How did a 77-year-old white guy become the go-to media voice on Māori issues?

If Don Brash can be invited onto national television to speak about Māori language week, then I can speak about almost anything, argues Madeleine Chapman.

There are plenty of uninformed takes to be heard on the radio. People call into talkback and air an opinion that isn’t shared by a single listener, but those same listeners know this caller is just a random New Zealander. They know this person isn’t an expert and they’re subsequently prepared to process what outrageous thoughts this person may have on a topic they know very little about.

Don Brash is not a random New Zealander calling NewstalkZB at 3am. Don Brash is a former National Party leader and Reserve Bank governor. He’s also been eligible for the pension for over half my life and I commend his stubborn refusal to just fade away into an extremely comfortable retirement.

Brash is an expert voice. He’s 2012 Olympics Usain Bolt when he’s talking about inflation. But when it comes to talking about the haka, Brash is 2018 Usain Bolt trialling for the Central Coast Mariners soccer team.

Brash was given a national platform to air his strongly held opinions on RadioLive yesterday. He was also apparently a planned guest on The AM Show this week to discuss te reo and its usage as part of Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori. There’s an easy win to be had with booking someone like Brash. He makes some people feel ‘heard’ and ‘understood’ (good for engagement) and angers the rest of them (great for engagement).

Perhaps these shows are confused after Brash inadvertently, and unfortunately, became the Martyr of Free Speech earlier this year. He certainly has a lot of speech he’s willing to give away freely. But a strongly-held opinion doesn’t always go hand in hand with a depth of knowledge. My strongly-held opinion that one of my flatmates doesn’t contribute enough to the power bill does not make me an authority on the latest budget.

Here’s a list of topics it would be entirely appropriate to have Don Brash speak about on your programme:

  • Being a National Party leader
  • Monetary policy
  • Polymer banknotes
  • Inflation
  • The Reserve Bank
  • Kiwifruit farming
  • Losing a general election
  • Being white

Some real reactions of people made to appear on a panel with Don Brash

Here is a list of topics Don Brash has spoken about on national platforms:

  • Use of te reo by RNZ reporters – The AM Show
  • Whether or not Māori have too many rights – NZ Herald
  • Use of te reo on the radio (again) – The AM Show
  • The demise of the Māori Party – The AM Show, come on
  • Whether media should have reported heavily on sexual assault allegations at a Labour Party camp – The AM Show, seriously
  • Māori relations in government – Newshub
  • Māori history – Radio New Zealand
  • Māori equality – Māori Television
  • Māori seats – The AM Show, seriously guys, this is embarrassing

There’s a trend here, and it’s grim. But being an optimist, I’ve spotted a career opportunity. If Brash feels confident enough to spread his ignorance on every topic under the sun (so long as it has something to do with Māori), then I’ve been selling myself short for years.

I hereby declare myself willing and available to speak on the following subjects:

Golf
I’ve played golf once and I didn’t much care for it. Happy to go on The AM Show to argue why no one else should play golf either.

Growing up in the 80’s
I think growing up in the 80’s was terrible and should never have happened. I was born in 1994.

The housing crisis
I am neither an urban planner nor a developer but I have lived in a house and I have some opinions.

My time as the Governor of the Reserve Bank
I did not hold this position and Don Brash did. But there are two sides to every story so if you book him on to speak about his former position, I will appear alongside him to argue that the position never existed.

The justice system
I’ve seen all of Boston Legal AND the first three seasons of Suits.

The economy
I know the economy has a lot to do with money and I would like more of it. These views and more could be yours, all you have to do is ask.

Being a 77 year old Pākehā man commenting on Māori issues
If Don Brash can make a post-retirement career of this, so can I.

To book an appearance email madeleine@thespinoff.co.nz.

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