John Tamihere - Labour - Maiden Speech
Member of Parliament
5.45 pm, Thursday, 10 February 2000
I am privileged, honoured and humbled to make my first address as a Member of Parliament in a Chamber, which reverberates with the history of our ancestors.
I have paid my acknowledgement in Mäori to those who have gone before us and I feel them rush to my side, I see their songs, I hear their smiles, and I am proud to be a Mäori and proud to be a Kiwi as I feel them shroud around me.
As I stand here today I can feel the kindred touch, I can feel the heartbeat of our great land, and I can celebrate and rejoice in the majesty of her mountains. I am invigorated by the power and energy of our rivers and streams as they rush down and join into one with the mighty oceans that surround a land that only God could have dreamed of to create.
This great land that we are privileged merely to share, is indeed shared by some very special people. The gene pools that lay the foundation for our nation have more in common than they care to realise. We are predominantly made up as a gene pool of Islanders, whether we call ourselves British Islanders, or Pacific Islanders. There is something about ‘Island nation’ driven people. They have always challenged the new horizons, they have always reached for the beyond, and they have never been intimidated, or subjugated. It matters not in our melting pot, whether you are Irish, Scottish, Welsh, or English, it matters not whether you are from Nga Puhi, Ngati Porou, Taranaki, or Ngaitahu. What matters is that we are all here together and have no choice but to get on together. I am a product of destined relationships. Strategic marriages through my whakapapa relate me to all Mäori, whether they like it or not. I am a product of a Mäori man and a Pakeha mother. I am proud of my Irish, Scot and English ancestry and I will not have my Pakeha side trodden on. Two wrongs do not make a right. My Mäori people have suffered, we are ensuring that processes are implemented to resolve these matters and to move forward.
We must rejoice in our diversity, and not wallow in our differences. It is right to tolerate those who want to wear a kilt, or hemp suit, just as it is right to tolerate and respect those that want to wear a moko. No one has a monopoly on our unending story of nationhood; no one has the manual for our nationhood.
There is a Mäori proverb and it goes like this:
WAIHO MA TE TANGATA E
What it means is – one should not say how great one is. I stand in this House today to challenge custom, or tikanga in our culture, which I consider, has been utilised by some to hinder and control us and not help us.
I want to move this whakatauäki to one side, because it is now time we started to rejoice in the power, capacity, competency, capability and mana of our people and of our land as the motherland that nurtures the people. In my concluding remarks I will return to the gene pool that has laid down the foundation for what it is to be a Mäori, a Kiwi, a Member of Parliament and a Member of the Labour Party, in that order, heading into the new millennium.
Sir, I am proud to represent the Hauraki constituency. It is the jewel in the eye of Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga. It will lead the way in acquaculture, in tourism on its own terms and on community services. The average age of my constituents is 22 years. They are young, they are vibrant, they are dynamic, and they have latent innate potential. Sir, I am proud of my people, I am proud of them – they delight me. Their prowess in the face of poverty, deprivation and difficulty never ceases to amaze me. I am not proud of my people’s prison rates, I am not proud of their hospitalisation rates and I am not proud of them being first fired and last hired. But I am proud of them whether they are in prison, whether they are in hospitals, whether they are failures in the education system that might well be a failure itself, because I understand their huge wasted potential. Systems can produce victims and then always blame the victim. We cannot afford this failure. The nation cannot afford our failure. Mäori progress will be the true pendulum and the true fountainhead of this nation’s success. As Mäori surge and swing forward so too will the nation.
You will recall that our forefather’s haka rang on the plains of Bloomfontaine in the Boer War. You are aware that their haka resounded as they dug their trenches and latrines as the Pioneer Battalion in the First World War and you are aware that their haka echoed on the battle fields of North Africa, to the valleys of Greece, to the hilltops of Monte Casino to the gates of Berlin. My people’s forefathers have paid the ultimate price to achieve an equality of opportunity for their grandchildren in the land of our ancestors. They have no other place to go, there is no other place called home. This is their land, and with great magnanimity and with great dignity and humility they have shared that land.
