It’s Easter weekend, and while I’ll be heading to church, and most of my work colleagues to airports, baches or their yachts, I’m planning on getting the kids around Auckland / Aukilani this long weekend – perhaps the zoo, museum, or Kelly Tarltons.

Perhaps I’ll post something more substantial in autumn hehe… until the enjoy summer!

 

Photo from my office, Auck CBD looking towards Harbour Bridge and West Auckland/North shore beyond
Photo from my office, Auck CBD looking towards Harbour Bridge and West Auckland/North shore beyond

Right Treaty, wrong Maori party

Whoa… whoa… second post in two months!  Watch out this might become a habit and I might actually be back to regular postings… haha… “might”!

Any way, today’s post is another political one.  One of the platforms the current Government campaigned on in last year’s general election, was the partial sale of state assets, more specifically our state-owned energy companies and further reduce its shareholding of Air New Zealand.  Although National narrowly won the elections, poll after poll and survey after survey showed the majority of New Zealanders did not want any partial sales of the state assets.

Of course the victors of the day have rightly or wrongly stated they have a mandate to sell 49% of these state assets, as illustrated in the electoral win.  Now, I’m not going to go into the legitimacy of specific policies against wide public opposition.  But needless to say National has swung this policy right into action.

Everything was going well, with National batting off the oppositions’ criticisms, batting off media scrutiny showing the power companies were the best performing assets and therefore should be kept, batting off analysts showing there is no real international appetite for buying into more than one state power company, and top dollar won’t be guaranteed… National was gunning for it… until that “pesky” Treaty got in the way.

Yip, despite all the other attempts at stopping the asset sales, it seems as though it is the Treaty of Waitangi that might be the one thing to stop asset sales.  More specifically the State Owned Enterprises Act 1986 was enacted to allow governments to create State Owned Enterprises (SOEs).  An important section of that Act, section 9, provides that nothing in the Act permits the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.  (The Crown and Government are used interchangeably.)

Back in the 1980’s one of the issues with creating SOEs was the fear by Maori that land owned by the Crown, but transferred to SOEs, would no longer be available to settle Treaty claims.

Maori successfully argued before the Court of Appeal that the establishment of, and transferring of land to SOEs, without ensuring that land remained available for future Treaty settlements, was inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty, and therefore breached section 9 of the Act.

The Crown and Maori agreed to a mechanism that would allow the Crown to transfer land to SOEs, while also ensuring that land would remain available for future Treaty settlements. Any land transferred to SOEs would have a “memorial” placed on the certificate of title, stating that it could be compulsorily repurchased by the Crown if the Waitangi Tribunal recommended its return to Maori.

In 2012, National needs to create a new law to partially sell these state assets, but planned on NOT including section 9 into the new law.

The Mana Party (an opposition party) leader, Hone Harawira put it nicely, “The Treaty is stopping the government from flogging off the nation’s assets, so they’re gonna throw the Treaty out.”

Once the Maori Party (government coalition partner) got whiff of this it started stomping it’s feet.  The Maori Party threatened to leave the government if section 9 was not included in the new law.  This wouldn’t stop National from still going ahead and selling the assets, as it could always rely on the other coalition partner, ACT.  But for National’s long term plan, it needs the Maori Party more than the far right wing ACT party.

Constitutional lawyer, Mai Chen states that “Many Maori want the Treaty’s constitutional status to be changed so it applies to everything the Crown does, whether the Treaty is directly incorporated into statute by Parliament or not.  At present, the Treaty is not directly enforceable in New Zealand courts unless incorporated into domestic law.”

Not including a section 9 clause in legislation establishing the four new mixed-ownership entities will be viewed by most Maori as a backwards step.

Apparently National quickly went into appeasement mode, teeing up meetings and hui with the leaders of the Maori Party and Maoridom in general.

I’m of two minds at the moment if the Maori Party’s protests are genuine or all for show, to be seen to be standing up for Maori.  I’m currently leaning towards it all being for show, because the Palemia/Prime Minister, John Key, looked far too relaxed after supposedly calming down the Maori Party concerns.

Mai Chen believes a possible result from the consultation with Maori is a call for a general Treaty clause applying to all branches of government (this could be written into the Bill of Rights Act or the Constitution Act 1986, for example).  Woop woop!  This is probably closer to where many Maori believe the place the Treaty should have in the constitutional make up of this country.

But instead, for now it looks like a watered down version of section 9 might be on the cards for this new law.  So much for using the Treaty to stop the asset sales?

I guess it’s because it’s the wrong Maori party doing the compromising.

Australia Day

It’s been reported that up to 1 million New Zealanders did not vote in the last election.  Before the official results were released it was also suggested the no-vote was significant in left-leaning areas.  My personal view is a lot of the non-voters have moved to Australia/Ausetalia… and many more will continue to follow them across the ditch.

Nearly half my extended family (my parents’ siblings and their kids) have made the move from here to Ausetalia, and most of them in the last 5 years.  Traditionally, many Samoans from New Zealand/Niu Sila have migrated to Sydney/Sini or Melbourne/Melepone, but the recent waves of Samoans choose the tropical Brisbane, Cairns and even Perth or Adelaide.

Needless to say, the Samoans in Ausetalia are constantly trying to convince the rest of us in Niu Sila to move over to where the grass is greener (metaphorically speaking… coz really, the grass is brown over there haha!).  I’ll leave the family arm-wrestling between the two countries for another post.  But I did want to discuss the national day of Ausetalia… naturally it’s called, Australian Day.

