Harawira: Taxation Bill 2005
Taxation (Depreciation, Payment Dates Alignment, FBT And Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2005
Hone Harawira, Member for Te Tai Tokerau
Wednesday 22 March 2006 Third Reading
You know Mr Speaker, whenever I talk about TAX to my people, their eyes start to glaze over, the shutters come crashing down, and before you can say Payment Alignment Dates, they're all asleep.
But I know, as do my colleagues in the Maori Party, that every issue raised in parliament is important to Maori, and that we as a Caucus have a responsibility to give them all, the serious consideration they deserve.
During the passage of this Bill, the Maori Party has raised a number of issues, including the problems with compliance costs, the role that tax plays in helping to drive local economies, and the need for a sustainable economic base.
And we have also raised the basic question of how tax will impact on Maori throughout Aotearoa; will it eradicate poverty, and how can we refocus our efforts to be more positive in our use of tax?
We note how easily our government can make political decisions to improve the status of the poor in South Africa, and in that regard, I am mindful of a comment made by Bishop Desmond Tutu who said that: "If everyone who wants to see an end to poverty, hunger, and suffering speaks out, then the noise will be deafening. Politicians will have to listen."
Well Mr Speaker, although the noise during Question Time can be painfully loud, it is a stronger and more enduring noise that is needed if we are to be inspired to act swiftly, and honourably, in the interests of the people whose needs are far greater than our own.
When the Chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee, spoke to this Bill, he said that tax breaks for those wanting to bring finance into Aotearoa would be addressed.
Well, the Maori Party would add that it's even more important that we look around our own land, and see how we might improve economic growth here rather than look to overseas investment, and the problems that that brings, for Maori particularly, and for our nation as a whole.
For example, export revenue from Maori farms is about $800 million a year, but those farms still only operate at 70% of the national average.
It would seem that some targeted tax relief in research and development, and farm management could go a long way to improving that return.
And yet this Bill seems more focused on research and development tax relief for companies bringing in new investors.
Again, perhaps we need to look closer to home to realise positive growth.
Another area we might target for economic growth is marine farming.
The Maori Party notes how the Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act was rushed through the House as a vote-getter, but that not one new marine farm has been set up as a result of it.
But the potential for marine farming for Maori and the nation's economy is huge, and I note that when the Act was launched last year, the honourable Dover Samuels said that it "signalled new opportunities for Maori in the marine farming industry".
So imagine how concerning it is to see that less than nine months later, the same Dover Samuels is reporting "huge frustration" among coastal Maori over the unworkability of the aquaculture legislation.
The Maori Party is happy to back Dover's call that Maori marine farming be supported, and as the Member of Parliament for Tai Tokerau, I will do my best to see that his government's decisions do not continue to deny Maori access to the industry.
I also note his comments yesterday that his own government's oceans policy was "pie in the sky" and would undermine economic development, and the Maori Party will be watching to see what changes are made to legislation as a result of their Associate Minister's advice.
We all suffer the errors of flawed policy, and we must all take the steps necessary to address those flaws.
Yesterday we saw the latest in a long line of Labour MPs to trip over their sense of self-importance - but we acknowledge David Parker for recognising his mistakes and taking the appropriate action.
His actions were similar to those we have seen in the Maori world, where those who do wrong are expected to front their people on their marae and to receive the justice they deserve. Such a pity that we are losing touch with a justice that is as honest as it is simple.
Items In The Bill
Mr Speaker, while I recognise the importance of the changes to depreciation, I know my constituents won't be jumping for joy or weeping into their beers over them because they simply don't give a stuff - they're more worried about the rise in fuel prices, and the impact that that'll have on their wallets, and on their lives.
We applaud the Inland Revenue Department for agreeing to waive penalties for people who make genuine mistakes in their tax returns, and, I'd add, if the tax police can deal with flawed policy, then anyone can.
We also note that IRD has aligned the GST and provisional tax payment dates to make it easier for those paying business taxes, a decision that will help Maori businesses greatly, because of how often they have been affected by the tight payment schedules and penalty clauses which kick in because they are late due to sickness within the whanau, travel, medical costs, tangihanga, and the need to give koha at times which simply do not fit with IRD schedules.
Although we oppose the Bill, we support any initiative to simplify tax rules, and to reduce the times people need to deal with the IRD, and this alignment of dates is a move in the right direction.
I would also like to remind this House that although government gets $1.2 billion every year from tax on tobacco products, the real costs of smoking - through smoking-related illnesses and associated health-care, fire, property life and heath insurance, refurbishing homes, offices, cars and workplaces to rid them of the stench of cigarette smoke, passive smoking, the loss of earnings of those in care and those who have died unnecessarily, and the incalculable damage to whanau throughout the nation, both Pakeha and Maori, makes the tax take look downright miserable by comparison.
Mr Speaker, productivity and growth is not just about hourly output, and I recall the comments of CTU Maori Vice President, Sharon Clair, who said that "productivity need not be a negative perception if the benefits of productivity are shared".
We need to enhance our potential in areas like marine farming and agriculture; reduce development that exploits or puts at risk the health and well-being of our communities; and do all we can to achieve real progress for our children, for future generations, for the nation and for our planet.
To end my speech tonight, I have para-phrased the words of Dr Martin Luther King and I hope I do justice to his words:
"As long as there is poverty, I can never be rich ..."
"As long as there is such illness amongst my people, and their life expectancy is so wretchedly low, I can never myself, be totally well."
"I can never be what I ought to be until my people are what they ought to be."
"This is the way my world is made and such is the way I see it".