No longer can my people tolerate or accept feeding frenzies at their expense, based on their failure.
I have watched large vested organisations called Government Departments and their consultancies feast. In doing so they have robbed my people of their ethic, their ethos, their culture, their responsibility to themselves, to their parents, to their children and to their families. A Labour lead Government will need at least three terms to defeat an ‘ugly culture of an army of people that have been produced in the last 15 years that know all about inputs and outputs, but know nothing about outcomes.’
80% of my people are under the age of 40. We must unlock their latent, innate bubbling dynamic potential.
We cannot continue to suppress on the grounds that those who continue to fail should be rewarded for continuing their failure. The people who have feasted at the table of Mäori failure will be exposed.
To move forward we must acknowledge that not only have people external to our communities achieved much at our expense and continue to do so. We cannot move forward unless our own backyard has been cleared and the impostors that continue to chant and make much ado over the whanau hapü and iwi mantra as a song in itself so that the few can feast in the name of the many, they also will be exposed. Let’s get real 44% of Mäori households are solo parent driven. There is no exclusive Mäori way forward. Te Whanau o Waipareira and Manukau Urban Mäori Authority are as legitimate in the hearts, souls and minds of young urban Mäori as any IWI.
It will be Mäori definition and Mäori points of differentiation which will ensure that Kiwi goods, services and products are high priced, niche marketed, value added and highly sought after.
In a cluttered global village and a village in the midst of yet another revolution called the ‘knowledge revolution’ my people, as usual, when this nation has been under threat have answered a call to arms and have defended their motherland and they will do so with new weapons and new technologies.
The new ‘knowledge based’ industries will need these points of differences and differentiation and our products marketing and branding strengths in the world market places will be identified solely because of the Mäori brand.
For example, a Mäori side will represent our people at the 2000 Rugby League World Cup. They will double worldwide viewership to over 250 million people. They will excite interest in our country. Their merchandising capacity will be enormous. They will drink not Powerade, not Gatorade, not Coca-Cola, but crystal clean pristine spring water, delivered off Mäori land. We as a people need to be freed to develop and progress and show the world what exciting differences we have and what high valued products we believe we have. Others in this country do not value us, they continue to drink high priced Chenobal tainted Evian. A Mäori band will release an album in England and a single from it will be in the top 40 in London. This is all about releasing potential and we must acknowledge that the worldwide indigenous shares are sky rocketing. Take advantage of this as a nation.
This team, like the 28th Mäori battalion before it will compete for its people with distinction. This is in spite of and in despite of the Rugby Nazis controlling the Hillary Commission locking us out of schools and Local Authorities for stopping us visiting their amenities. Their worst team will get there and compete with distinction, in spite of and despite corporate sponsorship racism.
When they have competed with distinction up and down our great land Mäori parents will take their children to the supermarkets, they may not be able to put into the trundler what they richly deserve, but their chest will be held outright their heads held high, nobody can place a dollar value on this.
Under no circumstances can we tolerate our culture being appropriated whilst once again we are left to stand on the sidelines.
I state quite clearly as an example that if the Producer Boards continue to take our people for granted and continue to use them merely as low paid slaves off our land base, if we are not woven into the economic matrix of mainstream NZ we must be given the constitutional right, the blood right, the heritage right, the right of the sacrifice of our forefathers to market our products off-shore. We are producing as an example over 15% of the total meat production of this nation and yet nowhere in that particular industry and a number of others have we ever been allowed to participate in the middle to senior management ranks. At no time have our professionals been able to feast off the leverage produced off our land and no longer can we continue to tolerate this. If you do not use us, you abuse us, you lose us. I do not ask for a handout, I ask for equality of access to opportunity.
