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Turia: Reserve Bank of NZ Amendment Bill

Reserve Bank of New Zealand Amendment Bill: First Reading

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

Wednesday 19 July 2006

Every now and then, I feel the call to be Ozzie bound.

It is not the dreaming of Uluru, Ayers Rock, that draws me; or even the recognition of reconciliation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

These are important and indeed historic symbols of cultural pride - but that is not what draws me.

It’s about whanau.

Naani in Melbourne, and Ngahuia in Brisbane - my sisters. My brothers, Anthony and Bernard, my nieces, my nephews, my cousins, my mokopuna.

So I come to this Bill thinking of them.

This is a Bill which will amend the Reserve Bank Act to implement the trans-Tasman co-ordination of financial sector regulation.

Changes which will move us further toward a single economic market sooner rather than later.

The new Reserve Bank website promotes the message, ‘Change for the better’.

The ‘change’ to achieve trans-Tasman co-ordination of financial sector regulation may well be for the better, when we think of the many New Zealanders, indeed the many whanau, who are living across the Tasman.

It is precisely because of these large numbers that Te Puni Kōkiri is funding a study of Māori living in Australia. From early results, the overwhelming response is that Maori are going to Australia for better pay.

There is evidence showing that employment chances for Maori women in particular are greater in Australia, and I for one would like to know more about why that is.

And if there is ever a time to see the contrast between the two major economic markets of Australasia, it is now.

Those claiming Maori ancestry in Australia jumped by a massive 233 per cent in the 15 years to 2001. Maori in Australia now number well over 100,000.

That’s twenty thousand more Maori than in the entire South Island.

This House has to come to terms with the huge loss of Tangata whenua, leaving their homelands. Why is that? Why is it, that our whanau are leaving Aotearoa in such huge numbers?

54 per cent of these Mozzies, Australian Maori, were in the prime child-bearing age group of 15 to 44. A further 31 per cent were aged under 15.

That is a huge drain on our cultural capital, the human cost which demonstrates the dire consequences of economic decisions made here. This is an upward trend that will just go on so long as there are economic differences between the two countries.

So if this Bill can do anything to keep our whanau home, it will be a good thing.

The Bill requires our Reserve Bank to co-operate with Australian financial authorities and to avoid actions that are likely to have a detrimental effect on their financial stability, including interfering with out-sourcing arrangements.

These changes are immediately relevant to the Reserve Bank in light of their outsourcing policy, released in January 2006.

That policy defined intervention in outsourcing arrangements as an action which is detrimental to financial stability in the other country.

The reality is that closer economic relations between Australia and Aotearoa are inevitable. We need to be open to all possibilities that could emerge.

The Maori Party has been acutely aware that while the development of a Single Economic Market with Australia may produce a potential risk to rangatiratanga, this could be offset by increased financial stability.

And while, as a nation, our rangatiratanga will diminish, as iwi, we may benefit if more of our profit and wealth seeking incorporations find it easier to do business abroad, in this case, Australia.

Lower costs for bank services and heightened financial stability, could mean that whakapapa based commercial entities like Maori land incorporations would be better able to serve their stakeholders.

Indeed, a firmer financial grounding may well open up opportunities for innovation and growth, which tangata whenua can invest in, to help to shape our destiny.

As an example, the diversification of land incorporation into land-based activity across international boundaries might produce a new combination of risk and profitability that enhances their ability to serve their beneficiaries and shareholders.

These are, as the Reserve Bank would say, changes for the better.

But these changes, can only be supported, if the advantages from such financial stability, for Indigenous Peoples, including Pacific Peoples, are envisaged and planned for.

For we must ask the question as to how the goal of a Single Economic Market will enhance the indigenous people of Australia.

Will a single economic market protect the traditional lands of Aboriginal communities, their rivers, lakes and mountains?

Will a single economic market support their culture and value, enabling elders to pass their knowledge, arts, rituals and performances from one generation to another?

Will a single economic market preserve their cultural property, develop their languages, maintain their sacred and significant sites?

Or will the tangata whenua in Australia be placed under duress, as we exploit commercial opportunities in their land?

The Bill will set in place a regime in which all registered New Zealand banks, as well as the Reserve Bank, will be required to consult with prescribed Australian authorities before taking actions likely to be detrimental.

While we will support this Bill at this first reading - we will expect subsequent iterations to provide for the explicit recognition of tangata whenua in Australia.

We will also expect subsequent iterations to demonstrate how the anticipated gains might be shared with the people of the islands of the Pacific.

It is all about whose voices are heard, whose feet are under the tables of power?

We are pleased that the obligations set in place for New Zealand banks will be matched by equivalent changes which will require Australian financial authorities to co-operate with our Reserve Bank.

But we also seek to raise the question that the proposed initiative should not just be established as a preventive measure; to reduce the likelihood of any detrimental effects on the financial system stability in either country.

If reduced operating costs and more financial stability will result, why not also consider the opportunity benefits that could be replicated elsewhere in the Pacific?

One wonders what scope there might be for Aotearoa to encourage discussion with our close neighbours in Te Moananui a Kiwa.

Indeed, perhaps tangata whenua should assume a more prominent role in shaping Aotearoa's relationships in the Pacific. Australia and Aotearoa have the financial strength and administrative know-how to also extend an inviting hand to our whanaunga in the Pacific; and this may well be a beneficial outcome of the intervention contemplated in this Bill.

Mr Speaker, this Bill sets in train a relationship which has evolved over the last century. A relationship which reflects the enduring testimony to the shared ANZAC spirit.

The historical, economic, social, cultural and political foundations of this relationship run deep - and it is only fitting that we respect this relationship by ensuring wide and open public debate before we presume to take this next step.

The Maori Party will support the bill at first reading - both for the potential benefits to the New Zealand economy, but also, importantly, for the opportunity for a wide-ranging public discussion to take place to enable all New Zealanders - both here and across the Tasman - to speak of their vision.

A vision which may indeed build on the tradition established from Gallipoli, of working together as allies and partners.

But there will be other visions which argue to protect the sovereignity and control over both nations.

Just as the yellow and green squads identify our teams with the silver fern or the passion of Kapa o Pango there will be those who hold a vision for Aotearoa which does not include the lands across the ditch.

The Maori Party hopes that in the debate about the pros and cons of a single economic market objective, there is sufficient space to hear the views of New Zealanders about how best to protect national interests.

ENDS

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