The official website for Australian Day states:

On Australia Day we come together as a nation to celebrate what’s great about Australia and being Australian. It’s the day to reflect on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation. It’s the day for us to re-commit to making Australia an even better place for the future.

More specifically Australia Day, 26 January, is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships from Great Britain, and the raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove by its commander Captain Arthur Phillip, in 1788.

Yip, that’s right, they’re celebrating the arrival of their white forefathers, prisoners, to the shores of this Pacific continent!

So every year the descendants of these convicts celebrate their arrival.  At one point the day was called Emancipation date.  In modern celebrations the images of prawns on a barbie (BBQ), wearing flip flops (jandals), hitting the beach are often reinforced as things to emulate on this special day.

But there’s another view of this national day which has in the past struggled to make a presence in the minds of Australians.  It’s a view from a people dispossessed, a people initially called animals, but a people with at least 50,000 years of history in Ausetalia, and a people who are demanding recognition.  To them, Australian Day is not Emancipation Day, but Invasion Day.

For the white Australian, it’s a day when their convict forefathers were freed to create great wealth in an “uninhabited” land (yes they called it Terra Nullius meaning land belonging to no one), broken from bondage.  Yet, to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, it was the beginning of their enslavement to the whims of the white settlers.

To this date, the Australian Constitution doesn’t even mention Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders.  At the time of white settlement there were estimated to be 750,000-1 million Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.  After settlement, the coastal indigenous populations were soon absorbed, depleted or forced from their lands; the traditional aspects of Aboriginal life which remained persisted most strongly in areas such as the Great Sandy Desert where European settlement has been sparse.

The most immediate consequence of British settlement – within weeks of the first colonists’ arrival – was a wave of European epidemic diseases such as chickenpox,smallpox, influenza and measles, which spread in advance of the frontier of settlement. The worst-hit communities were the ones with the greatest population densities, where disease could spread more readily.

The second consequence of British settlement was appropriation of land and water resources. The settlers took the view that Indigenous Australians were nomads with no concept of land ownership, who could be driven off land wanted for farming or grazing and who would be just as happy somewhere else. In fact the loss of traditional lands, food sources and water resources was usually fatal, particularly to communities already weakened by disease. Additionally, Indigenous Australians groups had a deep spiritual and cultural connection to the land, so that in being forced to move away from traditional areas, cultural and spiritual practices necessary to the cohesion and well-being of the group could not be maintained. Proximity to settlers also brought venereal disease, to which Indigenous Australians had no tolerance and which greatly reduced Indigenous fertility and birthrates. Settlers also brought alcohol, opium and tobacco, and substance abuse has remained a chronic problem for Indigenous communities ever since.

Well into the 20th Century, Indigenous Australians were – both in Australia itself and in many other countries – the subject of widespread crude racist stereotyping. For example, the American birth control campaigner Margaret Sanger could write casually: “The aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets” (What Every Girl Should Know, 1920).  Assimilation became Government policy where Aboriginal children were forcibly taken from their families and adopted into white families.

For those of us in Niu Sila, it all sounds so familiar because of the colonial past here, between the white settlers and the indigenous peoples, Maori.  But as we compare the most recent history,  it appears as though Maori have made more progress in gaining recognition, rights and reconciliation, than the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

But that seems to be changing.  On Australia Day 2012, a few days ago, the opposition leader, Tony Abbott called for the Aboriginal Tent Embassy (a protest forum formed in 1972 to air Aboriginal grievances) to “move on”.  In response, Aboriginal activists marched to a nearby restaurant where both Mr Abbott and Palemia/Prime Minister Julia Gillard were at, and chanted loud and hard.  It became a national incident when security forces huddled around the leaders and led them to waiting vehicles.

It’s quite amusing watching the play backs, because the security huddle were rushing through, not protesters, but a horde of news reporters and cameramen!  Yet what was reported was the protesters were violent and therefore the leaders needed to be protected.

Today, news media are reporting the general public and some indigenous leaders are condemning the actions of the protesters.  From the clips I’ve seen, I can’t see a single incident where the leaders were ever threatened.  Maybe it’s because us Kiwi’s know what protesting is like.  Australians are probably unfamiliar with loud chanting, but that is not threatening, it’s protesting!

As I’ve said, it appears as though the Aborigines are slowly gaining a voice, just as Maori have and are doing, through peaceful protest.  Sure there will be haters and wreckers, but these are generational protests… not fads of the day.  Heck, 40 years on in Niu Sila, and Maori are still being labelled as radicals and terrorists (Uruwera raids).

But every long journey begins with a small step.

More power to the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders!

Happy New Year

Just when you thought my blog was all but dead and gone, I then post up a blog to inject a lil bit of life back into it.

Well what can I say?  I’ve been real busy the last year… I was looking forward to blogging about the RWC, the Manu Samoa ups an downs, the NZ General Elections and the Christmas carnage on our roads… plus many more topics that ran through my head and I thought “Gee, that’d be a good blog post”.

But personally, a lot has changed for me over the last year, new job, new baby, change in financial position etc.  And so, while I love being able to express myself on this blog, this act of self indulgence is prioritised further and further down my to-do-list… if I even remember to add this to my to-do-list hehe.

And so, I don’t want to keep my hopes up by saying it’s a new year, so new start to this blog, coz my personal life hasn’t changed enough to allow me to confidently say I can contribute to this blog consistently.

But I can say, happy new year!  Albeit one month late… otherwise, happy Chinese new year! haha…

Happy new year, and may God bless you as you embark on your plans for 2012.