Tamihere: Speech to Waitakere Rotary Club
Wednesday 19th January 2005
J Tamihere, MP Presentation to the Waitakere Rotary Club Trust Stadium Waitakere City
Coming Together 1 Welcome Friends, citizens and fellow Westies, it is a privilege and an honour to be invited to speak at this your first Rotary event for 2005.
2 Introduction In coming to talk with you tonight, I have had an opportunity to reflect on a number of things that we perhaps take for granted. For instance; “who we are?”, “what shapes us?”, “where we are heading?” and, more to the point, “where are we heading both as a community and as a country?”.
All too often we take so much for granted. All too often we do not give enough acknowledgement for the marvellous and rapid development that is taking us forward as a nation.
It is within this context that I will endeavour to share with you this evening; how quickly we have progressed as a country in the building of our nation, how we can break out of the shackles of our stoic dour past and, how together we can start to celebrate and rejoice in our successes as we move forward as one people.
3 Our history Well, nothing ever occurs in a vacuum! So first, here is a potted history according to Tamihere.
A great number of you here tonight will remember hearing a wireless recording of Prime Minister Michael J. Savage as he declared war on Germany in 1939.
“Where Britain stands we stand, where she goes we go”
A hugely powerful and stirring moment, one which was also to become clear evidence of the submissive view we had of ourselves at that time – evidence, of us still thinking, living and in fact just being, as an antipodean colony.
It wasn’t until the oil shocks of 1973 when the unending stores of fossil fuel ceased, that our exposure to world commodity prices dawned and globalisation was thrust upon us.
Furthermore, the 1974 decision of the UK to join the European Community meant our preferred access to this market ended. No longer would the United Kingdom provide ninety four percent of our earnings.
We also had to wake up to the fact that we were in Oceania, the Pacific and that Asian nations were at our borders. We had to wake up to the fact that learning the art of selling, marketing and packaging were going to be the critical tools to move us forward as a country.
After all, we are a people of voyageurs, adventurers and explorers and we are still in the process of reclaiming these wonderful attributes.
Another point to bear in mind is that as late as 1984, our school curriculum placed an emphasis on Tudor and Reformation English history together with learning French as our second language!
My Mother, a third generation Kiwi of Irish/Scottish descent always talked of the “home country”. She had never been there but things were always better there. I was raised in the 60s and 70s and too often it seemed to me we were always looking for assurance from elsewhere for direction and affirmation. At the same time the country saw the passing of the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975. It was not applied till l978 and I think Joe Hawke lasted eight minutes before he was escorted out!
Every Kiwi saw the police and army end the occupation of Bastion Point. An event which saw us become restless, uneasy or stirred in some significant way. We all knew this had to be put right.
In 1982, the first decision penned by one of New Zealand’s greatest legal minds, Justice Durie. The Motonui decision in Taranaki agreed with Maori objecting to raw effluent being pumped into their shellfish-gathering reef. Tainui In 1994 and Ngai Tahu in 1998 settled their Treaty grievances. This set the benchmark precedents for all settlements. Add to this the technology explosion and the much vaunted knowledge wave economy and we can all say that we have seen change of a revolutionary manner.
To learn keyboard skills or type was a no no if you were a real bloke. Today you cannot live without a keyboard. While this was happening there has been rapid and significant immigration, particularly Asian. The Avondale I grew up in is not recognisable. The ethnic melting pot in the main street evidenced by eateries sets the scene. The pace of change has been significant and the ability to cope with this change will, and must cause unease, but we must manage that unease.
Norman Kirk had a large vision for a great country and the Lange years oversaw significant structural change in Society and the Economy.
On the race front, without education or institutional memory the Treaty of Waitangi and Maori matters were tackled head on. We are acknowledged as world leaders in the resolution of race related matters. The only people that do not seem to own up to this appears to be ourselves.
4 The last five years Roll the tape forward and let me make a number of observations on matters that occurred last century albeit only five years ago.
We deferred our nationhood debate until the 70s and are now in the process of reclaiming and defining who we are on our terms. This is a big country, not geographically speaking, but we are limited only by how small we want to think. So we are entering the greatest of times and the best of times. We are designing our nationhood manual in our way in our language in our times.
