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Turia: Speech to ACT National Conference

Speech to ACT National Conference

Wellington; Sunday 26 March

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

Mr President.

Tena koe. Tena koutou e whakarauika nei i roto i te rohe potae o Te Ati Awa. Nga mihi hoki ki a Te Ati Awa kei a koutou te mana whenua, na reira tena rawa atu koutou.

Ladies and gentleman right up until this point I was wondering as to whether I should do the obligatory polite thing of thanking you as hosts and say:

Ladies and gentleman, Catherine, as past President, thank you very much for inviting me to speak at this your Annual Conference and while I was considering doing this I had visions of headlines this evening and tomorrow saying “Turia leaves National for ACT”.

But more seriously, I do want to thank you for the invitation and I hope that your generosity in extending this invitation will be followed by Labour, National, New Zealand First, The Greens, United Future and the Progressives inviting members of the Maori Party to speak at their Conferences.

We want to consolidate our position as a Party who will speak with anyone, but who will never ditch its constituents. I know that the position we have of speaking with any Party who wishes to speak with us does confuse people and politically we run the risk of this philosophy of ours being used against us.

But we in the Maori world have a saying:

“Ko te kai a te Rangatira he korero”

“Discussion is the food of Chiefs”

Accepting your invitation is a demonstration that having dialogue with others is a good thing, as it will hopefully lead us to learn something new.

We might not change our minds or beliefs but at least we have listened to another expressing their view of the world.

The Maori Party does have a view of the World and while we are in Parliament as the independent Maori voice we will articulate that view.

We have no wish to force others to have the same view as we as Maori people know only too well what it is like having others tell us how to be. As a people we have only ever wanted to be who we believe we are, and not whom others think we should be.

As the last Cab of the rank we have in the past few weeks been hailed by people who wish us to join their motorcade.

While we are happy to discuss issues with them, our Cab is keener on learning the road map of Parliament to enable us to represent the views of our constituents in the best way possible, plotting our own journey, prioritising what we want to do and not cruising Parliament looking for any passengers or necessarily following their road map.

Having said that, we have in the last couple of weeks picked up a couple of passengers, one in a Black and White suit and another dressed in Blue and delivered them to their drop off point where we will further our discussions.

We have also had our Cab flagged down by people dressed in Red and have had constructive dialogue with people dressed in Green. And here I am today, our Cab being parked outside.

At the big taxi rank in Parliament, try as we may, we have not been able to get away from Rodney as his Cab is parked right next to mine. A few days ago the warden ordered his car from the rank!

I need to say from the outset that I always thought we probably had different constituents and coming here today proves we have. I would hope however that the diversity and differences we have amongst and between us we should see as strength and is something that we celebrate rather than fear.

I know that many political commentators believed that because of the difference of personalities in the Maori Party parliamentary team that we would implode. While they and some politicians might have wished this, they have been so wrong.

What many have failed to appreciate is that the very differences that we have constitute the glue, which holds us together.

As it is with many Maori, we all belong to different tribes and you could say we are all iwi centric, and it is that iwi centricity and confidence in who we are as identities which binds us together.

We believe in ourselves and our abilities.

I had considered discussing in some detail a couple of issues particularly that relating to welfare, welfare dependency and the safety of the welfare net.

I will do that but I also want to let you know in rather broad terms how we function as a Party within Parliament and what we focus on.

WELFARE

The Maori Party believes that the State does have a responsibility to support the most vulnerable in our society.

I am not somebody who supports the benefit system in the way that is currently operated and administered. My preference is much as our people believed back in 1984, that the benefit should be used in a way which assists people to be productive. We need to use the benefit to assist the economy to sustain itself - and that isn’t happening now.

What has unfortunately occurred is that the systems of safety, which have been designed, have tended to trap and entangle people in a net from which they do not escape.

The late Sir Apirana Ngata saw such a net as a danger to us as a people as he believed it would undermine the work ethic of a people.

Composer Tuini Ngawai who, like Apirana Ngata was from Ngati Porou composed a song in the early 1950’s where she warned against Pakeha knowledge, particularly the dependency she saw emanating from the benefits which she also linked to land confiscations of earlier years.

Ngawai in her song claimed the end result of these initiatives would be the destruction of the people, their memories, their souls and their life essence.

“Patu tangata, patu mahara, patu mauri”

Another Ngati Porou, my former colleague John Tamihere in 2003 at the “Knowledge Wave” Conference in Auckland said of the benefit system that:

“It is no good having a growth and innovation strategy and it is no good looking for success and innovation if large numbers of our community cannot participate”.

