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8.1 Agenda Setting

Processes of citizens input are shaped and facilitated by the requirements of government agencies involved. This inevitably restricts the range of issues and questions discussed as the agenda for discussion is usually determined by the agency concerned (Tenbensel & Gauld, 2001, p. 34).

The agenda setting stage of the policy cycle is when decisions are taken as to what policy areas and concerns will be prioritised for further development. Often this is initially done internally within political parties through the establishment of political manifesto prior to an election. This manifesto is then refined within an MMP environment through coalition negotiations. Fafard (2008, p. 9) argues agenda setting is influenced by promises made during election campaigns, advice received from the public service, the policy and program priorities of majority political parties, policy and initiatives developed by the previous government, and personal priorities of key politicians.

Counter storyteller, Māori Policy Analyst (2010, November 16, p. 2) explains that for Māori the agenda setting stage is among the most critical parts in the policy cycle.

...if you don’t get the stuff on the agenda then the rest doesn’t matter, because after that it is the dominate discourse that will determine what happens. If it is Pākehā discourse, values and ideology that are dominant at the time at the agenda setting level, that is just going to play out right through the whole process, the policy formation (p. 2).

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Two primary factors emerged from counter narratives that shed light on manifestations of racism in relation to agenda setting. Firstly the theme of the tyranny of the majority and the structural challenges for Māori brought about by becoming a numerical minority. Secondly the notion that racism is fluctuating and changeable, something that C. Jones (2003), Griffith et al. (2007) and Barnes-Josiah and Fitzgerald (2004) describe as racial climate.

Tyranny of the Majority

The conversations happen, the arguments are put forward, and the debates are held, invariably the default is back to the numbers, inevitably, it is the tyranny of democracy (Berghan, 2010, November 7, p. 5).

Majoritarian democracy is upheld by many as the epitome of fairness in parliamentary systems and decision-making practices. Counter storyteller, Berghan explains, “...if you are in the mainstream... it [majoritarian democracy]

seems the fairest, because it is based on everyone gets a say, so we [all] get a say”.

This notion of looking after the interests of the bulk of the population is reflected within much policy, which is frequently based on population level analysis of needs and aspirations. Former Human Rights Commissioner, Hosking (2011, p.

370) asserts policy is also based on what is palatable to the bulk of the electorate, to the detriment of minority interests.

Political commentator, O’Sullivan (2003) asserts when indigenous peoples become a minority in their own country, the imposition of majoritarian democracy becomes a culturally specific manifestation of historic racism. A majoritarian decision-making process - whether it is when political parties develop their policy manifesto, in governance bodies across the health sector or within senior management teams in Crown agencies – opens up a structural likelihood that the interests of the majority could subsume the interests of minorities. Political philosopher, John Stuart Mill (1859/2006) called this tension between majority and minority interests as the ‘tyranny of democracy’.

Within Aotearoa Te Tiriti, obligations should protect and promote the interests of Māori regardless of their proportion of the population. Counter narratives however, do not support the notion that Māori interests were either protected or promoted within the agenda-setting phase of policy development. Berghan (2010, October 18, p. 4) illustrates this through his experience in a prioritisation process while he was working for a Crown agency:

I am the only Māori sitting around the table and there are ten of us. We are sitting up and arguing the prioritisation framework and I am arguing strongly that Māori health should be right up near the top because of poor Māori health outcomes. So we have the debate... you put it on the table,

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you go hard for it and in the end... if you don’t have the numbers, that is where the funding goes.

Counter storyteller, Māori Policy Analyst (2010, November 16, p. 3) recalled the struggle of two Māori women trying to get Māori issues on a policy and funding agenda. She explains:

I walk into the room and there is me and [my Māori colleague] and then the doctors come in and they are all Pākehā and then you have the CEO [who] is Pākehā, and the population strategist is Pākehā, and the cancer control people who are Pākehā, community groups who are Pākehā. And you know how the hell are we going to make a difference if all the people sitting around the table or the majority of the people sitting around the table making decisions about Māori health are Pākehā and so [my Māori colleague] and I would battle for a Māori voice to be heard, yet that would still be side-lined by the chair who was facilitating the discussion (p. 3).

These two narratives illuminate a pattern of Māori as a structural minority within Crown boardrooms and decision-making forums. This is repeated at both governance and senior management levels across Aotearoa on a daily basis.123 A recent report by the SSC (2010, p. 5) confirms Berghan’s perceptions revealing that only 8.3% of senior managers within the public service are Māori. A review124 of the makeup of DHB boards, as of December 2010, confirms that only two board members per DHB (14%) have acknowledged Māori whakapapa.

While in terms of DHB, governance this level of representation is proportional to population levels125 counter narratives report, in the context of both governance and senior management, practically this level of representation within a majoritarian decision-making paradigm presents what were perceived as significant obstacles to Māori priorities being advanced.

Racial Climate: Political Will

...it doesn’t’ matter whether you have a centre right or centre left government you still have the same racism. It just gets cloaked a bit differently

(Berghan, 2010, October 18, p. 2).

Racial climate testing is a process of examining elements of an environment to gauge the hostility or readiness of an institution or community of interest to take on board indigenous concerns and/or transform racism. It exposes the changing

123 In making this statement I acknowledge that Māori on occasion and indeed some non-Māori consistently support positions put forward by non-Māori in decision-making forums; this is different however from equitable Māori representation within such forums.

