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Harawira: Child Support Amendment Bill

Child Support Amendment Bill (no 4); Third Reading

Hone Harawira, Finance Spokesperson, Maori Party

Tuesday 12 September 2006

Mr Speaker, as we consider the Child Support Amendment Bill on this day, I am mindful that today is also the 29th anniversary of the death of Steve Biko, a young Black African man, killed by the Apartheid regime of South Africa in 1976 for daring to oppose the racism in his world.

Mr Speaker, as we consider the Child Support Amendment Bill on this day, I also take this opportunity to honour a kaumatua from the far north, Pia Ihaka from Te Kāo, a man for whom there was only ever one tribe, TE AUPOURI, to whom all others in the north were mere sub-tribes. I honour him for his dedication to Te Reo Māori and for his commitment to ensuring that any child under his direction, achieved a level of excellence at Manu Kōrero, the national Māori speech competitions.

Mr Speaker, as we consider this Child Support Amendment Bill on this day, I mention the Manu Kōrero, because as we speak, the nation celebrates the culmination of months of effort from hundreds of Māori youth, at the 2006 Manu Kōrero competitions currently being held in Opunake, the 41st time that this premier event has been held.

The very first winner of the Korimako Award in 1965, was a young woman from St Marys College in Ponsonby, one Donna Awatere. In 1973, that award was won by lawyer Prue Kapua; in 1979, by print and television reporter Aroaro Hond; by broadcaster Julian Wilcox in 1993, and by Maori Party list candidate, Tell Kuka, in 2002.

And the Pei Te Hurinui Jones Trophy for Senior Māori has been won by such luminaries as

 health specialist, Mauriora Kingi in 1979;

 the writer of Kapa o Pango (the All Black Haka), Mr Derek Lardelli in 1980;

 and by the internationally renowned musician of What’s the time Mr Wolf, Ruia Abraham, in 1987.

Mr Speaker, as we consider this Child Support Amendment Bill on this day, I mention Manu Kōrero because these young people could teach this House a lot, about the quality and nature of robust but respectful speech-making.

I also mention these examples of excellence, because when we consider issues affecting our children, we need to be guided by a sense of achievement and excellence, not just by financial return.

Mr Speaker, I note that 300,000 children in Aotearoa are being supported by child support payments, and I have no doubt that many such children will be found amongst the contestants and the audience at Manu Kōrero.

That is an important note in the context of this Bill, because many of the submissions received, tended to reduce the concept of child-raising to a formula based purely on money alone.

One submission was about the cost of supporting a child.

Another was from the Institute of Chartered Accounts who said that child support was a matter for parents to settle, not the IRD, although given the massive arrears, that sounds more than a little unrealistic.

Mr Speaker, some submissions were depressing - men bitching about being ripped off by money-grabbing women, and women moaning about being lied to by men saying they had no money, but thankfully there were some that focused on the well-being of children as a priority over personal and departmental finances.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party supports any efforts to ensure parents accept their financial responsibilities to their children, and we’re talking a lot of parents here - more than 142,000 in 2005 - so we support the intention of this Bill to ensure liable parents meet those financial obligations.

We also note that changes have been proposed in this Bill to make it easier for liable parents to think of rebuilding their relationships and even rebuilding their whanau - and if that means 142,000 families may benefit from strengthening whanau connections and responsibilities, then we support that as well.

M Speaker, we also welcome the number of options being proposed to get lapsed payers back into the system without forcing them into greater debt.

One of the biggest obstacles has been the harsh penalties for late payment of child support, and we note that it is only now that government is putting up a Bill, to deal with what has blown out to more than $1 billion of debt, so we support the proposal to address the penalties that erupt, as soon as a parent slips up on child support payments.

We also note that arrears are 37% in the first year and 29% in following years - an enormous debt - so it makes sense to encourage people to pay up, and we welcome suggestions to write off penalties as an incentive for people to restart their payments.

Mr Speaker, we note that IRD takes a case-by-case look at writing off penalty debt. That’s a bit of a concern, because unless the criteria are clear, Maori people often suffer, at the hands of departmental discretion.

We would also hope that IRD has clear criteria, when it comes to looking into cases where liable parents may not be paying what they’re supposed to be. No fuss with the right to investigate, because as long as there’s a system, someone’s going to try to rip it off.

But we will support initiatives where the rules are clear, and the emphasis is on improving relationships, rather than snooping on people who are poor.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party supports the proposed exemptions from liability for child support, for teenagers under the age of 16, and for victims of sex offences.

Allowing young people to put off child support payments until they can complete their education, will help them as people, help them as parents, and help them understand their need to pay into the child support scheme.

We also support the proposal that victims not be further victimised by having to pay child support for a child born as a result of a sexual crime.

Mr Speaker, while we’re talking about exemptions, I’d like to remind the House of a case in Waipukurau in 1995, where the mother of a boy born in 1984, and whangai’d at birth to an aunty, applied to stop her child support.

The boy had been living for eleven years as a whangai, with everyone’s support, before DSW stepped in and demanded a liable parent contribution from the birth mother.

The mother’s lawyer argued that the provisions didn’t apply because the child had been "adopted", and that Maori customary adoptions were affirmed in legislation.

Fortunately, the court threw out the Department’s case, saying their actions 'defied common sense', but although the precedent had been set in Court, I notice that it hasn’t been addressed properly in this Act.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party is keen to support any proposal that will harness the strengths and talents of our whanau, and we will support any policy encouraging whanau development, and encouraging parents to support their children, whether through the practice of whangai or the payment of child support.

Mr Speaker, I began my korero with some of the names of the winners of the Manu Korero. I forgot one, and in the interests of cross party support for this Bill, I’d like to advise the House that the winner of the Nga Kete o te Matauranga Trophy for 2003 and 2004, for Best Female Speaker - Senior Maori, was none other than Shane Jones’ niece, Miss Ngahuia Harawira.

Mr Speaker, my hope for Aotearoa, and the rationale for the Maori Party’s support for this Bill, is that our actions in respect of our children are driven by a desire for excellence, a willingness to support, and a love for the gift of children.


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