Friday, March 22, 2013

Not overly complicated

 Do you ever get the feeling that some words are just waiting in the wings to come back and bite their speakers in the rear end?

We feel a bit like that about Dame Susan Devoy's remarks about her appointment as Race Relations Conciliator. [Oops - Commissioner] Us lesser mortals could be forgiven for thinking the job of Race Relations Commissioner would be challenging (and require rather more diplomatic skills than anyone in our house possesses). New Zealand is a multi-cultural society, and a society with an indigenous population which has fared, um...not so well as a result of colonisation. Posters of Chairman Mao that may or may not be offensive, the disconcerting-ness or not of women wearing burqas, whether it's Whanganui or Wanganui: these are all complex issues and a bit of circumspection might be in order.

Or not. In an interview with Radio NZ, the newly appointed Commissioner was quoted as admitting she didn't have a wealth of experience but didn't think the job would be "overly complicated". 

"I think what I can bring to this organisation is a very common sense approach. I don't it will make it any more difficult than just dealing with any other issues. I mean, you know there's all [sic] under the Chief Human Rights Commission so therefore whether it's disability or gender or employment or race, you know, the issues are not dissimilar. And this is just about making it right for everybody in New Zealand. I'm not going to have any premature ideas about the role yet and the issues and what I have to do because today is my first day."   

Oh dear. When in doubt, invoke "common sense". That'll see off all those namby pamby bleeding hearts with their Treaty grievances, their politically correct pronunciation and tapa cloth wall hangings.

Defending her choice of Commissioner on Morning Report this morning, Justice Minister Judith Collins had a rare instance of playing the wo/man not the ball. To Mana Movement President Annette Sykes' questioning of Dame Susan's commitment to Treaty education and her understanding of international relations, as well as broader questions around the process by which Dame Susan was appointed, Ms Collins' responded that "Annette Sykes is a stupid person and I don't take any notice of what she says." That should deal with anyone's reservations in a common sense sort of way.

Well, good luck with that not overly complicated thing, Dame Susan. You might only just be getting a foretaste of how complicated some of this stuff can be.