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Speech on Parental Leave Bill

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

Hone Harawira; Member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau
Tuesday 2 May 2006


Mr Speaker, Te Ururoa Flavell gave our support to this Bill at the First reading, because it was consistent with the Maori Party’s recognition of the importance of financial security for whanau.

That financial security has never been more important than it is now, with:
o record numbers of people on low incomes;
o record numbers of people on special benefits;
o record numbers of food parcels being distributed; and
o record numbers of children living in families below the poverty line.

That financial security is especially urgent for Mäori, particularly in light of the finding by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, who noted, and I quote, “the underlying institutional and structural discrimination that Maori have long suffered”, and who also noted that: ‘disparities continue to exist between Maori and non-Maori with regard to employment, income, health, housing, education [and] the criminal justice system’.

I raise the Special Rapporteur’s report because of the importance of this House recognising the huge impact that poverty has on our society, especially given that this government refuses to accept the need to measure poverty, or to even acknowledge a poverty line.

As if refusing to acknowledge poverty, will mean people won’t notice that it exists.

Well folks, it don’t take too much analysis to work out who is most affected by poverty - with or without a line in place. Gisborne, Whangarei, Whanganui, Porirua and Rotorua are the regions with the highest levels of poverty, and surprise, surprise, they are all regions with high Maori populations.

FINANCIAL PRESSURE

Mr Speaker, when times are tough, any threat to employment is bound to increase pressure on a household, whether people are employed in the workforce, self-employed, in casual work, in multiple employment, or in seasonal employment.

Our original doubts about the Paid Parental Leave Scheme were because self-employed people had been left out, when a very significant proportion of the population, more than 360,000, consider themselves to be self-employed.

In fact, the number of self-employed Mäori has increased by more than 200% over the past twenty years, so this matter has huge significance for the Maori Party who are the only Party to have taken up the challenge of defending Maori rights and advancing Maori interests.

THE RISE OF THE MAORI PARTY

On another level Mr Speaker, this whole House acknowledges the considerable anxiety being expressed by both Labour and National, about the unprecedented growth in Mäori political participation, since the birth of the Maori Party, and rightfully so, and not before time too I might add.

Last month, Labour President Mike Williams called in his Maori MPs and their staff, to work out how to deal with the rise and rise of the Mäori Party. He said there was an urgent need for Labour’s Maori MPs to be, and I quote: “making more of an impression on the Maori electorate and getting organized”.

He also criticised the ‘sluggishness’ of Labour’s Mäori MPs, but was not prepared to accept that Labour’s own insultingly bad treatment of its Maori MPs was a major reason why Maori were switching in droves to the Maori Party.

Then over the weekend, deputy leader Gerry Brownlee told a National Party conference that National needs to be preparing for the Maori Party to hold the balance of power after the next election.

Again, acknowledgement of the ever-increasing role that the Maori Party is playing in the politics of Aotearoa.

GROWING MAORI POPULATION

And yet fascinating as all this is, the real challenge before government should not be in scheming to undermine the Mäori Party, but in preparing for the real challenge of an ever-increasing Mäori population, and increasingly, the rapid rise of Maori who are politically mature, and self-employed.

Thirteen percent of self-employed Mäori are under thirty compared to only 6% of non-Mäori, and that proportion can only be expected to rise, given the youthful profile of the Mäori population.

So how does all this relate to the legislation before the House today?

Well, to state the obvious - Maori make up 15% of the population - and we’re growing, fast.

And as both Labour and National have recognised, Maori people and their Maori Party are here for the long haul - and that means Government needs to start planning.

Planning to deal with the increasingly higher numbers of Maori men and women who are self-employed and ensuring that they can access paid parental leave.

And planning to enable those Maori who are self-employed casual and seasonal workers, or multi-job workers, to access paid parental leave as well.

PARENTING

Mr Speaker, the House has been focussing on the impact of extending the fourteen week paid parental leave scheme to the self-employed, but it would be remiss of us to leave this debate today, without again challenging the promotion of work over and above the unique and vital role of parenting.

This government seems to have abandoned support for the critical role that good parenting plays, by depriving beneficiary parents of any support from the Working for Families package; and by the ruthless slashing of funding for Plunket-Line from the end of next month.

The Mäori Party is committed to providing support for all parents - whether they work or not, to ensure that all children in this country can rise out of the poverty trap to which 250,000 of them have been consigned by this government’s legislation.

REAL SUPPORT

Mr Speaker, I also come to this debate aware of the message of May Day - to look out for a

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