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English defines citizenship: National Party leader Bill English says "we have come up with the notion ...



English defines citizenship

National Party leader Bill English says “we have come up with the notion of citizenship because it is an idea which expresses much more what we have in common for the future, rather than what divides us, from the past. We want to develop a framework, a policy around the Treaty of Waitangi that enables all New Zealanders to have a say about how it develops.
Bill English defines “a common citizenship as a collection of rights and obligations which we all share by virtue of being a citizen of New Zealand. It is a positive way to talk about what we have in common. It has the virtue of being applicable whether you are a recently arrived Sikh or a Māori who has been here for thirty generations."
The National party is not using the words biculturalism and multiculturalism. It is trying to create a positive way and context in which to discuss the issues around the Treaty, around the status of Māori and around government policy, as to whether it is separatist or not. “If you don’t create a positive context, you just end up with liberals versus rednecks."

What it means to be a New Zealander

Instead of people being forced to make a choice between multiculturalism or biculturalism, National says, 'let's talk about what it means to be a New Zealander'. "Because that has to underpin your democracy, and the direction in which you take these arguments, driving towards a better understanding of what it means to be a New Zealander. Then you have a better opportunity to deal with the differences. There are clearly differences," he says.

Meanings of citizenship

Bill English says the meanings of “citizenship” are interrelated:

  • a common citizenship as a collection of rights and obligations which we all share by virtue of being a citizen of New Zealand,
  • citizenship that new settlers get when they apply to the Citizenship Unit of the Department of Internal Affairs, and
  • citizenship education in the wider sense, reflected in the approach of the DecisionMaker Guide to Parliament and Government.

Bill English says that when people apply to the Citizenship Unit for their citizenship status, “they believe that the institution of Parliament and government are dealing with all New Zealanders in an evenhanded way. That’s Parliament’s and democracy’s intent. What they will find, in fact, is that one group of citizens increasingly have a set of rights that give them a prior say about what should happen. So when you apply for citizenship as a new migrant you don’t actually get the same rights as every other New Zealand citizen. You get a set of rights, others enjoy a different set."
DecisionMaker asked Bill English to comment on the thrust for more citizenship education at large in NZ, and for particular groups – as illustrated by the DecisionMaker Guide to Parliament and Government approach.
“ I think it is a great idea. This is a country that needs a widespread understanding of the rights and opportunities of being a citizen,” he concluded.

Citizenship – a policy for more than one party

Bill English says National is the only party who can put into practice a direction that is an alternative to the current New Zealand Labour led government.
“ The smaller parties tend to have stronger, less developed, more popularised views, sometimes extreme,” he says.
Bill English is working for a position for government “which we can implement. We need to get popular support, to express what the public feel, and can't express. We don’t expect the small parties to develop serious policy. They don’t have the resources, or the need. We do,” he says.
He says the citizenship policy is an alternative from the centre right, to the positions of the centre-left parties. Centre-right parties have got a concern about the Treaty of Waitangi and voiced those pretty loudly in the last election campaign.
" As a larger party we are developing some ideas. We are most concerned. We are trying to find our way through, especially in a way that takes account of the large number of New Zealanders who are excluded from the discussion about the treaty," Bill English says.
He says the Labour-led government takes a different view. “They see the Treaty as being a discussion between Government and Māori. This excludes most other people, because they think most other people are uneducated, or probably racist. They are heading in a direction the public feel very uneasy about, because they see it separating out the Māori interests from the wider interests of the community."
" There is an ideology in government that Māori do have a separate and different status in New Zealand. That’s pretty deep-seated. We think it is going too far," he says.