He was referring of course to those on the Benefit.

I agree with John and I also believe that the views of those on Benefit and the communities, which they belong to or live in, should be sought as to how they think they can be liberated from the state of dependency in which they have become entrapped.

We in the Maori Party also believe that our people must make these decisions. For too long others have prescribed the solutions and they have not worked.

I have been in Parliament since 1996 and each year I see social policies, which are purported to be the solution, being produced.

I have come to recognise that what is actually happening is that the “new” policy solution is a remedy for the mistakes of the “old” policy solution, which in its time was the “new” policy solution and so on it goes.

I will not dwell on the negative social indices of my people suffice to say that only we can change them and the Maori Party is committed to that end.

We are the ones who can liberate ourselves from the situation we find ourselves in. We are capable of unleashing the potential that lies within our people, be they individual or collective.

The challenges my colleagues and I are putting to our people and to our communities is that we/they/us all have the responsibility of ensuring that our human potential is not wasted in a cloud of smoke, the mist of “P”, the froth of alcohol or the bone jarring impact of a punch.

To assist in this process I would suggest that policy solutions based on decentralised models have to be considered.

I wish now to share with you how we in the Maori Party function as a team within Parliament and the parameters of our view of the World.

a) We see every issue discussed in the House as a Maori issue. For too long Maori in Parliament have been restricted to addressing the negative social indices and yet every bit of legislation on the statutes affects Maori as they affect every other citizen of Aotearoa.

b) We will claim our indigeneity and we will speak of it, regardless of whether people want to see us as ‘one people’. We recognise our indigeneity and the indigeneity of others as the strength of the many peoples who live in this land.

c) The Treaty is the foundation of the nation. Despite the desire of some to relegate Te Tiriti o Waitangi to the annals of history we still consider it to be the foundation document for the Nation.

d) We seek to eradicate poverty. Our door knocking during the election campaign was a rude awakening for us upon discovering a level of poverty, which we were not aware. The poor did not create poverty nor do they have an investment in it.

e) We seek genuine progress in our nation. We believe in a Genuine Progress Index, which measures benefits against deficits. We do not for example believe the imprisonment of people is genuine progress although that sort of expenditure might look good for GDP. We do not believe that welfare dependency is an indicator of genuine progress and health.

f) We believe whanau are best able to determine their own solutions, and we must support them in restoring their rights and responsibilities to do so.

g) We seek to consistently demonstrate our belief in the potential of people to achieve the impossible. Maori have a proud history of creativity and entrepreneurship and we promote the contribution that Mäori enterprise and entrepreneurship has made to our nation's economy.

h) We look to our tikanga and our kaupapa to guide us in our responses. Our customs and traditions guide our behaviour both within our parliamentary Offices and within the House. For those of you who may listen to Parliament, you might note that when any of us stand to speak we not only greet the speaker, we also greet the members in the House. You may also note we desist from belittling other individuals.

i) We promote a system based more on justice that heals than justice that continues to alienate victims and their families and dehumanises perpetrators and their families.

j) We will encourage an opportunity for people to participate - for voices to be heard. Since coming in to parliament as the Maori Party I have noticed greater numbers of Maori coming through what we refer to as the “rubber doors” of the old Parliament Buildings. We also have a programme of visits within our electorates, to let our people know what we are doing. This is in addition the weekly clinics we hold.

k) We exist to defend Maori rights, and advance Maori interests, for the benefit of all who live in Aotearoa. The Foreshore and Seabed Legislation was a defining moment for us as we saw it as a 21st century confiscation and a denial of access to Justice. I know the ACT Party was at one with us on that issue although for different reasons. Yours was the protection of individual rights and private property, ours was the issue of collective rights and the denial of access to due process.

The means by which we express our message also distinguishes us as inkeeping with our own unique philosophy.

So we seek to promote whakatauki, pepeha, and korero tawhito - if you like the cultural capital of tangata whenua - as illustrating Maori and universal truths and in all speaking forums we always consider the learning provided from a historical context.

We are committed to promoting and using te reo Maori in the House and are supportive of the establishment of simultaneous translations. We encourage appropriate pronunciation, no matter what language.

In the end however we remain committed to this country while recognising we are citizens of the world and we do not see ourselves as an Opposition Party.

We are the Maori Party, the Independent Maori Voice of Parliament.

ENDS

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