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Flavell: Parental Leave Amendment Bill

Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Paid Parental Leave for Self-Employed Persons) Amendment Bill 2005

Te Ururoa Flavell,

Member of Parliament for Waiariki

Tuesday 6 December 2005; Parliamentary Debate

The Maori Party believes there is no greater responsibility and honour than that of raising the next generations.

The privilege of parenting should be one that all parties seek to protect and to support - through a variety of means, including Bills such as this.

This is not to say that one must always be paid to undertake duties as a result of choosing to continue the existence of the Human Race.

And for the Maori Party - our desire for our people to go forth and multiply.

Our policy commitment is to strengthen and support whanau to take up their responsibilities for child rearing.

The Maori Party believes that parents, solo or couples, grandparents, aunties and uncles should have the choice to stay home and look after their children - that is their choice. We do not see this another welfare payment, in fact, it must not be. Because despite anything that might be said, welfare is a net that entangles one.

There are alternatives to welfare. We are supportive of the concept for reduced taxation if the family income is under the poverty line.

1.9 million taxpayers are on an income of $25,000 or less. These people are paying $3.5 billion in tax while the government is accumulating surpluses of $4 billion to $7 billion per year.

If we could use $1.75 billion of the $3.5 billion of those 1.9 million taxpayers, to give a tax discount of 50 percent to our low income people, this could achieve significant changes in the welfare and well-being of these people, and they could achieve choice.

Moving to the group that stands most to benefit, from this next Bill being introduced today.

The primary aim of the Bill is to amend the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 to extend the 14 week paid parental leave scheme to self-employed individuals who are not currently covered.

It is interesting to note that women are significantly under-represented amongst the self-employed, particularly Maori women.

Industry NZ has found that only around 44% of applicants seeking Enterprise Awards grants were women and only 8% of applicants had identified themselves as Maori.

The December 2000 Household Labour Force Survey reported only 4500 self-employed Maori women, about 6.4% of the total number of self-employed women.

In addition, 1300 Maori women were self-employed and employing others, which was only 3.3% of the total number of women in this category.

Although we are very surprised to see Maori women are under-represented in this area - we should not be, because we know from bitter experience how difficult it is for Maori to access loan facilities to enable them to give substance to their entrepreneurial talents. They also lack the material assets from which they can borrow.

That Maori, and Maori women in particularly are entrepreneurial, can not be disputed.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) now covers 41 countries and is the largest survey of entrepreneurship undertaken in the world.

It is ironical that Maori are more likely to be necessity entrepreneurs (forced to start a business due to job loss or redundancy) than non-Maori or the global average. One has to ask, was it necessary to have a necessity to achieve international recognition as being entrepreneurial. While we are supportive of the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Bill, it might dull the entrepreneurial spirit, and that would be another irony.

Within the GEM Survey, more Maori women (83 per cent) than men (30 per cent) identify themselves as opportunity entrepreneurs (spotting a business opportunity).

Again, we question the irony in this international achievement. Maori women are successful at spotting a business opportunity, but perhaps up until the time of this legislation, were unable to act on the opportunity because they lacked resources - including parental leave and parental leave payments - to maintain a decent standard of living.

We are optimistic that this legislation will help to do something about this, and will ensure that these women can maintain their entrepreneurial spirit and enterprises by the assistance this Bill will give them.

Maori women were found to be remarkably more entrepreneurial than non-Maori New Zealand women and the global GEM female.

Female entrepreneurs account for 13 per cent of the general Maori population, compared to 8.7 per cent amongst non-Maori and 6.4 per cent of the GEM world.

Again, with all the success being heralded overseas, it is sobering that despite such talents, the Ministry of Social Development's latest social report reports that inequalities remain all too real.

It notes that hourly wage and salary rates for Maori still trail European rates - $13.76 against $16 - and literacy skills and educational achievement are also lower.

This is an indictment on our national and international standing, yet again.

It is to our national shame that Professor Stavenhagen, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, found only two weeks ago, that “There is also widespread concern that the gap in social and economic conditions is actually growing larger and that an increasing proportion of Maori are being left behind?”

The Government’s own figures reveal the unemployment rate for Maori has steadily increased over the last year from an actual rate of 8.3% in September 2004 to 9.1% in September 2005; with the unemployment rate for Pakeha which has steadily decreased over that same period.

All of these figures go to show, that despite the international recognition of the entrepreneurial spirit of Maori women, much still has to be done to address the inequities within our society.

So to this extent, the Maori Party supports the introduction of this Bill as being one such means to address these inequities.

The Bill is consistent with Maori Party kaupapa that underscores the importance of whanau financial security, and its implication of assistance for whanau when a parent is temporarily out of the paid workforce - paid out of the annual tax take that they have contributed to.

A question we have around this Bill, is whether it is possible for the Bill to include those in multiple and casual employment.

There are criteria contained that restrict eligibility to mean one must be working at least 10 hours per week in concurrent employment; and also that any break between consecutive types of work is only thirty days or less.

We would like to know what this will actually mean for self-employed persons in real terms.

Parenting is important. The Maori Party applauds this Bill as it supports parenting for those people who are also wealth creators, and creators of employment.

Tena tatou.


ENDS

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