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Social Security Amendment Bill - First Reading

Social Security (Long-Term Residential Care) Amendment Bill
First Reading
Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party
Tuesday 16 May 2006

Te Ao Maori is absolutely rich with allusion and imagery which illustrates the value of our elderly. One pëpëha that I am particularly fond of is:

Ka haere te mätätahi, ka noho te mätäpuputu

Youth rushes in where age deliberates.

And so it is in the spirit of deliberation, that I come to this Bill. The Maori Party has taken time to deliberate on such an important matter as our capacity to care for our elders.

Our elders provide us with our foundation, our wisdom, our learning as whanau, as communities, as a nation. We must cherish the contribution of those who have been tested through the trials of time, and do our utmost to care for them.

The care of all of our whanau members must be, surely, at the heart of every decision made in this House - as it is in every household of the nation.

The Maori Party comes to this Bill today, seeking reassurance that the decisions that we will be taking on this Bill will enhance the social and cultural wealth of our nation. That must be the acid test that is applied to every policy initiative before us.

The Bill deals with the issue of older people requiring indefinite long-term residential care in a rest home or a hospital.

Although this is only a small proportion of our elderly population, the initiatives will still stand to benefit the :

o two percent of tangata whenua over 65 years of age who are in rest homes; and the

o three percent of tangata whenua over 65 years old who are in long-term hospital care.

In essence, it means that if our pakeke are assessed as requiring indefinite long term residential care in a rest home or hospital, they will pay no more than the maximum contribution for care, whether or not they are subsidized.

Earlier today, my colleague Dr Pita Sharples, introduced to the House, the notion of a Genuine Progress Index. The economic health of the nation is reflected as much in the quality and distribution of economic growth as it is in the value we place on such activity as caring for the elderly, the unwell and the disabled.

The time and resources that we give to care of our whanau, and strengthening family members should be included in a Genuine Progress Index for the positive outcomes they achieve.

We are of course aware of the political promises, the pledge card commitments that provide the politicians with the motive to introduce legislation such as this.

The Maori Party is satisfied however, that regardless of the political driver, the ability of the Bill to demonstrate manaakitanga to our elders is worthy of our support.

The interpretation of manaakitanga is that of behavior that acknowledges the mana of others as having equal or greater importance than ones own. Manaakitanga is demonstrated through the expression of aroha, hospitality, generosity and mutual respect.

The demonstration of manaakitanga elevates the status of all, building unity through the humility and the act of giving.

In simple terms what this means is that the rewards of caring for another, such as those older people requiring indefinite long-term residential care, is that the act of giving will also reflect well on the person who gives. The qualities of caring, of kindness, of generosity as a means of showing love are valued in high regard.

Ngapuhi Chief Executive, Sonny Tau, has told of the reflections of a German missionary who is purported to have said some two hundred years ago,

“These natives are a peculiar people. They don't measure their wealth by what they own but by what they give away. We must teach them to be mean.”

The Maori Party is here today to say that the concept of caring for our elderly is indeed represented by what we give away, the time and resource that we willingly share in protecting our Pakeke.

We cannot afford to be mean as a Government either, as we consider the rising demographic, with an increasing proportion of people living longer and subsequently likely to require care including residential care. The decisions that are set in policy to address the income and asset testing regime for older people are important ones that we support.

The Maori Party is pleased that means testing is to be based on income only and not the combination of income and the value of a person’s assets.

This separation is welcomed by the Maori Party as the current legislation means that many Maori, who may be cared for in resthomes, could lose what little land assets they may have left.

This could lead, in our view, to dispossession and the likely ownership of Maori land by non-Maori individuals and institutions, including the Crown - and the Crown already owns enough of Maori land.

I hope that the select committee will also ensure the issue of access to elder care takes sufficient account of the issues around work and care for those services provided by elder care nurses.

Research carried out in Wellington and Christchurch City Councils a couple of years back found that about one in ten workers are caregivers to elderly people, mostly family members.

If we are to be genuine in our commitment to provide a sustainable service for older people, the salaries of the more than 25,000 staff in rest-homes and hospitals across the country would reflect that.

One of the finalists in the 2005 Roger Awards for the worst multinational corporation operating in New Zealand was Guardian Healthcare, an organization which runs a network of rest homes around the country.

Guardian Healthcare, which is predicted to achieve a profit of $26 million this year, last year offered its staff a pathetic two percent pay rise. In dollars and cents what this equated to was virtually the adult minimum wage of $10.25 per hour.

How can we guarantee quality of care and sustainable health and wellbeing for our elderly population, if the stories are true, and rest home management is scrimping on the medicine in order to make a profit?

We must look again to the real profit as measured in the social health of the nation, the prosperity and progress of our families.

I am sure that this House is very aware that yesterday was International Day of Families.

It seemed to me absolutely appropriate that on a day which the United Nations has designated as recognizing the importance of supporting families a celebration was taking place in Te Arawa of an extremely rare event - the 100th birthday of kuia, Witarina Te Miriarangi Parewahaika Harris.

By anybody’s accounting framework, this kuia must be assessed as an absolute treasure of the nation. She starred as Princess Miro in the 1928 silent movie, Under the Southern Cross, later released as The Devil’s Pit.

She was also a soloist with her renditions of immortal waiata featured on the album, Ko Ngati Poneke Hoki Matou, Ngati Poneke Young Maori Club, recorded in the 1930s.

Not content with her artistic and cultural accomplishments, her academic and intellectual spirit also impressed frequent visitor Sir Apirana Ngata, who recruited her for his Parliamentary office.

This endearing kuia has continued to thrive right throughout her life, even featuring in a 2004 documentary, Homegrown, which described the remarkable friendship between Witarina Harris and film historian Jonathan Dennis. In 2006, she still retains her chiefly role as a kaumatua for the National Archives.

However, it hasn’t been all neon lights and filmstar glory. In The Silent Migration in 2001, Witarina recalled her experience of moving to Wellington in 1929:

“Sometimes I’d leave work and go to the continuous pictures, at the Roxy in Manners Street, and I’d cry. I used to go in there and cry and cry, you know? I was so lonely. And I’d think to myself, ‘Please, just to see a Maori face, that’s all I want to see’”.

Those silent tears speak volumes of the key critical factor in maintaining the health and well-being of this 100 year old wonder. A couple of days ago, this kuia had a few words of wisdom to share with the nation which give a context to those tears.

“Kia mau te aroha i a koutou - I have survived to this age, because I have always known the most important thing is love within your wider whanau”.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party will support the Social Security (Long-term Residential Care) Amendment Bill precisely because of these words of wisdom.


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