The things Brash can publicly discuss without upsetting the thought police

We haven’t spotted any expressions of outrage or dismay, in response to news that Don Brash is throwing his money and weight behind technology that could help to solve New Zealand’s methane headache.

According to Carbon News, the former National Party leader and Reserve Bank Governor is the sole outside investor in Zest Biotech, a family company commercialising technology developed by New Zealand horticultural scientist Nathan Balasingham

Balasingham last year was nominated for the prestigious World Technology Award in the Individual Biotechnology category for his products Biozest and Agrizest.

Anyone searching for a race angle to this story about Brash should note that Balasingham was born in Malaysia through Sri Lankan ancestry and graduated from Massey University with a Masters Degree in Horticultural Science with 1st class honours.

Armed with a a PhD in economics as well as his RBNZ governorship experience, Brash stuck his head above the parapet again last week to express concerns after the Reserve Bank cut the official cash rate to 1.5%. 

According to Newshub, he said the cut could spell trouble for the housing market. He told The AM Show:

The Reserve Bank itself suggests this will reignite housing inflation to about 5 per cent per annum. That sounds reasonable for what we’ve had, but the Government talks about making housing more affordable. What the Reserve Bank is saying is saying that houses will continue to rise faster than incomes.

A second concern is what the Reserve Bank could do if a recession occurs, now that the rate is the lowest it has ever been – there isn’t much room to go any lower.

Our rates are now very low as you point out, what happens if we actually strike a real recession? There’s not much room to cut them. We can go to zero, but not much below.

Those remarks seem to have had no ill-effects on the Newshub audience or incited violent action.

A week earlier, the New Zealand Maori Council asked the New Zealand Human Rights Commission to investigate an organisation with which Brash is involved, known as Hobson’s Pledge.

Matthew Tukaki, the council’s executive director, described Hobson’s Pledge as nothing more than a divisive group of “haters” who “would do nothing more than send us all back to the dark ages”.

He accused Brash “and his cronies” of wanting to divide the nation “off the back of their tired old man views and their position that it’s their way or the highway.”

And he said Hobson’s Pledge’s leadership had expressed views in public over many months that constitute “the incitement to both violence and racism, hate and the segregation of New Zealand society”.

This incitement not only affects Maori but also peoples of colour, Asian New Zealanders and the Polynesian community, Tukaki said.

His statement did not challenge or rebut any specific positions espoused by Hobson’s Pledge.  Nor did he explain his objection(s) to the organisation’s fundamental goal, which is

 … to remove from law and practice any race-based discrimination in governance and property rights.

Rather, the remarks were personal. Tukaki said:

They may wear suits and drive around in late model expensive European cars; they may live in postcodes that many Maori cannot afford and they may be able to holiday at their leisure – but they are nothing more than a gang of misfits that seek to incite hate and divide the country – they should be held to account. Don Brash is a tired man whose time has long past looking for relevancy – well it time we all made him and his little group of buddies irrelevant.

Brash rejoined that claims of racism were “absolutely outrageously stupid” and said he was taking legal advice.

 It’s a serious accusation … not only of racism, but also of advocating violence.

He reiterated:

We’re in favour of a single standard of citizenship for all.

The merits of the Maori Council’s action inevitably was discussed on RNZ’s The Panel.

Paula Penfold, an investigative journalist, emerged as a champion of censorship for dealing with this sort of issue.

She agreed Hobson’s Pledge was creating an environment “in which hate is breeding and duplicating and replicating” but she wondered if the Maori Council was taking the most constructive course and suggested. She said:

Deny them the speaking time is possibly more of a way forward.

Trade unionist and writer Morgan Godfery more moderately called the Maori Council action and Brash’s response a PR disaster for both sides. He didn’t know why the council picked this fight but questioned Brash’s threat of legal action too.

He raised a fair question, venturing that if Hobson’s Pledge truly believed in equality or an end to unequal treatment for different people in New Zealand,

… why aren’t they campaigning against the fact a Maori person is more likely to be charged for an offence than a pakeha person apprehended for the same crime and why aren’t they campaigning against the fact a Maori baby born tomorrow is more likely to live a shorter and poorer life than a baby born next door?

Godfery then observed it was “kind of funny” that Brash was one of the prominent players in the Free Speech Coalition

“… but he seems to threaten defamation every other week, which is quite ironic …”

Really?  Once every other week? We asked Brash about his track record in the defamation domain.

He confirmed he is taking legal advice in respect of the Maori Council press statement.

As to previous litigation, he said he had never sued anybody.  But Hobson’s Pledge had “hinted” it might sue the University of Auckland after its alumni magazine included an article which referred to the organisation as a “racist and militantly anti-Maori” lobby group.

On that occasion an apology was sought and given, prominently published in the following issue of the magazine.

We keenly await Godfery’s evidence to the contrary which shows Brash’s lawyers are much, much busier.

By Bob Edlin, retired journalist.