The great political debates of the last century – the contest of ideas over the “isms” is over, - capitalism has won. We must now define the type of capitalism, its values and shape and form within a kiwi context. We must challenge those that continue to expend energy promoting the old ideology of the last century. Those in the Union that see the boss as bad and those in business New Zealand who see unions as lazy lefties.
There is too much energy spent on contests that no one can win because people are talking past one another using ideas and assumptions whose time has passed. In my opinion there is no such thing as a left or a right any more. The way forward must be how best we can be at embracing concepts inclusive of people. We must start to focus on what works, what produces the best possible outcome. The fact that the processes might be defined as left or right in the old way of thinking gets us nowhere. Does the process work with the best possible outcome or does it not – that is the question!
Whilst Minister of Youth Affairs, I was privileged to see the rise of a new genre of Kiwi. The backbone of our nation and its leadership of tomorrow. They stand up and sing our national anthem in Maori/English. They are far more tolerant and respectful of others rights despite how they look, dress, eat and act . They have been lucky enough to be exposed to greater diversity. They energise and set the direction and standard for our music, our fashion and our language. Through text messaging they are destroying the English language faster than the Yanks. In a global marketplace they have a sense in their points of difference and how special they are, born out of and very much so patriotic to a great country. They push the envelope so to speak but this is the role of the youth sector. Our youth sector is large. It evidences a vibrant, dynamic and Kiwi centred approach to our going forward. It is Kiwi centred because significant decisions have been made and implemented which give them regardless of race or creed a “belonging”.
5 Our challenges in moving forward A platform has been set for reclaiming who we are. In defining this, we must acknowledge that no one has perfected our nationhood manual. It is incumbent upon us to continue to write the manual with respect, tolerance and above all fairness.
Our ancestors chiselled out a prosperous country for us with stoic, hardy, lacklustre journeymanship. We must shift off this stoic attitude because it can lead to a meanness of spirit, which is now starting to adversely impact.
To actively support the people in our community who have taken risks and become successful is important. The politics of envy and jealously must be challenged because we cannot afford to be a nation divided and ruled. We must in the next decade set in place processes and procedures that enable a coming together. Whether it be in race related matters, whether it be in business, whether it be in branding and exporting kiwi prowess, we must look for solutions rather than people eloquently telling us what the problems are.
Let me turn now to issues of some significance – given this is an election year. I will briefly touch on our Constitution, Race issues, Immigration and the Economy.
6 Our constitution Our constitutional process lends itself to continual and incremental change. It is anchored by the supremacy of Parliament not the unelected judges and not the supremacy of unelected editors and journalists in the media. We do not have a supreme law or bill of rights. I would argue we have been bequeathed a supreme process known as the Westminster System. There has been widespread disquiet over the role that the Treaty of Waitangi plays. Peter Dunne leader of the United Future Party will head a Parliamentary Select Committee shaping a constitutional conversation with integrity. I make the point to you this evening that the Treaty of Waitangi is to us in the constitutional sense what the Declaration of Independence was to the Americans and the Magna Carta was to the United Kingdom. It is woven inextricably into our constitution and regardless of anyone will never be unwound. When I move on to the race related debate, I will talk more about the abuse of Treaty rights by some Maori. At least a solution has been put on the table over the unease of our constitution and the role of the Treaty. If anyone has a better solution, let’s put it on the table.
7 Race Given that we deferred our nationhood debate and therefore the position of Maori in kiwi Society, it’s important we acknowledge and accept that with the goodwill of parties significant outcomes have been achieved. The rise of a Maori party is unfortunate and frustrating for politicians like myself. Frustrating because the Party is led by very well off very senior and very articulate Maori educationalists, academics and the new elite around the Treaty of Waitangi – chequebooks. The war over Maori rights has been won and given the young Maori population I find it unacceptable to have education campuses no longer to the forefront to raise a nationhood debate, but actually now being bankrupt enough to continue to teach and advocate grievance and victim hood. Where is the policy debate about positively unleashing Maori potential?
I am proud of my Maori heritage just as I am proud of my Pakeha heritage and unlike the number of Maori only (and there are none!) in the Maori party, I will ensure that my ancestership will be honoured and respected on both sides of that genealogy.
