There's glory for you!

There'll be a lot of silliness before National's foreshore and seabed law gets passed. Here's my contribution.

I've largely been absent from the blogosphere for a couple of weeks - go on, did you notice? - due to a combination of actually having to do some work and moving house (with concomitant, albeit temporary, loss of broadband access).

But something has happened that so enrages me that I cannot allow it to pass by in silence. So I'm back.

During the Commitee stages of the debate on the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill - the replacement for the Foreshore and Seabed Act that will rectify that injustice without doing much at all differently - Act's Hilary Calvert made the following comment:

"'Tikanga' is an 'Alice in Wonderland' word. It means whatever the Queen - I think it was the Red or White Queen - said it would mean, no more and no less."

Other commentators both more incisive and quicker off the mark than I already have drawn attention- see here - to some of the more unusual aspects of Ms Calvert's speech, or have - see here - pointed out that her argument that "Tikanga" has no meaning independent of the claims of the person using it is not strictly accurate.

Further, there's something a little strange about an Act MP complaining bitterly about proposed legislation importing controversial and unclear terms into our law when her party concurrently is trumpeting its success in having the Regulatory Standards Bill voted through to select committee. This latter legislation - discussed in more detail in this guest Pundit post - would require every other piece of legislation to be measured against this list of ... somewhat controversial and unclear general principles. A little uncertainty to cure a lot, perhaps?

But it's not the historical silliness that I mind. It's not the rather hypocritical attitude towards uncertainty in other people's legislation, as opposed to your own. It isn't even the somewhat patronising (dare I call it anything stronger?) assumption that Maori customary practice cannot possibly found legal rights and obligations, as opposed to the customary practices of business folk which is something often referred to in matters of contractual interpretation or the like.

No - all that is ephemera, as passing and insubstantial as the foam on the foreshore.

The real blood boiler here is the attribution of the timeless conversation between Alice and Humpty Dumpty - contained, incidentally, in her adventures Through the Looking Glass, not in Wonderland - to the Red, or maybe White, Queen. Here is the full context, so you can marvel in its cleverness:

"`I don't know what you mean by "glory,"' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. `Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

`But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument,"' Alice objected.

`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

`The question is,' said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

`The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master - - that's all.'"

So, Hilary, for shame. How can anyone claim to be a lawyer who does not know the correct provenance of this absolutely basic legal text? And an Otago trained lawyer, too!