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'Labour out of Touch with Maori'

'Labour out of Touch with Maori'

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

Dr Cullen’s responses to questions from Tariana Turia and Te Ururoa Flavell at question-time, today indicated how out-of-touch Labour is with the current profile for Maori.

Dr Cullen was being quizzed about the Kiwisaver Scheme which the Maori Party considers discriminates against Maori.

The Kiwisaver Bill notes that contributions will be locked in until the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation, or five years after the first contribution, whichever is later.

“We believe this Bill will not address the issues faced by low income families; many of whom are Maori” stated Mrs Turia. "On both counts, both accessing contributions by entry to the scheme in the first place, or on age eligibility for Super, Maori will not benefit because we do not live that long and we’re too poor to participate".

“Maori will therefore not access the benefits of the scheme in a proportional manner” said Mrs Turia. “One would think that for groups that have a life expectancy lower than the average, there is a case to begin the entitlement at an earlier age which reflects the disadvantage”.

“To fail to do so, is a clear act of discrimination”.

“Do we accept that those born into poverty deserve to die in poverty?”

“I am not convinced that this country has demonstrated its ability to reduce inequalities. Any programme seen to be effective, descends into a game of political rugby where race cards are often played on a three yearly cycle”.

“The scheme has been dreamt up on the assumption that there is a parity of savings across all income groups. This simply is not true”.

“Dr Cullen stated that unemployment rates have dropped, and immediate incomes have risen, and therefore Maori should have similar opportunities to participate in the scheme as Maori”.

“Yet the 2001 Census reported that the median income of all Maori over the age of 15 was only $14, 800, compared to Pakeha $19,800. It also reported that the median income of Maori over the age of 15 employed full-time or part-time in the work force was $23,600, compared to the median income for Pakeha of $28,700”.

“A substantial income differential exists between Maori and Pakeha - as has been repeatedly brought to the attention of this Government by the United Nations Special Rapporteur, by the Race Relations Commission, and by the Maori Party”.

“Dr Cullen also suggested that unemployment rates had improved” said Mrs Turia. “Yet what he neglected to point out again, was the substantial difference, again, between unemployment for non-Maori at only 2.5%, and a shocking 7.6% for Maori”.

“Finally, the Minister of Finance and Deputy-Prime Minister admitted he had only in the last hour found out that a key national hui on Maori economic empowerment, was being held literally ten minutes away from the Beehive at Pipitea Marae”.

“It all just demonstrates how out of touch Labour is with Maori - both the poor and the rich, the employed and the unemployed”.

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