A Small Blow for a Free Society

Political Correctness Takes a Hit

A new Race Relations Commissioner has been appointed in New Zealand.  The position has gone to Dame Susan Devoy, one of our great sportswomen.  Some Maori have been up in arms.

The problem is that Dame Susan has had the temerity to express her frustration over Waitangi Day.  She also has particular views about women wearing burquas.

What is amusing and telling in the splenetic eruption are the arguments and reasons for objecting to Dame Susan’s appointment.  Firstly, the Maori brigade, as reported in the NZ Herald.

Maori groups in particular questioned enlisting someone who had been outspoken in her disdain for New Zealand’s national holiday. . . . In Parliament, Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell queried the choice, noting that Dame Susan had “already courted controversy with her views”.
Mana Party president Annette Sykes went further, demanding that Dame Susan stand down because she was not fit for the role.  “It’s so disturbing that someone with a clearly expressed … viewpoint can be appointed to a job that’s about providing independent leadership and advice on race relations, including public education on the Treaty of Waitangi,” Ms Sykes said in a statement.

Then there is the Islamic response:

President of the Federation of Islamic Associations Dr Anwar Ghani said Dame Susan should tread carefully with her new responsibilities.  “She’s entitled to her opinions, and I hope she would not bring that into her new role as the race relations commissioner.  You have to realise that this is a very diverse country, and you have to respect every diversity,” he said.  Mr Ghani said he hopes Dame Susan has changed her view on burqas.

OK, so what are the views expressed by Susan Devoy that has folk in a tizzy?

Dame Susan wrote a column in the Bay of Plenty Times last year which criticised the way Waitangi Day had been “marred” by protest.  She expressed her frustration that New Zealand’s national holiday was not a day of celebration.

In a separate column, she described burqas as “disconcerting” after witnessing an Auckland bus driver refusing to let a woman board a bus because she would not remove her burqa to be identified.  “Muslim women need to respect the need to sometimes de-robe in order to allow identification while New Zealanders should respect the personal choice made by these women without being ignorant and abusive,” she said.  “I wouldn’t want to see us legislate the ban of the burqa, as much as I find them disconcerting.”

There is a view amongst some that good race relations means agreeing with and kowtowing to everything they (the minority) do and say.  Annette Sykes appears to hold this view: the Race Relations Commissioner is to her mind a public official who would mouth and support all her particular views on the Treaty of Waitangi and Maoritanga.  Mr Ghani also appears to be of this mindset, but in his case he wants the Commissioner to respect every diversity: that is, he wants the Commissioner to mouth and support all the views of himself and his associates.  Anything less would be a defalcation of her duties.  Any contrary opinions she has need to be kept strictly private.  In the public sphere, what we say goes.  You keep your views private and out of the public sphere.

We have presented here the sad and dangerous face of political correctness and the increasing attempt by many to restrict the free speech of others with whom they disagree.  For our money, we hope that Susan Devoy continues not just to hold her apparently reasonable views, but brings them to bear in her role.  If nothing else it should result in the dismissal of frivolous and time wasting complaints from self-perceived victims of racial discrimination.  Many of these have more to do with attempts to make political points than with genuine racial discrimination. 

Secondly, it is not appropriate for pressure groups and minorities to insist that public officials hold the same views and express the same concerns that they may hold.  If Devoy were to use her office and position to persecute those who disagreed with her, that would be one thing.  But to criticise an appointment just because the appointee has views with which you disagree is something entirely different. 

To our mind, Minister Judith Collins (who made the Devoy appointment) had it exactly right when she was quoted as follows:

Mrs Collins said it was not unreasonable to hold views that were not “politically sanitised”.

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