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Hone Harawira Speech: Social Security Bill

Social Security (Entitlement Cards) Amendment Bill

Hone Harawira : Maori Party MP for Tai Tokerau

Wednesday 6 December 2006; 5pm

The relationship between tangata whenua and ‘gold’ took on an interesting spin earlier this year, when the Waitangi Tribunal found that the tribes of Hauraki, were owed generous redress for goldfield revenue they should have received from mining on the Coromandel Peninsula, particularly in light of the fact that in the 1800s, regulation of gold-mining on Maori land was far heavier than on non-Maori land.

Evidence before the High Court, estimates gold reserves of up to $30 billion may still exist on the Coromandel Peninsula, and Hauraki Treaty claims manager John McEnteer is rightfully asking "whether continued Crown ownership [of gold] is a Treaty breach."

The Hauraki inquiry, headed by Dame Augusta Wallace, said that the twelve iwi were due ‘substantive restitution’ as a result of being marginalised by the transfer of land and resources to others.

And that makes it an interesting parallel to run alongside this Social Security Bill, because it raises the same question about whether or not Maori will be as unfairly treated under this Bill, as they were in their own goldfields.

And I ask the question, because the Gold card kicks in at 65, Pakeha die at 78, but Maori die at 71, so we’ll get to pay for it like everybody else, we just won’t get much of it back.

And when we look at the Living Standards of Older Maori, Nga Ahuatanga noho o te hunga pakeke Maori, we find that older Maori are much poorer than non-Maori - with lower income levels, a greater reliance on superannuation for income; lower levels of savings and assets, and lower home ownership than non-Maori.

Into that context then (drum roll somebody) comes the Super Gold Card.

Now - let me say right from the start, that the Maori Party supports any initiative which recognises the unique contribution our kaumatua and kuia make to Aotearoa.

And I refer here to the excellent work done by Professor Mason Durie who has detailed some of the busy working life that many older Maori take up in their so-called twilight years. Not for these older Maori the leisurely days, sitting in a rocking chair and watching the world go by. Instead the opposite is the case for kaumatua as Durie says: “The roles of kaumatua include resolving disputes and conflict between families and between iwi, carrying the culture, recognising and encouraging the potential of younger members, cultural guidance and advice, maintenance of protocol, reception and care of visitors, protection and nurturing of younger adults and children, performance of ceremonial duties, spiritual leadership and attendance at tangihanga”.

So clearly, the diverse needs of kaumatua and kuia present a major challenge to planners, policymakers, providers, and politicians.

And how does the Super Gold Card fare in meeting these needs?

Well - a card, even a super gold one, can’t hope to meet the health needs of pakeke - that takes dedicated and specialist services.

But we are happy that the card will give old people discounts and concessions from agencies and other services.

And we’re keen to see if that might also apply to local body services, phone, or power? Will it be better for those living in the town or the country; homeowners or those who rent?

The Maori Party has long supported keeping our kaumatua and kuia actively involved in community life, and we want to make sure that superannuation provides for an equitable standard of living as well.

But we come back to the issue of a set cut-off date based on age, because it will mean that, because of their lower life expectancy, Māori and Pasifika for that matter, will miss out.

If we are truly committed to reducing the gap between Maori and other New Zealanders, than Maori should be able to get the Super Gold Card at 60 rather than 65.

The difference in life expectancy between Mâori and Pâkehâ is a major issue which can only be addressed through long-term initiatives to improve Mâori health, BUT, until we get to that point, adjusting the age of entitlement to recognise that difference would be only fair and progressive.

Indeed, as the Living Standards of Older Maori states: “the older Maori population will remain at risk of relatively depressed living standards for as long as inequities exist between Maori and non-Maori in the area of economic well-being and health”.

If we are serious about addressing poverty and inequity, then we have to be prepared to do things differently.

The Maori Party congratulates New Zealand First for their commitment to ensuring the standard of living for senior citizens, can be improved by virtue of a super card.

And we’re impressed, that unlike government’s stalling over providing for the needs of our Vietnam vets; this Bill includes recognition of their service.

And we couldn’t help but compare this generosity with Labour’s mean-spirited refusal to honour the Allies' most decorated servicewoman of WWII, and the Gestapo’s most-wanted person – Nancy Wake.

A true New Zealand born warrior and hero, Nancy Wake helped recruit for the French Resistance, and yet here, in the Year of the Veteran, Labour chooses to snub one of our greatest living war heroes, for the simple reason that she no longer lives here.

This devaluing of whakapapa has been a rather hot topic lately, with the bizarre situation of the Kiwis being docked their victory points for playing somebody whose great-grandmother came from Aotearoa rather than his grandmother, and of course with the former National leader, suggesting Māori were no longer Māori because of inter-marriage.

But to deny Nancy Wake’s whakapapa because of her address, is not only morally indefensible, it’s insulting to her whanau, to her iwi, and indeed to all citizens of our fine land.

So, against the background of such a bitter and pointless dispute, it’s nice to hear about a Bill which has the sole purpose of honouring our elderly and recognising our war heroes; of ensuring practical, tangible help for our kaumatua and kuia in their final years.

The icing on the cake for the Māori Party will be, if our suggestion to respond to the reduced life expectancy of Māori and Pasifika, is taken up seriously, and amendments made accordingly.

We’re happy to support this Bill, but we will be working hard to ensure that equity becomes as important a part of the legislation, as is the recognition of the true value of our nation’s senior citizens.

ends

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