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Harawira: Expenditure Validation Bill

Tuesday 17 October 2006

Appropriation (Parliamentary Expenditure Validation) Bill; Second Reading Hone Harawira; Maori Party Spokesperson for Tai Tokerau –

Mr Speaker, everyone in this House knows well how seriously the members of the Maori Party take their roles as Members of Parliament.

We attended the Induction, we swatted up on the Standing Orders, we read the Speakers' Rulings; in fact, we even came in for parliamentary training before the election, we were so sure we were coming into Parliament. And we've worked our butts off because of our commitment to our people.

And on the very rare occasion when we've slipped up, we've copped the flak, and done the punishment.
And so, when it comes to talking about an Appropriation Bill to 'validate' parliamentary expenditure, we decided to have a really good look into what this was all about.

We know that appropriations are limited to a specific amount, and scope, and we know that in this situation there is a serious case to be answered, because expenses were incurred outside the scope of the appropriation, and government was warned against doing it, before they actually incurred those expenses.

That means that Parliament stands in breach of Section 4 of the Public Finance Act of 1989 - a breach of law; an illegal act; an unlawful offence that puts Parliament's already tarnished credibility further at risk.

Now I may only be a new boy on the block; but even I know that political parties are supposed to operate according to the law.

The Maori Party made a mistake. No issue. One of our people sent in an account which we should have paid, but which was paid by Parliamentary Services. A paltry $53.70. But it had nothing to do with overspending, and in fact we came nowhere near our spending limit. It was a pure mistake. We were informed of the mistake, and we repaid the bill. End of story.

But then I hear that Persons of Privilege can simply introduce new laws to right any wrong, and I guess this is what is meant in the latest edition in Parliamentary Practice in New Zealand which says that "the office to which members are elected has a considerable amount of legal freedom guaranteed to it, so that members themselves have the capacity to carry out the duties of the office as they sit, and indeed are able largely to define what the duties of that office are".

I guess that means that in the House of Privilege, 'legal freedom' means that those who control the House, can do exactly what they want to do.

That's what really sucks about this Bill, because it's about an abuse of the concept of legal freedom, in fact it's about legal highway robbery.

So I turned to Hansard to see exactly what legal freedom means, and surprise, surprise - we've already been here before.

The 1894 Native Land (Validation of Titles) Act Amendment.
Now in case your memory doesn't go back that far, this Act, widely known in Maori circles as the "Validation of Invalid Land Sales Act" has actually come before the House on a number of occasions recently.

The 6th of May 2004, to be exact, a day which will remain etched forever in the minds of Maoridom - the day when the infamous Foreshore and Seabed Bill came before this House; a Bill which the Maori Party is seeking to repeal.

Dr Cullen was asked that day to consider the similarities between the Foreshore and Seabed Bill; and the Validation of Invalid Titles Act, which legislated away Maori rights to court redress for land taken without their knowledge or consent.

Then two years later, on the 15th June 2006, my esteemed colleague Te Ururoa Flavell, asked a question of the Minister of Maori Affairs, about whether the Maori Purposes Bill would legalise decisions which didn't have a legal mandate, in much the same way, as legalising the theft of Maori land occurred with the Validation of Invalid Titles Act of 1893.

And third time lucky - my even more esteemed leader Dr Pita Sharples raised the Validation of Invalid Titles Act in the context on the Alfred Cox Park Validation Bill.

So there is no doubt at all about where the Labour Party turned, to try to get themselves out of this fine mess, because, as the Speaker has rightly pointed out, without validating legislation, the unlawfulness remains.

And although she urged parties to pay the money back, her key point was that repayment itself would not change the unlawfulness of the spending, and so hey presto, a new law would be required.

A new law, based on precedent, based on the validation of imperfect titles, of legal theft, and the justification of banditry from the 1800's.

The precedent then for validating unlawfulness, was in 1894, with the amendment to the 1893 Native Land (Validation of Titles) Act, in which the illegal confiscation of Maori land was justified, legalised, and validated.

What that 1894 Amendment also did was create a perception that every bit of Maori land taken from that point on, would also be legitimate.

George Elliott Barton, the first Validation Court Judge, said something in 1893 which could have been written for Dr Michael Cullen in 2006, and I quote: "The chief object of the legislature in passing validating statutes has been the validation of all honest and straight forward purchases, whether they are legal or illegal in their inceptions".

What he was saying then, was that the illegal orders which he didn't have the power to make as a Native Land Court Judge, would now be validated.

What this tells us is that it doesn't matter whether acts are legal or illegal, or whether you had the power to make orders; all that matters is that you have the power to make your thievery legal.

Mr Speaker, this House has a history of dishonesty, concealment and a conspiracy to deceive, stretching back to the very earliest days of parliamentary deception in Aotearoa - a history which I have no doubt the learned Dr Cullen, a professional student of social and economic history, has studied in depth, and I refer the House to a book written by Dr Cullen himself, called "Lawfully Occupied", for clues as to where this government's notions of lawfulness and unlawfulness may have been sourced.

Mr Speaker, last week we quoted Santayana, who said "those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it" but given the experience and the intellect of the Labour Party's leadership, we would have to say that this is not the case here.

Was Labour's overspend an accident? No way. This was a deliberate and calculated act; a conscious decision to ignore the advice of the Auditor General and to go ahead with an overspend of some $800,000. They got snapped with their fingers in the cookie jar, and this Bill is nothing more than legal screaming.

Last week Dr Cullen said parliament would need validating legislation to cover election overspending, but honestly folks - who here genuinely believes that in such a close election as we had last year, $800,000 over-the-top could be seen as anything but a deliberate act of election chicanery.

There have been overspends before - $309 million in respect to the Kyoto Protocol; $56million in Tourism, and $12 million in Corrections. But they were blunders; they were of a completely different nature to the lust for power we see manifest in this Labour government's Appropriation Bill.

And what sort of example does this unlawful shenanigans say to the nation?
That any Maori on the street can go to jail for pinching a bar of soap, but political parties can validate the theft of millions of dollars of Maori land?

That any Pasifika can lose his home because he got caught in a shady finance deal, while politicians can validate the theft of a million dollars in election overspending?

That any poor Pakeha can watch his kids suffer because they can't afford a doctor, while we watch Government build up a surplus of $11 billion?

Mr Speaker, this is the challenge we face here, today.
The 1997 Waitangi Tribunal report said that validating illegal transactions was a "very dubious proceeding" especially where it fails to "protect Maori owners from hasty or excessive alienation".

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party opposes strongly any thought that people of privilege should be able to validate their wrongdoings, while those in genuine need in this country have to suffer the laws, the police, the courts, and the jails that are so often their lot.

"Walking your talk" is the first principle of genuine leadership. Cowering behind the façade of legislation is the domain of thieves and scoundrels.


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