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Sharples: Budget Speech

Budget Speech; Dr Pita Sharples; Co-leader, Maori Party
Thursday 17 May 2007

I was thinking of previous Budgets, previous Governments, and in particular a former Minister of Maori Affairs.

We call him He Tipua - one of a kind - a leader of Maori who was able to advocate for, and achieve, the transfer of state resources to assist the Treaty partners in the path to self-determination.

The leadership of Sir Apirana Ngata established the benchmark by which we can assess all subsequent budgets - as we do today.

Not for Ngata - a budget in which Maori is denied - as in 2005.

Not for Ngata - a budget in which the Minister of Maori Affairs failed to bid for any new funding for Maori - as in 2006.

Not for Ngata - a budget in which funding for Maori projects is allocated, but not in any amounts of any significance as in 2007 - the Add On Budget.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party will be the first to say we support any appropriation to advance Maori development.

We are relieved that the Crown appears to have finally recognized the innovation and initiatives led by Maori - even if that recognition is at best, tokenistic.

This Budget allocates some $3.3 billion, of which $19.9m is new funding specifically for Maori. That equates, Mr Speaker, to a grand total of 0.6 percent of funding.

Wow!

But, forever looking for the silver lining, we welcome the investment in the proud and independent voice of Maori being enhanced through $1m a year for iwi radio; $5m a year for Maori TV. The voice of our nation - Ma tatou - for everyone.

We welcome the move towards reconciliation promoted with another $2m a year to the Waitangi Tribunal.

We are pleased that the initiative that Tariana Turia pioneered - the Mauri Ora framework to support whanau in the prevention of violence has been extended to include another sixty workers.

And we congratulate those hardworking heroes of our community - Maori wardens - who are today rewarded with $2.5m of support.

Mr Speaker we come to this House saluting the spirit of enterprise and entrepreneurial vigour that has defined tangata whenua.

We think of the whanau who gathered in an old factory at Pukeatua in Wainuiomata some twenty-five years ago, to set up a language nest, te kohanga reo. An initiative which grew into a movement of some 513 kohanga reo, to nurture te reo rangatira.

Today that initiative is rewarded with the equivalent of $6000 a year for every kohanga. Not a lot, but every bit counts.

But we also recognise that one of the main difficulties facing both kohanga and kura kaupapa Maori, is the challenge of finding trained and experienced teachers who are fluent in te reo.

While the Budget provided for some support for kohanga and funding for Year 1 teachers, we are mindful that there are some 30,000 students currently receiving Maori medium education - and we were disappointed to see there was nothing explicitly allocated for kura and wharekura, other than capital funding for property.

Indeed, I would call it the add-on Budget. Little trinkets for Maori to sprinkle in and stir.

Little gems like $30,000 a year to conserve Maori taonga. Doesn't sound much when we know that Sotheby's valuation has valued the Treaty of Waitangi at $32 million.

Although we are of course mindful of being grateful for small mercies, there are a number of things that just won't go away.

For a starter, there's some 9000 Mâori students who woke up last Budget Day to the news that the Manaaki Tauira Fund had dried up - leaving them under financial strife to buy text books, learning resources, study materials, and pay their fees.

Yes, there will be another $150,000 a year for the Ngarimu scholarship - and we're very pleased to see the $6m in research capability for wananga - but the unknown factor of course is how will it increase retention and completion rates in tertiary education for Maori?

While some might be happy enough juggling the small change, we cannot ignore the grim reality of other statistical pressures that are literally in our face.

Facts such as while 21% of the school population are Maori; they account for 41% of all stand-downs and 47% of all suspensions.

Or the fact that 53% of Maori left school without even an NCEA level one compared with 20% of Pakeha.

This is a picture of total system failure for Maori in general stream education - a system in which 91% of Maori children are enrolled.

This Budget does not include the Maori Education Strategy that Maori have been calling for.

So perhaps the picture will be brighter for health.

