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Harawira: Kiwi Saver Bill - Second Reading

Kiwi Saver Bill - Second Reading Thursday,

24 August 2006, 4pm Hone Harawira,
Member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau

Tena koe Mr Speaker, tena tatou te Whare, tena koe e Ngahuia ...

In yesterday's debate on the Westpac Bill, National MP Chris Tremain pointed out how petty it seemed to be talking about technical adjustments to an Order in Council, when in the space of a week we had been saying our final farewells to our Queen Te Atairangikaahu, welcoming our new King Te Arikinui Tuheitia, and swearing in to office, New Zealand's 19th Governor-General, the Honourable Anand Satyanand.

Mr Speaker, that's how I feel about the second reading of the Kiwisaver Bill.

A couple of weeks ago, during a parliamentary recess, a report on the nation's social wellbeing was quietly released; a report that confirmed while one side of the seesaw is getting heavier with wealth and profit, the other side is teetering dangerously close to falling off.

The huge difference in wealth and income between the top earners and those who face the daily grind of poverty, 'te pani me te rawakore', is simply getting worse and worse.

The Social Report 2006 confirmed what many people have been warning governments about for years - that since 1988, while the spectacular wealth of the rich has increased, the relative wealth of the nation has decreased, and the income gap has widened since 1988.

The report says that there are a lot more people on low incomes now than ever before - 19% living below the 60% threshold in 2004, compared with 12% in 1988.

The report also says that the number of poor people spending more than 30% of their income on housing, has more than doubled in that same time.

So for us in this House, those of us who make the decisions as to how social and economic policies like the Kiwisaver Bill are going to affect the nation, the question we must ask ourselves is - is this state of affairs acceptable?

Well ... if you belong to the Ronald Reagan club, you'd probably say, "yeah - why not - a rising tide lifts all boats."

Well, sorry to tell you this folks, but Ronald Reagan was wrong. I have been to Washington DC, the capital of the greatest capitalist nation in the world, and stood in the streets of the crack dealers, the drunks, the prostitutes and the crippling poor, and I could see the White House, just up the road.

And Ronald Reagan's theories are little comfort to those Maori struggling every day to get food on the table, to pay the power, and pay the rent.

Mr Speaker, the 2001 Census said that only 47% of Maori lived in their own home, compared to 71% of non-Maori. Well, even Pakeha will tell you now, that it's bloody hard to scrape together the deposit for a home, when the rent you're paying to live in some dive, is crippling you.

The census also noted that 61% of Maori shifted home compared to 49% of non-Maori, and that the main reason for doing so was to get a job.

Mr Speaker, that migration is killing rural economies. In half the country's regions, there has been more than a 50% shift as people up and move.

And this ain't no accident. This is death by design; the decimation of our home towns, or as government now calls them 'limited employment locations', because government now has a policy of saving $10.5 million by actively creating regions of economic desolation, blacklisting areas marked out to be deserts of deprivation.

A couple of weeks back you may have seen the article about 412 beneficiaries being warned that if they didn't shift quick smart, they could lose their benefit, and surprise, surprise, with that hangin' over their heads, people are moving out of those blacklisted areas.

Well guess what? Now all the local mayors are jumping up and down. New Plymouth mayor Peter Tennent said it was unhelpful, and that it undermined our smaller communities, and Marlborough mayor Alistair Sowman said the region was crying out for workers, and that the blacklist would actually put people off moving there.

And Combined Beneficiaries Union President, Helen Capel, said that the limited employment location scheme makes little sense, because "what you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts". In other words, you might shift to an area, which is cheaper for rents, but dearer for food. It's hardly worth it, simply to keep a benefit of $150 a week.

So how does all this affect the Kiwisaver Bill?

Well Mr Speaker, it's pretty simple. How tough is it to ask those who are struggling to survive, to dig deeper, to find that extra 4% of their already low income, to put into government's grand new supersaver scheme?

Because the reality is, that over the last few years, rents and mortgages have skyrocketed, and the numbers of people experiencing severe hardship has increased as well, to the point where Family Budgeting Services Co-ordinator, Jarrod Rendle, reckons that many of the people he sees, simply couldn't afford the 4% required for the Kiwisaver Bill.

People needing help from budgeting services are already in debt, and the extra 4% would mean cutting out essential items like food. For many on low-incomes, it's just too big an ask.

Mr Speaker, this House must face up to these issues of crippling poverty, high mobility, regional downturn and beneficiary bullying. Mr Speaker, these are our people ... these are our citizens.

Don't get me wrong - the Kiwisaver Bill has a lot of merit.

At the first reading of this Bill, I commended the government for its commitment to establishing a workplace savings scheme, and said that the Maori Party welcomed the concept of using Kiwi-savings as a home deposit.

But folks, the reality is that right now, as we speak, this government is implementing a plan to strangle 259 "limited employment locations", and to no-one's surprise, they're the towns that a lot of Maori people, call home.

Places like Te Hapua, Mitimiti, Rangi Point, Mokau, Kawhia, Port Waikato, Reporoa, Rotokawa, Ruatoki, Tokaanu, Maraetai, Waitahanui, Wairakei, Matahiwi, Matawai, Tikitiki, Whangara ... and so it goes on.

They are the towns that today's bureaucrats want to kill, but the strange thing is, that a lot of them are like that because yesterday's bureaucrats put them there in the first place.

Te Hapua was never a metropolis, but it was a thriving community, with a Post Office and a shop, and a lot of people working in forestry and fishing.

Bang - no more post office, so the shop closes because people can't get money any more.

Bang - no more forestry because some clown in Wellington decides to privatise, local contractors get undercut by the big boys, unemployment.

Bang - Maori get fishing quota, and within ten years there's less Maori out fishing than ever before, more unemployment.

M... Speaker, places like Te Hapua and Mitimiti and the 257 other doomed hometowns, are the life and soul of our whanau, our hapu and our iwi; the places our people all round the world come back to; their turangawaewae, the places that they, and no doubt many of you, still call home.

And yet, with one slash of the pen, this government plans to shut these places down completely, to push our people out the door, and then say, don't forget to keep something aside for Kiwisaver.

Mr Speaker, it's hard for the Maori Party to support this Bill because we can't see that the working poor and beneficiaries, are genuinely being looked after; to become financially secure and self reliant into the future.

Finally Mr Speaker, I was interested to note the comments from Investment Savings and Insurance Association chief executive Vance Arkinstall, who reckons there's still some major doubts about whether the Kiwisaver Bill will be "sufficiently compelling" to many New Zealanders.

Perhaps instead, we should be learning from Ngai Tahu who have just launched their world-first Whai Rawa Scheme, a long term savings plan to support whänau independence by increasing personal wealth.

Each year Ngai Tahu will make an annual distribution to the scheme, and whanau will be invited to save their own money too; and where whanau are able to contribute, the Runanga will match their savings.

Now that's Kiwi ingenuity. Indeed, that's iwi ingenuity. Ngai Tahu whanau can choose to contribute their own savings and see that matched dollar-for-dollar by their own iwi. A long-term plan to financial security and independence.

Iwisaver - now that's a concept we can all support. Kia ora tatou katoa


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