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Maori business and the curse of rich families

Maori business and the curse of rich families

Stephen Franks

Friday, 2 September 2005

Speeches - Treaty of Waitangi & Maori Affairs

Speech to the Whanganui Maori Business Network, Quality Inn Collegiate, Whanganui, 7.15am, Friday 2 September.

"Rags to rags in three generations".

That little proverb condenses the wisdom of many cultures and even more generations.

It describes the pattern we have all seen - where the entrepreneurial grandfather builds the business, but the wealth has gone by the time the mokopuna start having children. The inheritors can't handle unearned wealth. It corrupts them.

I will talk about the ACT policies that recognise this reality of being human.

They are core issues for every culture, but especially now for the Maori business people stewarding serious settlement fortunes. There is nothing so hard as keeping unearned money when you are not used to earning it. Many of the habits and skills learned in making it are needed to keep it. But the values and habits of success are issues for us all.

ACT believes our governments have been making us all "poor little rich kids".

The founder of a fortune glories in seeing at least one child take his business over. He can help the other kids move up the social scale. They are better educated, often as professionals.

They all marry into comfortable families. He is a bit concerned about the kids' lack of drive, and probably the spending habits of their partners, but the business carries on even if it doesn't grow much.

If he is fortunate, he doesn't live to see many of the mokopuna as adults. It is best not to see the collapse of the family's wealth in their hands. They enrich lawyers in fighting over the business.

They are addicted to fast boats and cars and expensive pastimes, if not substances. They invest in random get rich quick bets, or at the TAB. Their relationships are messy, with great chunks of wealth heading off in break-ups. Their children's upbringing is chaotic. A few do well, most are undistinguished and by this stage some are tragic write- offs.

This is universal. The industrious Dutch, who also put cleanliness and thrift next to godliness, have almost precisely the same saying - "clogs to clogs in three generations".

I'm told the Chinese have similar warnings. Jewish and Indian families, and great business survivor families, try to ensure that children are not spoiled by luxury. Kids often have to work alongside parents as apprentices at the bottom even if they are destined to command.

They force kids through tough education. They teach self-reliance early, and demand responsibility. They preserve inheritance discretion, so that the kids cannot expect anything as of right. The kids know that the power is left to whoever seems most worthy to carry on the dynasty.

So what has this got to do with the election we are facing now?

ACT believes that welfare, and a nanny state, the separation of behavioural cause from consequence, is turning New Zealand into the example case of the feckless kids who inherit a dream, and blow it.

The current government has blown the windfall from our best terms of trade for generations on a tax and spend spree.

The behavioural damage from the welfare attack on values is most acute for Maori. Proportionally more Maori families have collapsed since government became the cheque writing husband who is never there, the father who never cares how you behave.

Maori kids are the most damaged by education theories and an NCEA that teaches kids that self-esteem is more important than achievement, that qualifications are less important than the school you went to.

Maori communities are the most damaged by the weak youth justice system. It shows adults accepting feeble excuses. Criminal patterns are set that few can break as adults. We know that prisons don't rehabilitate. Secrecy tells kids that reputation will not matter, because the state will punish anyone who tells the truth about you. And think of what the clean slate law does to the employment prospects of young Maori. They're hit by the stereotype of 'criminal' with no way of reassuring the would-be boss with a clean criminal record.

Smarmy Labour and National leaders have trashed common-sense Maori justice values built around whakaama, muru and utu. Yet they will pretend the most unctuous cultural sensitivity by learning the rituals of powhiri, and poroporoaki.

ACT is the only party brave enough to have always driven for welfare reform, strict standards in education and against NCEA, and for open justice, and zero tolerance for crime.

"Yeah, but what has this got to do with business?" you ask.

Our business success depends on the quality of the people in them. Leadership can only go so far. Leaders stand on the shoulders of others, both those who have gone before, and those they employ. If the current employees are shorter or feebler than those who went before, none of us will achieve as much.

And now too many business shoulders are bent with the burden of coping with low-grade people. Leaders' eyes should be on the next height. Instead employment lawyers, acting for the thief who did not get three warnings, beset them. Standards and morale in the business are undermined by a lazy dud you can't sack, despite them upsetting all the others. They are hounded by back-covering compliance tasks, for OSH, and under the RMA.

Now you are about to face workers turned into beneficiaries on the Working for Families package. It makes it irrational to do overtime, or to seek promotion, because the after tax after benefit difference between earning $30k and $60k is cut to a few thousand.

In the last three weeks we've seen a spectacular binge of this kind of one-parent bribery. Labour, the Greens and NZ First are treating voters like the kids after a graceless marriage breakdown. They're promising a dinner of ice-cream, coke and chips in front of the TV if they'll tell the CYFS lady that they don't want custody to go to the other parent - the one that makes them do their homework before watching TV, and only allows ice cream as a reward for doing their chores, and tells them they'll have to pay if they smash the family car, or vandalise the school.

ACT is the broccoli party. We tell it like it is, even when it will not make us popular. We eat our own broccoli too. Though many of our supporters wanted us to simply abolish Maori claims to the seabed and foreshore, we voted against the government bill, because we stand up for property rights, including Maori rights to have their day in court.

I ask for your Party Vote. Remember, the vote is secret. Your whanau wont know if you vote for us because it will be good for them.


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