124 Within this review ethnicity was determined by information from DHB websites on board members and a review of enrolments on the Māori electoral roll a method previously used by Sullivan (2010) in her research into Māori representation within local government.

125 Across New Zealand the indigenous Māori population is 14% (Statistics New Zealand, 2002) of the total population.

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tides and faces of racism which can be useful in planning anti-racism interventions. Berghan (2010, November 7, p. 7) explains the related concept of political will, drawing from his experience in parliamentary election campaigns:

...there is always a line where the... government will not cross because they would have done their surveys of... where their backing is, and there comes a point where your constituency says we have had enough of the Māori stuff... and if you go any further your support goes from you...

Every week they monitor the feedback... that is when political will is clearly demonstrated, and we get the messages in mainstream institutions that there is a no-go zone. So under MMP... they are trading all the time and... political will is subject to negotiation.

Within this political context, Berghan (1997) argues that Māori health is treated as a partisan or political issue rather than as a Te Tiriti obligation or a social/economic/cultural/political crisis that needs to be addressed. Constant tinkering within the health sector126 has required Māori to constantly forge new relationships with ever-changing Crown entities, who experience high levels of staff turnover and constant restructuring (Te Puni Kōkiri, 2000b, p. 22). The constancy in Māori health therefore has not been Crown agencies or officials, rather the dynamics of whānau, hapū and iwi.

The concept of racial climate is a useful construct to understanding the way racism manifests within both a particular geographic context and within a discrete timeframe (see Came, 2011b). Counter storytellers through this study identified a range of distinct periods of racial climate: i) the mono-cultural era prior to the development of Māori health providers, ii) the stimulating period of innovative change under the leadership of the HFA and the RHA, iii) the fraught period post Brash’s (2004, January) Orewa speech characterised by the rise of libertarian viewpoints, iv) the current period marked by the dynamics of fiscal restraint justified by the global economic recession.

As established in chapter three historically institutional racism was commonplace across the policies and practices of Crown officials. Counter storyteller, Kuraia (2010, September 22, p. 3) suggests even up until the early 1990s there was no detectable commitment to engage with Māori as strategic partners, nor were Māori world views incorporated into health policy or practice. Te Puni Kōkiri (2000b, p. 9), in a report on the views of Māori providers from the early 1990s, found:

...government departments did not recognise... cultural differences as important to service delivery. They also did not recognise that Māori could

126 Certainly the author while working for reincarnations of the same Crown agency over a ten year period had ten different senior managers.

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deliver services as well as or better than government agencies and non-Māori providers.

Counter storytellers spoke positively of the racial climate under the leadership of the HFA and RHA. During this period, there was a commitment to funding by Māori and for Māori services, developing treaty relationships127 and ensuring contract documents made explicit reference to the Treaty (Northern Regional Health Authority, 1996). Kuraia (2010, September 22, p. 2) suggests this groundwork led to an active movement to name racism as a determinant of health (see A. King & Turia, 2002; Ministry of Health, 2001a, 2002g) and to do something about both racism and health inequities as demonstrated through the development of the HEAT tool (Ministry of Health, 2004d). This momentum, she argues was lost as people in key positions within the sector chose to stay silent on the issue and/or were restructured out.

The impact of Brash’s Orewa speech (2004, January) on racial climate has been discussed extensively elsewhere (see Barber, 2008; Callister, 2007; L. Stoddart, 2007). Counter storytellers saw this speech and the subsequent response as a reversal of potentially progressive policy initiatives. Brash’s speech triggered the Labour-led government to direct the SSC (2004b, 2004g) to undertake a comprehensive whole of government review of targeted [race-based] policies and programmes. Peace Movement Aotearoa (2007) in their parallel report to CERD published a memo from a senior Ministry official (see Wall, 2006) confirming a policy decision had been taken to remove systematically Treaty references within policy and contracts within the health sector. Kuraia (2010, September 22, p. 2) asserts this decision was an illustration of institutional racism. She cites the recommendations of United Nations Special Rapporteur, Stavenhagen (2006, p.

5) following his visit to Aotearoa, which was reconfirmed by his colleague Anaya (2011) that the Treaty of Waitangi should be entrenched into constitutional law as supporting this assessment.

Counter storytellers speculated that the current international global recession (since 2007) is another racial climate marker. In my survey of public health providers in December 2010, several Māori providers disclosed that they had lost contracts, in spite of track records of strong service delivery. These cut backs to Māori programs appears to have occurred in two waves: i) through the line by line review established to contain costs; ii) through the reallocation of funds from Māori programs to the reconfigured Whānau Ora program. During this period Māori workforce development expert, Berghan (2010, October 18, p. 2) asserts that restructuring and job losses disproportionally affected Māori and Pacific practitioners. He suggests the restructuring was ostensively driven by pressure from Crown funders:

127 Within the Northern region, this was when the MAPO strategy developed to enable Māori involvement in decision-making (Kiro, 2000).

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...to get more effective and productive with the limited resources they have. The immediate default position is to take out...Māori and Pacific Island people who have the least qualifications... [as] it is much easier to be able to justify getting rid of those people... I think this is the institutional racism... they defend themselves by saying it’s not about Māori... it’s actually about getting the best value for the dollar (p. 2).

The ability of Māori and non-Māori allies alike to promote and maintain Māori policy concerns on the policy agenda is affected by both majoritarian decision-making and changeable racial climate. These structural and political barriers to Māori policy concerns entering the policy cycle are compounded through the subsequent stages of policy development and implementation, entrenching, I maintain, the marginalisation of Māori.