In the last 25 years, Maori have made huge progress not only in themselves but in the country itself. It is about time we had some pride in Maori leadership owning up to the huge gains we have made. We can no longer tolerate Maori merely screaming the Treaty and believing they deserve preferential entitlements. I observe that you cannot have a Maori Party led by tribalists. Maori is a generic definition and none of them want to be a Maori, they want to go back to being tribalist. I am proud of my Tribal heritage. I do not need to ram it down another person’s throat or dupe them into believing I can provide them with a better world through tribalism. I am pleased that all separatists now have a party to join but we must continue to see it for what it is. The takeover of Maori political consciousness by one of the biggest duping exercises carried out on Maori by Maori this century. I am a Maori and they have stolen my name.
Once again we have policies in place that are inclusive and fair. We are mindful about the tyranny of the majority equally we must be wary of an oppressive minority whether it is based on race or chequebook diplomacy.
8 Immigration In terms of immigration it is easy for me as a Maori to turn my people against immigrants. I recall when Pacific islanders began to arrive in New Zealand in the 60s they always stuck together, continued to speak their own language in front of others. They were colourful in their choice of clothing and this caused enormous angst in the Maori community because we saw a new group of people coming into the country and seemingly taking all the plum jobs. They also seemed to get preferential welfare benefit treatment and got first choice to state housing. As a Maori New Zealander being pushed to the back of the queue is an easy case to make. So in the 70s we used to have big brawls in Auckland streets. 25 years down the track the Pacific island community are coming into their own. They are highly productive, they are getting ahead in music and fashion and inter marriage amongst them is significant. So rather than fighting them, giving the number of nieces and nephews I have of mixed blood, it seems the battleground has moved to the bedroom.
The advent of the Asian population and others does create unease but must be seen in the light of our geographic position. China (at present growth rates) will within 12 years have an economy the size of the USA. Today the US drives up to 68 per cent of the world’s economy. Lets judge people not on their creed or colour, what they wear or eat but rather what they can contribute to making this very special country a lot more special. In matters of race and immigration, lets aim to have a national consensus and a coming together. Our immigration policy has tightened and we are targeting people with skills with investment and wealth creators.
9 Our economy For the first time, I will get overtly political and list a number of economic accomplishments achieved in the last 5 years. Management by the leadership combo of Clark and Cullen is not about good luck but great management. They have huge policy experience and are undoubted, intellectual grunt machines
We enjoy one of the fastest growing economies in the OECD netting above forecast growth of 4.5% for the year ending June 04. Government debt for 1999 was 33% of GDP - today it is 25% of GDP Government spending as a proportion of GDP was 32% in 2002/03 and declined to 29% 22003/2004. We have the second lowest unemployment rate in the OECD.
The key to sustainable growth is the regime of stable, solid fiscal management that has been instigated. Kiwi businesses are consistently posting profits regardless of the strength of the US $.
It is correct that we have a surplus balance at 2004 of 7.4 billion dollars, but it is sobering for you to know that 540 million dollars only is net cash flow from core operating and investing activity.
We are taking a cautious approach because there is significant deferred inrastructural investment required in this country. It will not and cannot be funded by the private sector; an example of this is in electricity, roading and rail. The Superannuation Fund must be maintained as it provides options for future Governments in funding old age entitlements and just as importantly provides an conomic stabiliser into the future. A plea for people to privatise because it is ideologically right in their mind as a panacea for economic growth has not proved correct in the light of the New Zealand economy. The tax cuts of the 90s placed huge pressures on the economy and led to consumption not investment . Whilst I am hugely supportive of tax cuts and tax relief, like all good businesses we must Firstly reduce debt Secondly, we must be certain of our income flows and there is solid and stable growth. Thirdly we must invest in our skills, competency and capability. Fourthly, a good business can then start to reward its people.
Central Government is still the only game in town having the ability to gear, facilitate and support major capital projects. Local government in New Zealand is far too small and private public partnerships are still evolving. I would be grateful if the leadership provided in this sector by Michael Cullen was acknowledged and that any lolly scramble is seen for what it is in terms of tax cuts or privatisation. Benefits for the few at the expense of the many.
10 Conclusion As I indicated above, leadership in this decade will set the course for a great future and inevitably there will be failure but let that be a failure of people who have reclaimed ourselves and shaped the country as producing the world’s best whether it be in goods, services or people.
Like Theodore Roosevelt’s Gladiator in the arena whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly to spend themselves in a worthy cause and who at best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievements and who, at worst, if they fail, at least fail while daring greatly so that their place shall never be with more cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.