The Maori Party has long been concerned that Maori infant mortality is also significantly higher (7.2 deaths per 1000 births; compared to 5.6 deaths nationally). We are thus well pleased to see $124.2m investment in child and youth health over four years.

But again we come to the crunch. We know all the determinants - facts such as that 40% of Māori are expected to develop type 2 diabetes, with 5% of that number dying each year; or that life expectancy for Maori on average is eight years less than for Pakeha.

Pricewaterhousecoopers suggested that $50m per year would be a good start to avoid the massive future cost of preventing and treating diabetes, such as that involved in heart failure, blindness, circulatory problems, and amputations.

This Budget allocates a quarter of that - $50m over four years.

Mr Speaker, we do not see much in this Budget which will address the rise and rise of poverty; which will satisfy the 120,000 New Zealanders who petitioned Parliament to 'make poverty history'. Indeed, our preliminary analysis suggests the gap between rich and poor just continues to grow wider.

An offering of peanuts will not do much to address the pervasive assault of Poverty that afflicts so many in our whanau.

All of these figures give us every reason for arguing for the management of appropriations to be in the hands of the Maori partner. The Crown has failed in its capacity to fulfil the promise of Article three of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Insufficient funds for Treaty settlements, including quantum, mean that attempts to address Article two breaches remain unfulfilled.

While governments speak of "what the country can afford" despite successive years of accumulating surpluses - a whopping $7 billion dollar surplus - it appears to us Mr Speaker that the price of justice for Maori, The Price of Citizenship which Ngata wrote of in 1943, will always remain a debt. A debt that the mean spirited appear unwilling to pay.

On the basis of human rights and Treaty jurisprudence, a compelling case exists for an independent and adequately funded approach which unbundles funding to be redistributed fairly.

The Maori Party believes that Maori social aspirations have been poorly served by the mis-management and policy neglect inherent in a mainstreamed bureaucracy.

Mainstreaming, from its very genesis, was never about Treaty justice or enhanced citizenship rights. It was about savings; savings for the Crown sliced off the backs of Maori.

As a consequence of mainstreaming, Vote Maori Affairs was reduced back in 1991 by $212.4m. And of that, $114m was retained by the Crown as savings. Savings which could well have prevented a reality in which 36.5% of people receiving the unemployment benefit are Maori. Savings which may have addressed the stark face of poverty; extreme income inequalities; the rising proportions of Maori families in severe hardship.

This Budget does not address that stark reality.

The Maori Party believes the only way we are going to truly achieve change, is to instigate the unbundling of funds, to assess the effectiveness of money spent for and on behalf of Maori.

The way to do this is painstakingly simple. It requires a technical amendment to the Public Finance Act to enable Te Puni Kokiri to monitor all Crown agency expenditure on Maori.

At this current point of time, the Treaty partner is being denied the information to be able to reliably gauge the effectiveness of the Government spend on Maori. If we are to truly recognise two parties to the Treaty, we must also agree on how the Budget allocation is to be shared, managed, monitored and reported on.

The Treaty Tribes Coalition has advised that the greatest shortcoming of our present constitutional arrangements is the failure to recognise the fundamental significance of the Treaty.

We want to see all legislation introduced in this House, able to maximise the fulfilment of Maori aspirations.

A starting point to how such a strategy will be achieved, is found in the Genuine Progress Index. This is a system of accounts which gives priority to an alternative economic system - a system driven by kaupapa, by measuring the true costs against the benefits.

Under such an Index, we welcome the EnergyWise package : $20 million a year for energy efficiency initiatives; and $7 million a year to enhance sustainability as steps in preparing for climate change.

We believe that if the State was to unbundle the Funding- we would be in a far better position to assess social, economic and cultural policies and programmes to determine what effect that spend is having on Maori.

No more piecemeal adhocery. We seek progress on a grand scale - progress and prosperity - the outcomes that really would achieve meaningful change.

ENDS

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