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Communications Legislation Bill - Second Reading

Communications Legislation Bill - Second Reading

Hone Harawira

Tai Tokerau MP

Mr Speaker, we have before us another urgent Bill, another omnibus Bill; this one to amend the Tele-communications Act 2001 and the Radio Communications Act 1989.

A matter of urgency because of the need to sort things out before the registration of telecommunication services expires, at the end of the year.

Yet, despite the pressure of time; it seems that consultation was clearly not a priority for government.

This is an urgent matter, and yet only five submissions were received.

This is supposed to be an urgent matter, and yet the Radio Frequency Users Association of New Zealand told the select committee, that they were not even consulted in the drafting of the Bill.

This is supposed to be an urgent matter, but government neglected to consult the group whose members collectively hold more radio licences than any other group in the country.

Mr Speaker, this oversight, this slip up in consultation, seems uncannily like another matter before this House - where a Bill supposedly representing the interests of Te Arawa iwi and hapu, seems to have not taken full regard of the interests of Ngati Makino, Ngati Rangitihi, Ngati Rangiwewehi, Tapuika, Waitaha, certain Ngati Whakaue hapu and most recently Ngati Rangiteaorere.

Mr Speaker, Government is quick to demand that Maori have a mandate for their decisions, which government then ignores, but clearly in this, as in other pieces of legislation, they don’t have any urgency to get one themselves.

The Communications Legislation Bill is supposed to make it easier for competitors to get into the game, and make things cheaper for customers.

But at the first reading of this Bill, we noted that it was regulating everything except price, which is absurd.

Mr Speaker, you don’t have to be a tele-communications expert to realise how the big boys will react. They’ll go sure, no problem us putting in place your regulated services - and now for those of you who want to compete against us, here’s the cost of that service, that’ll make you choke.

Mr Speaker, the Radio Frequency Users Group reckon that rushing this Bill through without proper consultation, will raise questions about the quality of the decisions; and throw into doubt, governments commitment to making best use of industry expertise.

Another key issue for the Maori Party in this Bill, is whether or not legislative change should be piecemeal, making small or frequent changes, or whether it should be less frequent and more substantial - whether we just leave the small stuff - and go for a level playing field for everyone.

For example, the Radio Frequency Users Group suggested amending provisions for mobile frequencies as well. Government acknowledged their point, but left it out of the Bill, meaning it will still have to be dealt with later.

Another issue is Telstra Clear’s concern about the allocation of radio-licences, by other than competitive tender or auction. Whatever the final process, it is important that the industry can see that that process will be transparent.

Government is right to keep aside some spectrum and licences for purposes other than commercial profit, and we support the right for licensing to be held for allocation to Maori and community purposes.

Mr Speaker, you only have to walk down the street to know that the world of telecommunications has moved on a long way since the 70’s and the 80’s, when Naida Pou, Titewhai Harawira, and a host of other bolshie Maori women, upset their bosses by greeting people with the simple phrase “Kia ora” when they rang in to make toll calls.

And I take this opportunity to honour Naida and Co for continuing to welcome people in Maori, when all the world seemed to be going bananas about it.

Her idiot supervisors of the day pulled her off the toll board, but eventually had to give her job back after public pressure, forced them into the 20th century.

The furore over those two words, went so far as to be referred to the Prime Minister of the Day, the late Rob Muldoon, who said “I’ve been overseas deciding the economic development of the country and while I’ve been away some girl wants to say Kia ora. As far as I’m concerned she can say Kia ora, just so long as she doesn’t say gidday blue”.

In an interview later, Naida said: “For me, Kia ora is a salutation that’s indigenous to this country, it’s a Tangata Whenua right. Our reo is a Taonga because of all it captures. It’s not just reo, it’s a dimension which is expressed in tone. Tone is part of our connectedness to universe energies”.

So change happens, and we are generally supportive of the amendments and clarifications behind this Communications Legislation Bill.

But in this debate, we need to also mention that Maori have an issue with lumping all of the spectrum rights together.

In June 1990, the New Zealand Maori Council lodged Wai 150, seeking a ruling that Maori had a claim to radio frequencies, and that in the absence of an agreement with Maori, the sale of frequency management licences would breach the Treaty, and be prejudicial to the interests of Maori.

The report noted that “the spectrum is a taonga to be shared by the tribes and by all mankind. Neither of the Treaty partners can have monopoly rights to this resource”.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party wishes to draw a parallel with the current Treaty breach created by the Crown introducing a brand new concept, whereby they have assumed total ownership of the water stratum, of Te Arawa’s lakes, including the airspace, supposedly on behalf of all New Zealanders; and simply taking what it wants, through the Te Arawa Lakes Settlement Bill.

And here we see the Crown, trying to assume ownership of the spectrum - although the Tribunal has already ruled, that neither Treaty partner shall have a monopoly to that resource.

The WAI 150 report also said that: “Tribal rangatiratanga gives Maori a greater right to access to the newly discovered spectrum. In any spectrum management it has rights greater than the general public, and especially when it is being used for the protection of a taonga”.

In the development of new spectrum, Maori must not be shut out by commercial interests, or the other Treaty partner.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party says Kia ora to the telecommunications sector.

We don’t want Maori to have to wait in line behind Gidday Blue, Yankee Doodle Dandy, or any other bugger for that matter.

We don’t want to be put on hold; on call waiting; or hangin’ on to a busy line.

The Maori Party is pleased to hear that there will be consultation before any regulations are made on allocation, and on that basis we support the second reading of this Bill.

We look forward to Maori being included in that loop, to ensure that we stay involved in the nation’s transition to a world-class telecommunications system.

Mr Speaker, it is about rangatiratanga.

Our right to be part of the effective and efficient operation of the telecommunications sector.

Our right to be key players in the communications industry.

Our right, as Manhattan Transfer so sweetly puts it, to hear the words “operator, information, give me freedom on the line.”


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