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Westpac Bank Bill - Second Reading

Westpac Bank Bill - Second Reading

23 August 2006

Hone Harawira, Member for Te Tai Tokerau

I te tuatahi, me mihi atu au ki taku hoa a Chris (Tremain / National MP) mo tona poroporoaki ki to tatou kuini, Te Atairangikaahu, tona mihi ki te kingi hou a Tuheitia, me te wawata ano hoki kia tu kotahi ai tatou a nga ra kei te haere mai.

Firstly Mr Speaker, I’d just like to thank my colleague Mr Chris Tremain for his gracious farewell to our Queen Te Atairangikaahu, for his best wishes to our new king Tuheitia, and for his hopes that we might move forward together as a nation.

Mr Speaker, being mindful of the events in the Waikato over the past week, I decided to do a bit of local research, and I found that King Tawhiao had a Cabinet of some twelve Ministers, and raised revenue through a variety of means - donations, taxation, charges, fees, fines, and tithing the salaries of Maori who worked for the Government.

Mr Speaker, the idea that big banks should be locally incorporated, is consistent with a well-established history of Maori supporting banks that themselves support local practice.

At the first reading of this Bill, I talked of the Maungatautari Whare Uta (Maori bank) established in 1886, because local Maori were concerned that they were being cheated by Pakeha bankers, and wanted control over their own economic sovereignty.

In Taranaki in the 1800s, Te Whiti operated a bank which apparently held many thousands of pounds.

Early in the 1900s, Rua Kenana established a bank under his Council of Elders, to promote savings and to attract capital.

During the 1920s, Ratana’s followers established a bank to advance funds to needy members; gather contributions; and to force government to recognise their obligation to provide for Maori welfare.

Fast-forward sixty years, to the very first report submitted to the Waitangi Tribunal, a claim by Joe Hawke and others to form the Bank of Tamaki, to be administered by Ngati Whatua.

Mr Speaker, when the Member referred this Bill, she made a comment that she didn’t think the select committee should look at the detailed work suggested by either the Maori Party or the Greens, but why not ?

Just because my whanaunga Shane Jones told the House that consultation meant a fortnight’s advertising and giving the Bill to Westpac; the Reserve Bank, Treasury, and IRD, that doesn’t mean that the select committee shouldn’t look at positive initiatives to assist Māori development.

In fact, and I’m sure that Mr Jones himself would agree, there are likely to be some very good ideas out there with some of the big Maori agencies like:

 the New Zealand Maori Council

 the Federation of Maori Authorities

 Ngai Tahu Finance Ltd

 Te Ohu Kaimoana

 the Poutama Trust, and even

 the Maori Women’s Development Incorporation which was launched back in 1987 to provide loans to Maori, to help set up and expand existing business, and provide financial advice and mentoring services.

Interestingly, the MWDI grew out of the Hui Taumata of 1984, when it was suggested by Ripeka Evans that Maori should revolutionise the tax system, and channel all taxes into a Maori Development Bank.

Sir Tipene O’Regan also supported the call for a Maori Development Bank to enable Maori to better utilise the equity tied up in tribal lands.

Even Denese Henare spoke in support of a Maori Bank, to administer finance for housing, land purchase and farming and business development.

The idea of Maori owning the bank, and controlling local savings and investments even came up at last years Hui Taumata.

In fact, this is an idea whose time has come, and the Toi-Economic Development Agency promoting regional development in the Eastern Bay of Plenty is a good example.

This group involves economic leaders such as investment banker Taari Nicholas, Rikirangi Gage, CEO for Te Runanga o Te Whanau a Apanui, Joe Mason, Director for Ngati Awa Holdings, and others.

Since successive governments have been unwilling to provide the necessary financing for Maori, initiatives such as TOI-EDA are important in laying a path towards self-determination.

Mr Speaker, we recognise Westpac’s urgency in getting this Bill through by 1 November to ensure the vesting of assets and liability to Westpac New Zealand Limited, but our support for this Bill is because we absolutely support the principle, that the rules of this nation should control the banking system of Aotearoa.

Our support is also in line with the long-standing call in Maoridom, for banking to support local economic development, although we note that little has changed since 1984, when Koro Wetere suggested banks and development corporations look seriously at how to assist Maori to foster commercial and banking skills to drive our economic advancement.

And there are other areas for improvement before this Bill becomes law.

Firstly, the haste to get this Bill through must not be at the expense of poor industrial relations - as my friend Sue Bradford mentioned at first reading.

Winner of the Award for the worst trans-national operating in New Zealand in 2006, Westpac has dropped 25% of its staff over the past ten years and forced the reduced staff to increase their profit outputs by 110%, and net profits by nearly 400%.

Westpac also has a very poor record with the Finance Workers Union in respect of holiday infringements, working overtime without compensation, high workload, pressure to work through sickness, injury and pregnancy, poor staff support, and huge performance expectations not being matched by performance payments.

Secondly, Westpac might wish to review its lending and investment policies, and its assistance to Maori to ensure that investment does not lead to past failures as described by Denese Henare, failures in poor land utilisation, inactive trusts, under-funded development schemes, poor business planning, and inadequate lending for housing.

And finally, we note the point raised by Mr Rodney Hide which warned against Westpac customers being forced into a new company without knowing what assets and liabilities will back their investments. Westpac’s record profit of $708 million suggests they certainly have the money for a simple mail-out to advise their customers of the implications of the transfer of assets and liabilities.

Mr Speaker, we will support this Bill at this second reading, but we look forward to seeing a huge improvement in Westpac’s employment relations, and an equal improvement in their helping to advance Maori interests, for the benefit of the nation.

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