Much has been talked about the ‘knowledge-based’ economy and I thought it best for the benefit of my people to define what is actually meant by this. The hallmark of a true knowledge based economy is knowledge generation and knowledge management. It is not about just the collection and manipulation of data or information. A ‘knowledge-based’ economy is not achieved by merely surfing the Internet; it is arrived at by good choices and hard intellectual work. We must change our attitudes and start to value above a range of values strenuous research and development capabilities. Therefore, the knowledge economy is not just about the collection and manipulation of data, or information, it is more about analysing this information and creating new ideas that will emanate from that information.
There is much ado about the so-called ‘Brain Drain’. What we as a people must wake up to is that human beings in knowledge economies are the commodities for that economy and as such are tradable. Every cloud has its silver lining and the biggest problem we have with the brain drain of Kiwis offshore is that they are not patriotic Kiwis. You do not have to be a conscientious productive Jew and live in Jerusalem.
It is important that when our people infiltrate the world as new traders in effect that they are spiritually attached to their motherland that they are proud of its special unique qualities, capacities, competencies, capabilities and that in the event that they happen to be merely renting space in some area of London, New York, Tokyo, or Amsterdam that they understand if there is an opportunity that would add value to the motherland that it must be returned home.
If our people do not think this way they were never flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood. They are merely international jetsam and flotsam, taking advantage of our motherland and its people and then blaming us for not providing one with more and more and more. This evidences the ugly culture and ‘the ugly period’ that has, at times, produced at times, an ugly society. This is the period I call the ‘decade of Mexican politics.’ These new internationalists of no fixed abode continue to scream me, me, me, I [aye] I [aye]. The exhibit the culture of knowing the price of everything, but knowing the cost of nothing. They know about adding value, but they know nothing about values.
Sir, good Government is about rationing scarce resources and prioritising where to place the spending. Every pistol purchased, and every Frigate purloined and every F-16 pushed down our throats on the basis of jingoism by Jurassic Park sabre-rattling junkies cannot be sustained. We are not a nation with a huge war chest. In fact, if you look at our current account deficit you would have to say our nation has a huge sunken chest. Our allies know our difficulties and know our size. We are our worst enemies. Good Government is about seeking new priorities.
My people cannot feed off frigates. They cannot feed off F-16’s, they need education, they need education. What greater armoury can you provide for your people than to educate them to be informed, discerning, participating communities so they can nurture their democracy and know the true taste of liberty in our times. What better investment to empower our communities to attack the new frontiers and defend ours.
Many people get into a debate on left of politics, and right of politics. In terms of my people these debates lack any integrity and credibility because when we are talking about the left of politics and the right of politics we are always left, right out. What must work for our nation is exactly that. What will work, what will position us for opportunities, what will ensure that our grandchildren look down at our tombstones and rejoice in the fact that their grandparents had a bit of vision and a bit of foresight to the extent that in our global village New Zealand is seen as one of the best hamlets to relocate.
I am proud to be part of a Labour lead Government, lead by a Prime Minister that has been decisive and incisive in providing positive leadership. Our Government is not ideologically driven, but it must unravel the ideological purity that has hammered the spirit of our land. Any attempt to define our programme as a ‘leftist’ programme, will demonstrate how locked into bankrupt historical benchmarks and paradigm our opposition are. Our party is made up of a manifest number of parts. But, it is held together by a heart and soul based on social conscience and made up of members with the common touch. And, I figure, we will be the best laxative for a constipated motion.
We cannot conquer matters that shape the destiny of this global village, but what we must do is grab the tiller and fashion the good ship New Zealand and ride as we know our gene pool can do through the vagaries of the uncharted, unmapped and unknown global impacts. Let the good ship New Zealand be the ship that embraces change, that tolerates diversity, that defeats adversity.
I have spoken on behalf of my people and I take this seat they have richly and graciously bestowed upon me. Let it be known that from this day on the young, vibrant powerful communities of Auckland Mäori and Hauraki Whanau will be heard and they will be honoured and respected because now is their time to stand tall, be counted and take a right performing on merit to participate in the land of their ancestors.