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Sharples: National identity - whose identity?

Budget 2006 : National identity - whose identity?

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader, Maori Party Tuesday 24 May 2006; 4.10pm

Last Friday, Masterton District Council ditched its usual practice of recognising citizenship, in favour of a move which accorded respect to the mana whenua of that rohe. About forty residents who have become naturalised New Zealanders in the past two years were welcomed on to Te Ore Ore marae.

A marae which steeped in the rich traditions of that area. The whare whakairo at Te Ore Ore was erected by Paora Te Potangaroa, a leader and prophet of Ngati Kahungunu. It is a marae which epitomises the unique character of tangata whenua. It is a marae which reflects our national identity.

That is, until last Thursday.

Because the Budget 2006 introduced a new national identity, one that the Labour minority Government wants us to take pride in. It consists of arts, culture and heritage, defence, foreign affairs, foreign aid, our land and environment. And, belatedly, Dr Cullen's Budget Speech included as an afterthought "and in some respects, the place of Maori in our nation as the original inhabitants".

National Identity is a concept core to my heart. And yet this minority Government wants me to believe that our roles in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Sudan tell me who I am as a New Zealander.

They want me to believe that the $4.6 billion dollars for upgrades of the Orions and Hercules will get my heart pumping with patriotic fervour.

They are telling me that I should take pride in Aotearoa as a result of a $4.6 billion Defence Sustainability Initiative - and not to worry that not one dollar was assigned to Maori Television; not one dollar to Te Whakaruruhau o Nga Reo Irirangi Maori (Maori Radio); nothing to Te Mangai Paho.

And while they are telling me about the $305 million part payment on new helicopters, or the $16 million to enhance border security measures, this Labour Minority Government is forgetting to tell me about the closure of the Treaty Information Unit at the end of next month.

In April 2005, District Court and Waitangi Tribunal Judge Richard Kearney was reported as saying, and I quote:

"New Zealanders generally had a staggering, almost criminal lack of understanding of Treaty issues".

And yet a little over a year later, has this minority Government done so well, that it can dis-establish the very Unit they set up to facilitate improved understanding and greater public knowledge of the Treaty?

Madam Speaker, this is familiar ground.

Just like Te Wananga o Aotearoa; when outcomes are exceeding expectations; when New Zealanders are actively seeking to further their knowledge, the Government slams the door shut.

According to Budget Day we will get a better understanding of our country and our histories through an excessive expenditure on artillery and armoury - yeah right.

I contend here, that nationhood is learning how to understand and speak from a position of strength in knowing our own background; our history, and our traditions.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi provides us with the context that can provide a foundation for living in Aotearoa. I am not talking about the piffling amount of money that the Budget has allocated to its own government department, $5m only for the Office of Treaty Settlements.

The challenge before us is to look to the peoples in this country and celebrate our unique, national identity which is grounded firstly, in the indigenous story.

If we are truly to develop a rich and sustainable national identity we need to understand the meaning of Treaty justice.

Every New Zealander has the right to understand the history that shapes our present. A history which talks about colonisation, assimilation, and self-determination as well.

A history which brings the land wars of sovereignty into every living room. The experiences of the coloniser and the colonised, of the conquests, of resistance, of renaissance must be a part of the living imprint of our ancestors, yours and mine.

Madam Speaker, the treaty is a mechanism for building relationships - not a recipe for destruction which some forces would make it out to be.

The Maori Party is tired of the worn-out platitudes that the Treaty grievances should be settled "for the good of the nation", and that they should be settled "to meet Government's target of having all claims lodged".

The implication is - "let's put an end to these claims and the treaty, so we can get on with the job of being good Kiwis".

Well I say to you all - what about settling the treaty grievances as a matter of justice?

And I say to you also - what about supporting the claim of successive Governments that "the Treaty of Waitangi is the foundation document of this country's nationhood", and why can't we work positively to embrace our national identity.

National identity is much much more than border control, or even the Royal New Zealand Ballet, can offer.

A gun is a gun is a gun.

Whether it's in Afghanistan, Bosnia, the Solomon Islands or Waiouru. An AK47 retains its spots wherever it is located.

But a powhiri, a marae, a Pakeha, are unique to this land, unique to Aotearoa, to New Zealand; and we must celebrate that, not shy away from it.

We can build a really strong nation, but first we must attend to the disparities that exist between Maori and non-Maori. These disparities involve not only issues of performance but matters of justice. We all have to face these issues.

But Madam Speaker,

I watch many of the faces when I talk of institutionalised racism, when I speak of the poverty of 230,000 children, when I reveal the horror of Maori prison statistics. I watch the expressions on the faces Madam Speaker when I mention the Treaty of Waitangi as being a positive mechanism for building relationships, I watch

And, when I talk of justice, when I describe the legacy of colonisation, when I insist that there is much unfinished business to attend to - I watch the faces Madam Speaker.

I watch the faces because they tell me - that they really don't want to know this stuff.

* The faces say - "oh no not again" * They say - "oh God Maori this - Maori that" * The faces Madam Speaker want to say to me "give it up Pita - leave things where they are and let's go forward".

And this is what all the Government Ministers say, this is their party line - "We're moving forward not dwelling in the past" - How glib! How easy! How naive! How ethnocentric! How ignorant! How simplistic!

The fact is we do reference the past to determine our future. We believe in hope, we believe in justice, we celebrate our ancestors who served in the First World War - and all wars since then and it helps us to value peace and to know justice and to determine our current position within the conflicts of the world.

So the Maori Party will continue to raise the issues pertinent to Treaty justice, pertinent to the disparities which exist and which inhibit true progress as a nation - whether they reference the past and/or the present.

I have to repeat here, that we can never advance our nationhood without Maori, Pakeha and all our communities moving forward together.

In summary, Madam Speaker - the Maori community once again will be devastated by this budget. Dr Michael Cullen has outpaced all his opponents in directing funding away from Maori initiatives - as part of his Government's underlying agenda to make Maori invisible.

Is the big question - o "How can a caucus be so arrogant as to ignore its own Maori Members' hopes and aspirations for their people?", o or is it rather "How can the Maori Members of this Government (half of whom hold Ministerial portfolios) - how can they allow themselves to be so blatantly ignored by their Pakeha counterparts?".

Madam Speaker, the Maori Party will continue to challenge the logic that permeates throughout the budget decisions, every step of the way.

Thank you.


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