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Speech - Hone Harawira, , Maori Party


Hone Harawira, Finance Spokesperson, Maori Party

25 May 2006

Mr Speaker, everyone in this House knows the ad on TV where the All Blacks are stranded on the side of a road, all looking for a lift - and one by one they get picked up, starting with the forwards in the latest Ford, and working back to the backs with Joe Rokocoko, Dougie Howlett, and Rico Gear having to ride in a Model T.

And they all drive off to the song that goes, "that's my black jersey you're wearing, every time when you run out to play". And the Rugby Union capitalises on that pride and sells a bucketload of jerseys.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party knows that every time we come into this House, every Bill we analyse, every word we speak, every position we take - we carry with us the pride of the kaupapa that we wear - the pride of being Maori; the passion in being Maori; the priorities of being Maori.

And every time we front, we know we must do our utmost to "defend Maori rights and advance Maori interests, for the benefit of this nation", because our people expect it of us, in exactly the same way that our whole nation has expectations of our rugby team. It is a kaupapa we wear with enormous respect.

Our responsibility to that brand, the Maori brand, also requires that we commit to analysing and taking a position on every Bill coming before the House, including this one - the Taxation (Annual Rates, Savings, Investment, and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

This Bill says that for a mere $110m per year, Government can foster a savings culture and resolve investment issues.
And how will that affect Maori?

Well - there will be a small elite, the kind of people that TPK's recycled funding is catering to, who will benefit from the increases in asset values - and that's cool - some will get an opportunity to improve their position through savings investments, and those lucky enough to have investments in shares won't have to pay tax. Great.

But the fan base that this parliament is responsible for, includes people who come from all walks of life, and most of them simply don't fit into this Bill's intentions at all.

That fan base, including Maori, includes nearly two million people getting less than $25,000 a year - that's right - nearly two million people, who between them contribute 3.5 billion dollars in tax - the taxes that allow the Minister of Finance to announce a nine billion dollar surplus in the budget.

That fan base also includes the other half of the population - the taxpayers who bring the average income up to $38,000.

But the difference is that one half of the population has the means to benefit from these asset value increases, and the other half doesn't.

And in this Game of Two Halves, it is clear to see that the lower half, those in the low income bracket, are not being looked after properly.

Beneficiary families of course are doubly disadvantaged under the Working for Families package in particular, for a couple of reasons:
• beneficiaries are not allowed to get anything from this package
• and 230,000 kids also dip out
And although Government thinks it clever to reward workers and try to force those not in work to go to work, they have miscalculated badly by denying the kids who have no say in the matter.

The Maori Party is also aware of the substantial income differential which exists between Maori and Pakeha - as noted in the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur.

We also note that Maori earn $4 an hour less than non-Maori; and the 2001 Census also tells us that the average Maori income was $15,000 compared to Pakeha $20,000.

That is the financial background to our current status as tangata whenua in our own land. That is the environment in which we live.

And in an environment where Maori statistics are high in all the wrong places, and targeted funding is the best way to achieve changes to those statistics, we have a Minister of Maori Affairs who, in the budget round, chooses to not even bid for any new money.

It is well nigh impossible to contemplate - that in an environment with the appalling health statistics for Maori, the horrendous arrest, conviction and prison statistics for Maori, the abysmal education statistics for Maori, and the unacceptable mortality rate for Maori - how the Minister simply did not see the need for new money to address the needs of his people.

And yet, not only did the Minister of Maori Affairs not bid for new money, and he was roundly congratulated for his frugality by having his government not give him any new money, he even allowed one of his flagship programmes, MANAAKI TAUIRA, to be dumped.

Such is the environment in which Maori are forced to live. An environment where their own Minister refuses to come to their assistance when they are suffering from the classic symptoms of economic violence.

Economic violence is when people are denied access to resources and power; when their dignity, and even their existence is under threat.

You see the results of economic violence in poverty, in debt, in bad credit, in having the power and the phone cut off because the bills aren't paid; in not being able to get a fresh start; in the anger and the frustration of not having enough money for gas, for doctors bills, for food, and for clothes.

Economic violence makes people feel less than human. It leads to social decay and conflict, and it limits people's potential.

Economic violence breeds chronic poverty across generations; it makes sick people worse, and it increases the gaps that this government no longer has any interest in closing.

Mr Speaker, that is the environment in which we come today to talk about a savings culture, so lets cut to the chase.
The chance to invest in Australia without penalty is OK but it ain't a big deal.
What is a big deal for the Maori Party though, is how we measure the real wealth of the nation? How will a particular Bill affect us as a people? What will this Bill mean for our mokopuna? And how will it affect everyone else in Aotearoa? What's the plan?
So we look at every Bill to see how it affects our well-being, not just our wallets. Will it reduce inequality? Will it help get rid of child poverty? Will it make us a better nation?

And we ask how can an economy be healthy if its growth is based on constantly using up limited resources? How can building a jail be called capital investment when it's sole purpose is to isolate people from reality, punish them, and increase society's problems when they get out? Because that's how GDP is measured.

In fact, GDP can grow even when poverty is getting worse - which is probably why government shies away from developing a standard by which we can measure poverty.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party is proposing a new way of keeping our national accounts, of measuring the quality of our society - it's called the Genuine Progress Index - the GPI - and if we adopted it, Aotearoa could become a world leader in measuring the true value to a nation's economy.

Mr Speaker, we will vote this Taxation Bill through to First Reading, to give us time to think creatively about how we can also reduce the gap between the haves and the have-nots in our nation.


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