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Dr Pita Sharples: Appropriation Estimates Bill

Dr Pita Sharples: Appropriation (2006/07) Estimates Bill

Including Imprest Supply (Second for 2006/07) Bill

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader, Maori Party

Tuesday 1 August 2006; delivered 7.30pm

Last Tuesday, in response to a question from Te Ururoa Flavell about the policy of neglect which was revealed in the Living Standards Report, the Minister for Social Development and Employment admitted to an astonishing fact. Mr Benson-Pope announced in this House, and I quote:

“This Government is not standing by and not supporting people in areas of need”.

This Government will not stand by approximately a quarter of all New Zealanders who face some degree of hardship.

This Government will not support people in areas of need - areas of need particularly desperate for Maori, Pacific and sole-parent beneficiary families.

Although this Government likes to boast about how it has taken people off the DPB or the dole, it turns a blind eye to those who are left behind who experience a level of social disadvantage that my colleague Tariana Turia has described as constituting a ‘national emergency’.

It is interesting that Charles Chauvel has just given his maiden speech and told the House of the achievements of Labour.

And yet, last week’s report on ‘children at increased risk of death from maltreatment and strategies for prevention’ described the dire circumstances for children and adults living in lone-parent or workless families, in a state of persistent poverty.

The report picked up on UNICEF’s advice that strategies to reduce child abuse will not be successful without addressing the question of economic poverty.

We cannot address risk factors in isolation. A concerted effort is required if we are to ever address the national emergency of poverty.

Dr Nikki Turner from the Child Poverty Action Group has described the greatest impact of deprivation having its cost in what she describes as the shocking health status of our children. She has said, and I quote:

“It is shameful to us that poverty has been allowed to deepen over the course of an economic boom that has seen companies making record profits. The people who suffer the greatest poverty in New Zealand are our children, with 38% in hardship categories”.

Mr Speaker, this is happening in a Government which talks about strong families, healthy confident kids, safe communities. I kid you not.

In the Budget speech which Dr Cullen delivered just over two months ago, he talked about ‘ensuring that families, young and old, are able to secure the opportunity to reach their full potential’.

He used the terms - ‘transformation’, underpinned by the values of fairness, opportunity and security.

Fairness: How can it be fair that Maori and Pacific peoples are over-represented amongst those with educational and labour market disadvantage?

What are the other factors operating, outside of social and material deprivation, that mean Maori women are more than twice as likely as non-Maori women to suffer from anxiety, depressive and substance abuse disorders?

Is racism fair?

Opportunity: What opportunity has been denied to children in severe and significant hardship, that has seen the proportion of such children rise from 18% to 26% since the year 2000?

What is the opportunity cost which is demonstrated in the fact that home-ownership dropped by 12% overall - and 21% for those with incomes under $40,000 per year?

Security: What security can Maori children and families have, when almost half of all Maori children will miss out on new "in-work payment" - because their parents are on benefits - an additional $60 per week that could be make the difference between insecurity and survival? Look, it’s all about face.

What the In-Work payment does is to turn working families into beneficiaries - while depriving welfare families of support they so desperately need. It’s back to front. The scheme doesn’t get to the children who need it most, and instead expands our welfare state by creating working families as the new beneficiaries of the state.

All this does is to tighten the apron strings to a nanny state even further.

Political analyst Colin James has put this new phenomena, of the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, into the context of a global gap, which he described as:

“pervasive and unyielding, dividing the struggling bulk of the population from the competitive elite”.

Mr Speaker, if we are to foot it on the international stage, we must take the whole nation along, not just privilege the elite, and leave the ‘struggling bulk’ to suffer more.

Our future will be a predominantly brown one - if we are to achieve a strong, healthy workforce in place to drive our collective economic advancement, we need to make sufficient investment right now.


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