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The Letter 16 June 2003 - Horomia Must Go

The Letter
16 June 2003

The cabinet is in general agreement that Minister of Maori Affairs, Parekura Horomia, should go but is divided over whether his firing will cause more or less political damage.

“When did the Minster know that the answers to his parliamentary questions were false?” Horomia’s answer – “Shortly after.” What does that mean? Shortly after he gave the answers? Shortly after his officials admitted to the media the answers were wrong? Or was it shortly after Rodney Hide pointed out his answers were a litany of lies? The Minister’s own cabinet colleagues have tried to find out the answers and Horomia’s answers to them are just as incomprehensible. Examples of his answers are at http://www.act.org.nz/incomprehensible.

When the Minster of Maori Affairs attempted to find out what was going on in Maori Broadcasting (Te Mangai Paho) the chief executive, Trevor Moeke, refused to come to the Minister’s office and explain. Moeke said that he was only accountable to the board.

Rodney Hide does not believe the Minister’s claims that his officials have misled him. It is a breach of privilege to mislead the House, but the inaccuracy must be deliberate. A breach of privilege letter has been sent to the Speaker.

In the UK a Minister who cannot answer for his department in parliament is sacked. NZ’s question time has been so tame that even incompetent ministers that just stick to their officials’ scripted answers have been able to stumble on. The new Westminster-style question time means the opposition can ask extra questions. Horomia’s cabinet colleagues are now spending hours each week trying to help the Minister. His answers to oral questions on Thursday were written for him but Horomia can’t even stick to the script! Then his subsequent answers to supplementaries contradicted his scripted answers.

The ninth floor spin is now, “There is no question of the Minister of Maori Affairs going.” (Translation: his replacement is being actively considered.) “The Minister speaks beautiful Maori.” (Translation: we know you don’t speak Maori so you have no idea.) “The polls are holding up, the public is bored with this matter and want the opposition to debate real issues.” (Translation: please move on.)

The Treasury inquiry into the bribery and kickbacks in Te Mangai Paho was a very narrow inquiry into the allegation against just one official and only one contract. The official resigned and refused to be interviewed. Even though they found evidence of fraud the government won’t call in the police. Ministers are afraid that a real inquiry will reveal widespread corruption. Maori TV is hiring staff on expensive contracts but no tender has been let for transmitters. So Maori TV will not be on air this year and the budget is blown. Separate race funding in health, education, business, the arts, etc parallels the separate funding for Maori broadcasting. Maori funding administered by Maori. In most cases there is no tender, no accountability and no review of outcomes.

A small example is the separate anti-smoking programmes for Maori. After increasing cigarette tax by $120 million in Labour’s first budget, $20 million a year was voted for an anti-smoking programme and about $200 million earmarked for Maori programmes. Maori “health providers” have piled in and spent the money. Result: more Maori smokers than ever before.

Dunedin heart patients are being sent home to die because they are white. There are now standardised criteria for heart operations. Patients are given points for symptoms. Cardiac surgeons say if you receive 25 points you need an operation. In Auckland patients with 35 points get an operation. You need 50 points in Wellington, 60 points in Christchurch and 67 points in Dunedin. There are many more Maori in Auckland so the Board can afford to “purchase” more heart operations. Dunedin’s too white so patients are being refused operations.

Labour funds doctors’ visits for Maori and Pacific Island people by 20 percent more than for other New Zealanders. For example, a primary health organisation (PHO) receives $19 a year for most female non-Maori/Pacific Island superannuitants enrolled in the area, but $60 for most female Maori and Pacific Island pensioners. (For detail of how race-based health funding works see Heather Roy’s chapter in Liberal Thinking – http://www.act.org.nz/merchandise.

Labour’s focus group polling shows race-based funding is very unpopular. Labour ditched “Closing the Gaps” even though Helen Clark had said that it was Labour’s key policy and departmental heads were told their reappointment depended on their performance on Maori issues. The cabinet committee has been scrapped and the policy name banned – but the spending continues. Clark is considering appointing John Tamihere and completely u-turning Maori policy.

On Tuesday TV3 news claimed the ACT caucus had re-suspended Donna Awatere-Huata. The caucus did not even discuss the issue. ACT MPs have been amazed that Donna was able to get hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Pipi Trust. If an ACT MP can get so much – how much do Labour’s friends receive?

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