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Greens tell Govt: 'Don't Panic, Helen!'

25 February, 2004

Greens tell Govt: 'Don't Panic, Helen!'

The Green Party is encouraging the Government to ignore the current frenzy of poll-driven hysteria over racial issues, and to hold fast to policies based on social justice and honouring the Treaty.

"Policies of targeting resources to those most disadvantaged are thoroughly defensible," Green Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today. "However, many New Zealanders are frustrated because the policies have not been explained by the Government or the media.

"There is widespread lack of knowledge about our history. Maori were systematically discriminated against for over 100 years. They were not entitled to the same health, education and welfare benefits as Pakeha and their land and economic base were confiscated.

"It is no accident that they now have, on average, worse health and shorter life expectancy than Pakeha. Policies to redress this disadvantage are entirely justified.

"Rather than being panicked into reversing successful policies because of a temporary polling blip, the Government should take the fight to its detractors and challenge them to debate the details.

"National's leaders have succeeded in their attempts to create racial polarisation in this country simply because the people in a position to challenge them - in particular, politicians and the media - have failed to engage them in public debate.

"It would be a tragedy if this Government back-tracked on policies that have delivered and continue to deliver real results to the people most in need of assistance," said Ms Fitzsimons. "The biggest threat to race relations in this country is not in targeting Maori for special assistance, but in stirring up resentment between races."


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