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Hone HarawiraSpeech: Kiwisaver Bill: Third Reading

Hone Harawira, Finance Spokesperson for Maori Party

Kiwisaver Bill: Third Reading

Wednesday 30 August 2006

Tena koe Mr Speaker, tena tatou e te whare.

Mr Speaker, last week, I spoke about the importance of our having an Iwisaver Bill, because as the independent Maori voice in parliament, the Maori Party is committed to saving iwi, saving hapu, and saving whanau.

And when I think of saving whanau, I naturally think of saving the children, because there are about 200,000 Maori children in Aotearoa, and nearly half of them live in families who won’t get the Working for Families payment. Mind you, neither will some 80,000 pakeha kids; nor another 50,000 Pasifika and other kids either.

Mr Speaker, that’s nearly a quarter of a million kids living in ‘severe and significant hardship’ right here in Godzone; 226,000 Kiwi kids living in homes without heating, going without fresh fruit and vegetables, and too poor to pay for their medicine.

It can’t help but make me think that calling this the Kiwisaver Bill, is a cruel test of fate, for just as our national icon, the Kiwi is under siege, so too are our national treasures, our children.

If anyone needs saving, it’s our Kiwi kids, particularly our Maori and Pasifika children, because, and here’s the real parallel Mr Speaker, because it’s the Brown Kiwi which is classified as being in ‘serious decline’, because of the threat of savage predators and dangerous habitats. How true the comparison.

The predators in this Bill may not be stoats and cats - but make no mistake, they are creating conditions which threaten the very survival of our Kiwi kids.

The New Zealand Institute noted that that while there was a healthy national fiscal position, and strong corporate profitability, clearly there are still many blocks to a savings culture.

Despite the 17% growth in the economy, Maori are still unemployed three times as much as pakeha, and still over-represented amongst the working poor. Clearly the fruits of economic prosperity have not been shared equally.

That makes the Select Committee recommendation to extend the scheme to cover government workers overseas, but still not provide support for our most vulnerable, the brown kiwi, hard to take.

Seems the exotic brands will get the birdseed, while the brown kiwi goes hungry.

We are also disappointed at the select committee decision to not have a lower contribution rate for those on lower incomes, because it might lead to lower rates of savings for all Kiwisaver members.

So instead of making positive steps towards expanding the savings culture, as proposed by the Greens 2% entry point, once more, decisions are being made which will work against the poor Brown Kiwi.

Mr Speaker, the National Council of Women said that a families ability to save depended on the amount of spare cash they had, and asked parliament to take into account the rising cost of energy, fuel, phone charges and rates, and the massive debt being created by easy access to loans.

The PSA (Periodic Group Report (2003) Retirement Income Report) also noted that 30-40% of Kiwis on low incomes were unlikely to have spare cash for savings. That’s a big group of Kiwis who will miss out. 30-40%!

Forest and Bird tells us that the threat facing Kiwis is urgent, and that all mainland species of kiwi are threatened with extinction, unless the causes of the decline are addressed.

In much the same way, this Bill misses the point that unless we create the conditions for a secure future, for the most vulnerable sector of our population, then their future is under threat as well.

Mr Speaker, one of the main elements working against a successful savings culture, is the fact that people can’t see the rewards, the incentives, why they should even think of giving up their hard won cash.

The Independent Actuary, Mr Kelvin Prisk, said the $1000 initial incentive was too low compared with tax incentives in other areas. He also said that the lack of ongoing incentives, and the failure to provide for employer subsidies, would make it hard for the scheme to succeed.

Industry Retirement and Insurance Services, and many other financial service agencies, unions and employers as well, also recommended a lower entry point than the 4% noted in the Bill.

Mr Speaker, the Kiwisaver Bill is a concept that the Maori Party desperately wants to support, because of our commitment to investing in whanau, reducing child poverty, and securing long-term prosperity for everyone.

But we just can’t ignore that fact that while some Kiwi kids will benefit from having employed parents, a lot of other, Brown Kiwi kids, will miss out.

Ten years ago, in speaking against National’s decision to restrict the Child Tax Credit, Opposition MP Annette King, said: “It isolates beneficiaries from other families - treats them like lepers and worst of all it treats their children differently. What is different about a beneficiary child? Does that child look different when she or he goes to school?”.

How quickly politicians forget the fire of their own rhetoric when they get into power, for just as on one hand, government is calling for long term savings and financial independence, on the other, families on benefits are being marginalised, and excluded from the benefits of the scheme.

Mr Speaker, nearly two million people in Aotearoa live on less than $25,000.

How will these Kiwis manage a 4% cut on an already too-thin pay packet?

How will Kiwis on the minimum wage get by?

A 4% cut in an income of $306 leaves you with a take home pay of $290 - the price of a good Bordeaux, according to my colleague Dr Pita Sharples.

Another point raised by the Child Poverty Action Group was that taxpayers have to carry all the risk. There is no Crown guarantee for Kiwisaver schemes.

Which makes all the talk about government’s commitment to the security and financial stability of New Zealanders ring just a little hollow.

The real worry though with the swept up Kiwisaver promo, is that low income families will get sucked into the scheme, sacrificing basic essential such as food and power, or paying off the dreaded loan shark, just because they want to get into a savings scheme.

Only to find that by ignoring the essentials, they have sacrificed their family’s health and well-being.

Mr Speaker, I heard a story about a young Maori woman who now runs a successful business. She told us about how as a little girl, she asked her mum for some money to get some bread for breakfast and for lunches, for her five brothers and sisters, and her mum said, ‘we’ll have to wait till tomorrow’.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party supports the growth of a savings culture.

We want a secure, stable, and hopefully prosperous tomorrow for our people, just like everybody else, but like those Maori kids I just spoke of, we don’t want to have to wait till tomorrow either.

We want toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and bread-pudding for tea - or at least the choice to do so, as well as buy some flour for a rainy day.

And that’s why we really like the thinking behind Ngai Tahu’s Iwi saver proposal.

Their Whai Rawa scheme is a long term savings plan to support whänau independence by increasing personal wealth.

It’s not about separating people - where the Brown Kiwis get locked out of Kiwisaver - because their parents may or may not have a job.

Whai Rawa is about encouraging Ngai Tahu to be breadwinners for today, and tomorrow. Their vision is “Mö tätou, a, mö kä uri ä muri ake nei” - for us and our children after us.

The Maori Party applauds Ngai Tahu’s initiative - and indeed all other whanau, hapu and iwi, with the insight and the initiative to take care of the long term issues, affecting the well being of their members.

Mr Speaker, we know we can do it.

The Maori Party celebrates the success of Maori participating and succeeding in a modern, technologically advanced and highly globalised economy.

We celebrate our sports figures, our broadcasters, our business pioneers, our iwi innovators, and we celebrate the revival of our language, the power of our kapahaka, and the growth of Maori education. And we celebrate the bold new initiatives like that taken by Ngai Tahu, to ensure our people will not only survive, but flourish.

Maori have a proud history as a culture of savings - through our pataka kai (our storehouses), rahui to protect the resources of the seas and the forests, grandad keeping his pension under his mattress, right down to my colleague Te Ururoa Flavell pinching his brother’s pennies so he could buy comics later - Maori have a proud history in savings and conservation.

Mr Speaker, we have spoken strongly against aspects of this Bill during the first two readings, so that people would know of the depth of our concern for our people, but we will support this Bill at third reading because promoting the idea of savings is a worthy ideal, warts and all.


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