I don’t know if Susan Devoy would make a good race relations commissioner or not, I know too little about her. I’m a bit of a maverick amongst bloggers, I don’t spend thirty seconds on Google and then rip in to a rant on topics or people I know little about.
I give the people who make appointments like this the benefit of the doubt unless there is good reason to criticise. And it can take time to evaluate, especially with appointments that seem to come out of left court.
Stuff give some opinions in Dame Susan: I have to be voice of reason.
Justice Minister Judith Collins, who appointed her, was firm that the right appointment had been made.
“She’s a very fair, honest and decent person, and frankly, she’s got a spine that I admire.”
If accurate that sounds like a good enough starting point.
Mana Party president Annette Sykes called for Dame Susan to be sacked for her “racist viewpoint”.
Passing the Sykes non-racist test would exclude many people, but I suspect Sykes would fail the test of many too.
What race is Devoy?
Dame Susan Devoy admits she is not yet in a position to make statements as the country’s race relations commissioner – she is not even sure whether she is part-Maori.
“It’s a long-held view that we are of Ngati Kahungunu descent. But that has never been proven in any births, deaths and marriages certificate,” she said, describing questions yesterday about her ethnicity as “awkward”.
“My mother’s name was Tui and if you saw her you would instantly think we were Maori … I think you’re as Maori as you feel.”
I had no idea she was possibly part-Maori. And I wonder if that matters.
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples yesterday described the appointment as “fantastic” but his colleague Te Ururoa Flavell questioned whether it was appropriate, given her views on Waitangi Day.
Interesting contrast of opinion there. The Waitangi Day criticism has been prominent.
Yesterday she described Waitangi Day as “extraordinarily important” but “it isn’t New Zealand Day, is it?” she said.
That sounds perceptive to me, Waitangi Day is obviously important to some but many don’t see it as a New Zealand type of day. And ambivalence isn’t along racial lines, Otago Maori chose not to make a big thing of Waitangi Day this year.
There is more to Waitangi and New Zealand than some people wanting an annual soapbox.
“What I would like is to see New Zealand celebrate our national day [in a way] that is a celebration, and perhaps that might be my first role, my first job, sorting it out,” Dame Susan said, before insisting that it wasn’t a public issue and “I certainly won’t be making it one”.
It could be a good thing for her to sort out – perhaps by trying to reconcile a variety of views, but that might be too radical for Sykes.
She had never considered whether she was politically correct enough for the role, but it was “quite possible” she would continue to speak freely.
Being seen as “politically correct enough for the role” would be terrible criteria for the position – political correctness has become a corruption of broad views and understanding.
“But I think in this role I have to be the voice of reason … This is not a platform for me to voice my own views, it’s really to advocate on behalf of.”
That sounds like a reasonable approach to me. She must have said things like that in her job interview.
But I still don’t know enough to decide whether to offer a blogger bouquet or bollocking yet. I sometimes get accused of sitting on the fence, but I prefer to look at it as working out what the fence is made of – and for some reason blogger barbed wire reminds me of pricks and arses.
In any case I’m backing Devoy’s appointment, unless I see good reason it was flawed, and I haven’t seen anything convincing to suggest to me it is.