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Muriel Newman: Buying Maori With Workers' Money

Buying Maori With Workers' Money
Weekly Column by Dr Muriel Newman

The Labour Government has recently been accused of killing Maori with kindness. This week that claim took on a new perspective, with the Government - supported by the United Party - passing into law a Bill that lowers tax rates for Maori.

The Taxation (Annual Rates, Maori Organisations, Taxpayer Compliance and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill reduces tax rates for Maori authorities and trusts to 19.5 cents in the dollar. With business and trust tax rates set at 33 percent, this move will give Maori organisations a competitive and profit advantage not enjoyed by other New Zealanders.

The setting of tax rates based on race will, inevitably, create new inequalities - especially as many Maori organisations, flush with Treaty settlement money, are already extremely profitable ventures.

What is strange about this particular Bill is that it has been proposed by a government ideologically opposed to lowering taxes. Old Labour socialism is wedded to a fundamental belief in the redistribution of wealth: taking money from those who make it, to give to those who don't.

So, although the lowering of taxes promoted by this Bill doesn't fit Labour's ideology, it does fit their strategy . Labour's strategy has been to identify its voting base and reward it. Labour's voters are comprised primarily of non-worker groups - including beneficiaries, students and superannuitants, along with Maori and Pacific Islanders. The Government is spending many hundreds of millions of dollars on this growing base of more than a million voters. To pay for it, Labour has greatly increased taxes, levies and charges on full-time workers.

Working New Zealanders now pay $15 billion in PAYE taxes - around $10,000 a year from each full-time worker. That's roughly the amount the Government spends on social welfare -paying hundreds of thousands of able-bodied people to do nothing.

Since Labour's election - in spite of the best economic and employment conditions in decades - workers are 2.4 percent worse off. Yet they are the ones who pay the bills. If anyone is to be given a tax break, it should be workers.

Race-based laws are nothing new. There have long been special tertiary education quotas and grants for Maori, the new health funding framework provides greater primary healthcare subsidies for Maori, and a range of special housing assistance packages targeted at Maori are not available to non-Maori - many of whom may, in fact, be in more desperate need. But the creation of privilege for Maori goes further: over the past few years, the need to consult with Maori over all sorts of governance issues has become expected practice, with Maori cultural values now having wide-ranging powers. Labour's Treaty settlement process has caused hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer assets to be landbanked or given to Maori to sort out grievances that occurred the century before last.

Yet history shows that the path to success and self-determination is not through special rights and privilege, it is through self-reliance and equal rights.

The Oxford History of New Zealand tells us that: "Before 1840 there was a vigorous commerce between Maori and European. The New Zealand Company settlements and Auckland provided new opportunities for trade and Maori responded eagerly. Maori agriculture and commerce burgeoned, especially with the opening of export markets in agricultural produce to the Californian and Victorian goldfields.

"When Wiremu Kingi and his followers returned from Otaki to Waitara in 1848, they established large gardens, selling their produce to New Plymouth merchants. From large cultivations in Waikato, produce was transported by canoe to Waiuku, canoed across the Manukau to Onehunga, and finally carried by porters to Auckland. Others shipped their produce to Auckland by schooners from the Hauraki Gulf, the Bay of Plenty, and even Poverty Bay. All over the country Maori were taking advantage of the European market."

That means that, in the first half of the Nineteenth Century, Maori were successful entrepreneurs, capitalists, agriculturalists, merchants, transporters and exporters. They were businessmen who understood money, production, capital and labour organisation.

Surely it is time to revive that spirit by restoring self-reliance and independence from the state, relegating Government handouts and intervention to the margins as exceptional, temporary and conditional. The growth of oppressive bureaucratic regulations and institutions has threatened the very survival of Maori enterprise, prosperity and freedom, and it is now time to take a stand.

The Government is killing Maori with kindness - as any glance at their over-representation in health, welfare and justice statistics will show.

The sooner the Government reverses those special privileges and scraps policies that lead to dependency and failure - introducing, instead, policies to create freedom, choice and personal responsibility - the sooner all Maori will be in a position to achieve the kinds of successes that their ancestors once enjoyed.


Dr Muriel Newman, MP for ACT New Zealand, writes this weekly opinion piece on topical issues for a number of community newspapers. You are welcome to forward this column to anyone you think may be interested.

View the archive of columns at

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